Decorating for Christmas from the Inside Out

When I was a little girl we had  a doll house made of tin. It had about 6 rooms and plastic furniture that we would arrange.  I don’t remember if there were people for it- it didn’t really matter. For me, arranging and rearranging furniture kept me occupied for hours.  I particularly enjoyed putting the couch in the bedroom and the table in the living room. I imagined myself as a wee tiny person living in that house and I played out scenarios in my mind of how cool it would be to have a TV in my bedroom, a couch in the kitchen or be able to eat in the living room! It was my dream of dreams! 

I was also very good at tuning out the mess around me, whether it was my bedroom, our playroom, the kitchen or the yard(we took that house outside often in the summer). Once I was focused on the task before me, it mattered not what the rest of the world looked like and it was Heaven.

When I got married, I have to tell you, playing house was just as fun. I could never totally settle on a system or style for arranging furniture and much like that doll house, we made do with the furniture we found, made, repurposed or thrifted.  In the early years I had some sort of tacky wanna-be country blue theme going but it never really felt right. We had blue dishes and blue curtains, blue doilies and blue pillows.  And then came some pink. My poor husband endured a lot during that time of learning and growing and forming our style.

Fast forward 21 years and here we are in our 5th house and 9th home.  Over the years I have honed in on who I am as a homemaker and I’ll tell you right now it’s not country blue! But I still like to rearrange and fuss with furniture placement.  And I still tune out the mess and focus in on making one room pretty in spite of the chaos around me. That’s how I’ve always been. I have tried to change and I can’t. I’m not a good housekeeper. I can clean. I can make a room look fabulous, but the upkeep? Forget it. I suck. That’s why I love  Christmas…

For me, Christmas is a state of being. Christmas begins in the heart. And honestly, you love Christmas or you don’t. There is no in between. Christmas season starts November 1 in my house with the traditional playing of Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas. And if it snows? Well glory be to Baby Jesus- I’m happier than Buddy the Elf in Santa-land!

For years we would   I would start decorating as soon as the Halloween candy was being ripped open on the kitchen table. I couldn’t wait. Christmas means joy, love, happiness and it also meant a clean house. But I didn’t clean my house to decorate. I decorated to clean. You can call that backwards, backwoods or straight up upside down thinking but that’s kind of how I roll with life. I start from the inside and work my way out- from the bottom up.

You see, I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I also have a healthy dose of attention deficit. I need a diversion. I need to be tricked into thinking something is fun even when I darn well know it’s not. I need to forget the pain and dwell in the moment and for me, the bliss of seeing a house transformed is just the right motivation. So, amidst dust bunnies and stained sofas, in spite of pet hair and cracker crumbs….I set up my tree!  It drives my husband nuts. He says if there was ever a paint colour named for me it would be called Tornado Restoration because I can literally pull a transformation out of the stupidest messes.

Back to Christmas( that’s what we’re talking about right? )…. Christmas time is the one time of the year when I can go nuts with kitschy displays, cutsie vignettes and stuff everywhere and no one gets on my case for being cluttered and disorganized. I am, by the way, both of those things(cluttered and disorganized) on a regular basis. I tried for years to deny it but there’s no point in avoiding who I am so instead I embrace it!


Buddy had it right(if you don’t watch Elf with your family at Christmas you really need to start this tradition- we watch at least 2-3 times a season!).  He had 4 themes for Christmas joy:

1. Handmade is best.  Paper snowflakes hung from the ceiling, breakfast for the family, a wooden rocking horse made from the entertainment unit…….okay, maybe not THAT. However, the point is this: use what you have, don’t spend a lot of money, be creative and have fun with it!

2. If you make your home look magical, you’ll actually want to be there.  Remember the scene where Buddy works all night to create The North Pole at the department store? It was absolutely gorgeous- fake snow, towers made from lego, lights everywhere… and it completely transformed the attitudes of the people who worked there.

3. Being truly delighted with what others have done. Possibly an overlooked theme but it runs throughout the entire movie-Buddy was always gracious and excited around other people. He complimented their clothes, their decor, their smiles, their jobs, their voices, etc. He was humble and sincere.

4. It isn’t about gifts. For a movie that is about one of Santa’s helpers you’d think there would be more about presents and shopping.  Instead it’s about people, relationships, love.

