3 simple ways to decorate small spaces for Christmas

by Angela Davis on December 11, 2012

As many of you know, last winter we packed up our family of six and moved into an apartment. It’s been interesting figuring out how to put a 2400 square foot home into a 1200 square foot apartment, that’s for sure. One of the more challenging parts of this epic squeeze is decorating for Christmas — I can’t possibly use all the goodies in my three giant Christmas tubs. Many of my Christmas decorations are too big for our smaller space.

In addition to the space constraints, there’s also the problem of my, well, lack of decorating ambition. I love the idea of crafting up some new decorations, but actually getting my crafty on is another story. Instead of intending to be crafty and fill my APT with homemade Christmas goodness but failing miserably, I opted to take the simple route. No glue gun, no floral wire, no fabric needed.

Here are three simple ways to decorate a small space for Christmas:

Use canning jars to decorate

Emily talked about this last week, and I am constantly amazed at all the ways you can decorate with a simple mason jar.

This one was easy peezy. I saw boxes of small colored bulb ornaments at Fred Meyer (near the mini-tree items) and thought they would be perfect displayed in a canning jar.

I love that there were glossy and matte bulbs in the same box to give the display extra interest. There were several colors to choose from.

I also picked up some cranberries in a bag in the Fred Meyer produce department and some 50% off candles in the home department.

I love how some fruit, a candle and a jar come together to make a beautiful table decoration.

I also poured some Epsom salt into smaller canning jars and put a candle on top — Epsom salt looks just like snow and it’s crazy cheap (you might just have some in your bathroom cabinet). In fact, you should search Pinterest to find all the wintery crafts that you can do with Epsom salt (I also just found this sweet craft).

Fred Meyer stocks canning jars in several sizes year-round in the grocery department.

Use stocking holders to hang stockings anywhere

I was fretting a bit trying to figure out how to hang our stockings without a fireplace mantle or without nailing seven holes in the wall (I’m not against messing with the walls, but I’d rather not pay part of our damage deposit on holes that served a purpose for only three weeks). The Halleluiah Chorus starting up when I saw these simple stocking hangers at Fred Meyer.

They aren’t exactly the cheapest option available, but at 50% off, they were an investment I was willing to make (and probably cheaper than the damage deposit hit) and I didn’t have to put any creative energy into it (that all has been sapped by endless laundry and face washing). I hung the stockings from the breakfast bar, but these would also work on a window ledge. These will work for hanging stockings or other decorations at any place we live in the future.

Use tomato cages to make an outdoor tree

I’m sure most of you even casual gardeners have a few tomato cages sitting in your garage or garden shed. Pull them out and make a quick and inexpensive lighted Christmas tree. This is the perfect outdoor decoration for those of you with small personal outdoor spaces or if you can’t staple lights to the outside trim. These would also be a great addition to your front porch decorations.

I used Kate’s tomato cages (pays to have gardening friends) and some inexpensive white lights from Fred Meyer (I used white, but I think green would look nice and could be displayed past Christmas).

Start by flipping the cage over and pulling the unattached poles together to make a tree shape. I bound them together with the twist tie from my package of Christmas lights. I used my daughter’s ponytail holder for the other cage.

Start winding a strand of lights around the outside of the cage.

I didn’t attach the lights in any way — just wind it somewhat tight and they will stay.

When you get to the bottom, attach the string of lights to the cage so it doesn’t unravel on you. I used a bread bag tie-thingy.

If you’re moving to another cage to make multiple trees, just feed the strand through the middle of the cage and start wrapping again.

The best part of this decoration is that the mechanics of the tree lights will be unseen at night so you don’t have to fuss too much with the tree’s construction. I couldn’t manage to take a picture that does the final product justice. I wish I could invite you all over to see how cool the trees look, especially from the street.
Fred Meyer would like all of you to have the chance to check out what they have to spruce up your space for the holidays by giving two Frugal Living NW readers a $25 Fred Meyer gift card!

To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment with your favorite way to decorate for Christmas! Please use an email you check regularly.

Comments will close and two winners randomly selected at Noon on Friday, December 14, 2012. Winners will have 48 hours to respond to the email.

This post was sponsored by Fred Meyer.

This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.


chantal cooper December 15, 2012 at 8:14 am

we live in a small house, but I still put lights outside and decorate a little in the house. I like holiday candles and snow in the windows.

chantal cooper
chantalgiardina (at) yahoo (dot) com

April December 14, 2012 at 6:25 am

Favorite way to decorate is actually having the motivation to decorate, which I don’t most years.

Nicole December 14, 2012 at 4:02 am

My kids love the village I painted before they were all born and we set it up on top of the fridge and along the tops of the kitchen cabinets. Add a little fake snow and some lights and you have a mini town!

Brooke December 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I stick to one main color (red) to keep everything looking cohesive. And I love to use white lights everywhere! :)

Angela December 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I appreciate your website! It has been a great help to us. We are a family of seven, new to Dave Ramsey and getting ourselves back on track. Your Christmas decorating suggestions are wonderful. I am going out to make tomato cage trees today! Thanks!

bev perez December 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

i love the lights, inside and outside up the walls and on the tree. Lots of colorful lights brings out my christmas happiness.

Dee December 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

I cover my apartment in candles and drape fresh pine boughs everywhere.

