I am a person that starts listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween & my tree shortly gets decorated after that (along with friends & family that I force- with love, of course.) I've decorated almost a dozen trees this season & I thought I would share some tips that I've learned along the glitter-covered way.
1: More lights. Always more lights.
2 boxes of cheapo, 100 strand lights just won't do for a sturdy, 7' tall tree. Luckily, lights can be cheap. I'm not above the generic walmart brand, especially if I can buy 10 strands for $25. I also adore adding a few boxes of the classic, glass bulb lights. The more lights you add, the more warmth & glow your tree will have. Go figure. *Note: on my tree at home, I have 800 classic white mini lights & 100 red glass bulbs. Both lights are the cheap brand from Walmart & this was the first year I had one string of the mini lights die after 3 years of use. I also leave my tree on for the majority of the day, so my lights are probably getting more wear than a regular person's tree. What can I say? I like coming home to a cozy, lit tree. I knnnoooww, fire hazard. They are indoor lights for a reason. I'm that reason.

2: The not-so-secret, secret garland: deco mesh.
For those decorating on a budget, my very first recommendation to take your tree from budget to oooOoooo-quality is deco mesh. Ornaments are expensive, especially the prettier & larger they are. If you can take up a chunk of surface area on your tree, you won't need as many ornaments. Also, deco mesh is the answer for those who have an impulse to change their tree every year (me.) For example, Lex wanted a classic gold tree last year but this year she wanted it to lean more towards a champagne color, we switched out the deco mesh & wa-lah. Stats: Hobby Lobby is generally the cheapest place to buy deco mesh, especially because their holiday items are 40% to 50% off depending on the time of the year. You can normally get one roll of the 21'' mesh for $5. They have an entire isle near their Christmas decor filled with deco mesh. If you are using an unusual color combination, Hobby Lobby also has an isle of different colors (blues, pinks, yellows. Non-traditional Christmas colors) in the floral section that they hide away. Tai Pan's mesh (as shown on my tree) is a bit sturdier & the overall quality is better, but it is one or two dollars more expensive per roll. Depending on how you style your garland, the amount of mesh you will need will differ but for a point of reference: Lex's tree is 7.5' tall & quite narrow. Last year (left), I used three rolls & this year (right) I use two. It can be reused, if you store it nicely.
3: The bigger the balls the better.
That's what she (but really everyone) said. (I mean, I had too.) This is definitely a styling preference, but nothing looks more budget than a 50 piece tennis-ball sized, ornament set from walmart, unless it's an intentional choice to achieve a certain feeling. For example, a white pencil tree with a feltball garland & small ornaments. It's dainty. It's intentional. My general rule: if it fits in the palm of my hand, it's a filler & only a filler. I also understand that anything bigger than the classic ornament size can be expensive. Hobby Lobby only sells up to a certain size & once you leave the crafting meca, you may be in dangerous waters. This year I bought six over-sized bulbs from Tai Pan. The left photo is my tree from last year & the right photo is my current tree. I was so happy with the difference those six ornaments made. Hard & unfortunate truth: those bulbs are expensive. It's the 2nd largest size that Tai Pan carries & they are $8.97 a pop. Tai Pan isn't as sweet as our coupon-crazed, hobby lobby so you will most likely pay full price unless it's after the season. If you can swing some larger bulbs, it's worth it. You may make up the price difference with filling in those spaces with a dozen tiny ornaments anyway.
4: St-st-statement pieces. You know, like a really great necklace.
You could very well stop at only adding bulbs for a very traditional look but we are trying to achieve a look that is like dr. seuss on crack. I have a handful of candy canes & snow flakes wired throughout my tree which is enough flare to make my heart happy. Earlier this year, I decorated this 14 foot beast & shopping for pieces to add some zest was a task because everything looked so teeny. I ended up finding lollipops that I think people normally stick in their front yard. Hey, this is the tip that has the most room for creativity. If you live in the Salt Lake or Utah Valley areas, the Tai Pan in Sandy is a great place to go for ideas. They stick the weirdest things in their trees & it works, whether it be wreaths, stuffed snowmen, & an array of other non-ornaments.
5: Merry, merry Halloween because shopping should start now. 
I started decorating trees this year the weekend before Halloween & I know that sounds nuts. Especially who feel like Thanksgiving gets snubbed. Your cornucopia-loving hearts probably just broke. The first tree I did this year (I think) was for the front lobby of my office & the goal was set. Champagne. Not gold, not copper, champagne. I knew very well that, that specific color was going to be an absolute heathen to find. Luckily, since shopping started so early in the season, I was able to find exactly what I was looking for. I went back for more of this color for another tree less than a week later & the majority of the inventory was sold out for the season. The early bird get the good ornaments. Current shopping DL: I finished another tree this weekend & the selection is sad. You could successfully create an entirely red, silver or brassy gold tree but any slightly unusual color, like lime green or even white is sold out. I learned that Hobby Lobby starts getting their Christmas decor in May & their last shipment arrives in October so after that, what you see is what you get.

6: A Christmas Tree's herpes: picks!
I LOVE picks. Love them. These stupid things come in every shape, size & color. They are everywhere & definitely make your tree look cracked out- in the good way. That was an awful analogy but I'm just going to leave it. Picks would be that one person who slides out on stage on his knees with flailing jazz hands. Picks are fabulous. I mean, FAAABBBULLOUUS. Picks generally give a whimsical feeling which I gravitate towards, however when I was doing the beloved champagne tree I wanted it to feel very lady-like & less spastic. I was able to find white picks that drape down the tree. Picks can serve a lot of purposes. They can add the zany touch or an elegant whimsy. Hobby lobby tip: they do have an entire isle of picks, but they are itty bitty. Grab handfuls of those but afterwards, head over to the floral isles. They keep the big dog picks over there.
7: It's in the details.
I may have pushed most of you over a festive cliff by this point. I've never been a commitment-phobe so I'm basically married to Christmas. Lastly, the little things make a big different. A jar full of candy canes, wrapping paper to coordinate with your tree, handmade garland & a patterned tree skirt will all make your space a bit cozier.

Bonus tip: don't buy a tree skirt. (I first wrote that sentence including an explicit word. Fill it in as you may.) Tree skirts are SO expensive (& sort of ugly most of the time.) Buy a yard or two of your favorite fabric & sew yourself one. Or just bunch it under your tree, which is exactly what I do every year. It's a lazy christmas hack that will save you $30.

I know that decorating may make some people queasy & now that you know the extent of my decorating processes, you may try to have be admitted. It's fine. I know that decor for every person will vary & hey, if you like the tiny ornaments, be my guest & decorate your tree however your heart desires. For the few of you who asked about my crazy ways, I hope this helps. Or makes you feel less crazy.

(Also, for the few people who are equally as Christmas crazy, if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me: mrsmeglivingston(at)gmail(dot)com.)

(PS. I am available for hire if you want a cracked-out tree but feel too stressed to do it yourself.)

(PSS. I should stop referring to decorated Christmas trees as "cracked out.")


  1. I'm in desperate need of a cracked out tree. If only I didn't live in the blasted Midwest...

  2. Okay, I am going to try to decorate my tree alone for one more year, but if these tips don't help me I may end up booking you a year early to decorate my tree.

  3. the bigger balls the better hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

  4. I'm glad Dr.Seuss on crack was what you were going for because the whimsy is off the charts! So fun and so lovely. I'll have to revisit these tips after I cut down my tree this weekend!!

  5. so much prettiness in this post. tree inspo!!

  6. Seriously your trees are gorgeousss! Such helpful tips!

  7. come trim my tree. this post is amazing!


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