Leave it to me- Mrs. Redeemed Christmas to find some sort of spiritually uplifting themes in a secular movie about an overgrown elf. And trust me, I have many thoughts on Santa and Jesus. I believe in giving more than receiving. I hate malls and consumerism. But I have to tell you, one of my greatest joys is decorating my home for the holidays. I don’t do it to compete with my friends or neighbours.  I don’t do it so that someone might PIN my photos onto their Christmas boards. I don’t even care if my stuff matches. I do it because in my heart, I love Christmas. In my heart, I love bringing joy to people, even if it is my family and no one else. I do it because it makes me happy. And if mama is happy, EVERYONE is happy. You know I’m right about that!

When I set up my tree, I want to keep it tidy around that tree. When I set up my Christmas village, I want it to look all glowy and cozy. When I set out bottle brush trees and candles, I feel warm inside. And being warm when it’s -40 outside is sort of essential to survival.

And here’s the other thing: I love going to YOUR house. I love visiting my friends. I like seeing what other people have. Yes, I decorated 7 trees one year in my house. Am I nuts? Probably. But it was fun. However, when I go into someone’s house and all they have up for decorations is a tree and nothing else, I still feel warm inside. That’s their heart- simple and minimalist. And I love it. I love that you and  I could buy the same trees, the same ornaments and have the same theme but our houses would look totally different. Have you ever thought of that? Every house is different at Christmas. Trees, lights, candles, nativities- you’d think they’d all be the same but in my nearly 43 years existence I have yet to find two Christmas trees decorated the same. Ever.


I love going to homes where the tree has been decorated by the kids- all lopsided and messy.  I love that some houses only have one little string of lights around the door. I smile as I drive by those ones because I know some mom was probably too cold to do anymore or some old man wanted to be festive but that was all he could muster. Or maybe it was a husband whose wife wanted him to put out all the lights but some were broken, some were tangled and most didn’t work and he gave up- but he did put out one string.


You know what’s great about Christmas? It unites neighbourhoods and towns. Most houses have a tree up, or a few lights. Every store is decorated. Carols are playing. We all want to forget the mess of life for  a little while and drop ourselves smack dab into our own little world of make believe and playing house. We want things to be nice and pretty and fun and happy. We crave it. We need it. And that’s why I’m okay with taking my time decorating each room, rearranging and fussing. Things aren’t perfect in my house but for a little while it kind of feels like it.


The word redeem means: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).

No word more adequately describes my life. There’s a lot of faults and bad aspects. Much like my housekeeping. I’m horrible. Dishes always piled high, towels on the bathroom floor, shoes littering the entry, papers piled on desks and tables.

But the idea of redeeming all of that comes to a head around Christmas when I can brush all of that away, tuck it into boxes, hide it in closets and compensate with LOTS of Christmas decor.

One of my favourite lines from an old hymn is this: “Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.”

I love the idea of redeeming old furniture and finding new life and purpose for it.

I love the idea of redeeming my home and bringing life and joy to each room with handmade decorations, creative ideas and a little bit of luck.

And I love the idea that Christmas is all about redeeming all the crap that we dish out to each other through the year by focusing on loving, giving, helping, serving and enjoying life.

This isn’t really a post about decorating your home. This is about decorating your heart so you’re ready to decorate your home. If you want to really decorate your home for Christmas, start with the theme of redeeming love.

(and if a paint colour ever gets named after me, I bet it will be red. ;))

(If you come on over to my blog I have some crazy ideas about Redeeming Christmas and next week, I’m doing a house tour of all those little corners I’ve dressed up for the season. It’s kind of my passion so I love to share it with my readers!)


2 thoughts on “Decorating for Christmas from the Inside Out

  1. Wow! That dollhouse has been around a long time! I had one just like it back in the early 60’s. I admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did yours, though :guilty face:

    Everything you mentioned about being uncertain about decor and fatigue and fibro as well as a bit distractable (ok, VERY distractable) – I found a SISTER!!! I wish I could have found myself the way you did; but it’s all good per God’s plan in our individual lives, y’know?

    I loved your point on Elf’s focus and everything else you said. Thanks for taking the time to write this up for us :).

    Merry Christmas!


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