Read on for how to get a pretty Christmas tree in a few easy steps.
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Tree Trimming 101
Beautiful Tree Trimming
First Things First
Choose a tree at least one foot shorter than your ceiling to leave room for a topper. Allow for several inches of clearance from walls so there is enough room to decorate all sides.
Once you've brought the tree inside, let it settle for a day before decorating. Trim crooked branches or those touching the ground with heavy-duty scissors or pruners.
Light the Way
Olszewski suggests using at least 50 lights per foot—or, for extra brilliance, 100 per foot.
Starting from the top, wrap lights once around branches near the trunk and again closer to branch tips.
Repeat as you work your way down. A mix of traditional colored lights with white ones makes the hues pop, says Olszewski.
Belles of the Ball
Hang heavier ornaments near the trunk, where branches are sturdiest. Place lightweight ones (that don't need as much support) on tips. Save special heirloom and family favorites for the front of the tree so they'll be most prominent.
Take a step back and check for areas that need more decoration. "There's no real formula here, but in my opinion, the less green you see, the better," says Olszewski. Use basic shiny balls that will reflect the light to fill in any gaps.
Take it from the top. Drape thin garlands—such as beaded strings—in pairs, letting one hang lower than the other. Thick paper or foil garlands look best wrapped loosely around the entire tree.
Rest garlands on the center of branches, placing them around ornaments. Give swags more length as you work your way down.
Place tinsel in handfuls on branch tips and near the trunk. "The lights reflect off the tinsel—it acts as a finishing shine," says Olszewski. For inspiration, check out local department store holiday displays.
Tip: For a lush alternative to a tree skirt, wrap a couple of yards of geometric or plaid fabric around the stand.
Courtesy of JamaliGarden.com
Cap a tree with style with these festive suggestions:
—Create a distinctive crown by clustering large glass ornaments in the top branches.
—Tie a raffia or satin ribbon in a large bow at the tip, letting the tails trail down.
—Combine several sprays of beads or seasonal flowers, winding them around the top branches.
Courtesy of Pier 1
Courtesy of FinnStyle.com
Hand-painted by a Finnish designer and destined to be heirlooms.
Courtesy of Pier 1
Courtesy of Crate and Barrel
Tangled lights and jumbled ornaments can create a not-so-merry mess. "When the holidays are over, take stock of your decorations as you take them down and toss items that were never hung up or have lost their luster," says Marcia Ramsland, author of Simplify the Holidays (Thomas Nelson). Here are her solutions for storing your stuff.
—Designate an area for all holiday items—whether it's a high shelf in a closet or a corner of the attic.
—Wrap delicate glass and heirloom pieces in tissue paper or bubble wrap to prevent breakage. Stow ornaments in lidded plastic bins or shallow cardboard boxes, making sure containers are all the same size for easy stacking.
—Wrap garlands around a large, rectangular piece of heavy-duty cardboard or a gallon-size coffee can so they don't get knotted.
—Always store lights indoors since they don't hold up well in extreme temperatures. Wind individual sets around a square, notched piece of cardboard to prevent tangling.
—Pack artificial trees in polypropylene or vinyl bags (most will fit up to a 10-foot tree) to protect from dust. For easier lifting, choose a bag with handles.
—Toss out used tinsel. It's inexpensive to replace and looks best for just one season.
—Package wreaths in custom containers or boxes, available in sizes ranging from 10 to 40 inches; store in the garage or shed.
Tip: Label lights, garlands, and mistletoe by room so you'll always know which items to hang in the hallway and which go on the mantel.
Courtesy of the Container Store
Courtesy of Rubbermaid
Courtesy of Snapware
Adjustable dividers stash up to 48 ornaments in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Courtesy of Glitter Greetings
Mark boxes of seasonal stuff like snow globes or candles with vintage-inspired bird labels.
Courtesy of Grandin Road
A vinyl bag with sturdy aluminum handles protects your favorite artificial fir.
Courtesy of Feather Your Net
Courtesy of the Christmas Light Company
A set of three plastic reels holds up to 600 mini lights in a zippered nylon bag.
Originally published in the December 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.