Lori Gush December 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

I have a ton of Christmas decorations and this year I am enjoying decorating our new house! I am excited to finally have a fireplace to hang our stockings from. My favorite way to celebrate with decorating is putting on Christmas music, making cookies, and decorating the tree!

Brandi December 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

Getting out the ornaments that my husband and I had as kids – and sharing them with our boys.

Kelli December 13, 2012 at 1:27 am

I love wrapping paper and ribbons. I have a huge collection and enjoy bringing out the paper rolls and seeing them again each year. I like to play old Christmas movies, like White Christmas, and wrap each gift with a carefully selected fun or fancy paper. I am very excited that this year I found shiny black ribbon and bows to embellish some of the packages – I have been on the hunt for it for a while now and it will be a great finishing touch. It is so fun to add a few presents each day and watch the grandkiddos excitement build.

stephanie h December 13, 2012 at 1:23 am

My girls love to carefully put out the nativity set and hold baby Jesus. We love singing Christmas songs wh
ile baking together.

isabelle December 13, 2012 at 12:55 am

Each year I buy an ornament for my 2 daughters… I write the year and their name on it. I try to find one who remind them of something that happened during the year… mermaid and Starbucks’s cup this year. I also buy myself a Santa, and I also write the date on it.
When we decorate the tree together we like to remember the Christmas gone buy, remembering the past years events commemorated by each Santa and ornament.
My girls will be soon gone .. And each one will take her box of ornaments… And I will have my Santas to remember those wonderful, crazy , already gone years.

Stephannie Stephens December 13, 2012 at 12:29 am

I love all of these ideas!!!

Leah December 13, 2012 at 12:24 am

I like to decorate the air at my house with non stop Christmas music. I got my live of Christmas music from my mother. I also get a new ornament each year to symbolize something that happened for my family that year. This way each tree decorating is a remembrance of where we have come from.

Jennifer December 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I love the lights! Have them up all over the house.

Kailey December 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I love putting lights on our house!! I love spreading holiday cheer.

Brandi December 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I really just got into decorating and love having holly berries (free ones from my in-laws neighbor) to use for decorating. My fireplace mantle looks great and so does my table centerpiece. They spruce everything up.

Robin December 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I love to set the dining room table. I use my Christmas table linens, candles and what ever I decide as a center piece . But no matter what the table looks like it’s the people round it and the food and conversation that we share that make it very special .

stephanie December 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm

My favorite way to decorate is to put out holiday crafts my son has made over the years. They bring back special memories.

Sheila December 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I love decorating the tree! We got our tree last weekend and my husband works nights so we have a plain tree until this weekend so we can decorate together :)

Marilyn December 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

My favorite decorations are candles everywhere, some fragrant, some battery operated ones flickering in windows and placed on tables. Cozy & festive at the same time.

tanya December 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I always put out my grandfather’s red and gold square dancing tie.

Laetitia December 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I love to use lots of candles and small white lights. It’s very relaxing.

annmarie December 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

loved making sugar cookies with my son a few days ago!

Sara December 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I love taking the extra trimmings from our Christmas tree to decorate around the house. We always have to trim extra at the bottom to make room for the stand, so I use those boughs to decorate shelfs, mantles and yes, jars.

Laurel December 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

My favorite way to decorate for Christmas is with my kids! They are old enough now to be careful and have some pretty good ideas. We make an afternoon of it. By far the best is putting the decorations on the tree while music is playing and the fire is roaring. Each year we pick out a new decoration.

Erin December 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I totally did the tomato cage tree lights this year! Got a small strand of white lights from Fred Meyer, put the cage upside down in the pot I grew carrots in this summer, and walla! A beautiful lighted Christmas tree! From the street you would not even be able to tell its a tomato cage! Looks like one of those fancy expensive pre-lit wire Christmas trees.

Denise L December 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Definitely a fresh tree! I’ve had one every year, even when I lived in a studio apt! Now it’s a small house, and I can have a nice tree! It looks so beautiful all lit up with white lights. The cats like it too!

Barb December 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Lights and greenery!!!

Alicia December 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I love putting out the various advent calendars we have – my son then runs around the house looking at each one!

Anna December 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Moving to an apartment was hard for us too a few years back.. we did the same with the stockings and hung them from the breakfast bar. We also use minimal decorations including my nutcracker collection. It’s amazing how you can just add a few of them here or there and it looks great without all the fuss!

Vicki December 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

#1. The nativity set.
#2. Beautifully scented candles.
#3. Lights. Lights. And some LIGHTS :)

Debbie Rioux December 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I love to have my grandchildren help me decorate not only the tree but the whole house.

Ben December 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

We collect Nativities, a tradition passed on from my parents. They are a great reminder for the season and the variety adds a lot. Our kids love getting out each on and carefully setting them up.

Angela December 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I love putting out our Nativity set…helps us remember the reason for the season!

Christy December 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I decided 5 years ago that I wanted a theme Christmas tree, but I didn’t want to spend too much money on it. Every year or two I buy small amounts of ornaments, flowers, garlands, etc on sale. It’s looking great, and I really enjoy decorating my tree. :)

Abby Winstead December 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

I love filling the tree with sentimental homemade ornaments.

Brandi December 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

I just like to put decor on the tree!

MrsH December 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

12yrs ago, my dad died. A few years after his death, my step-mom had us kids come to the house and take whatever we wanted, as she was downsizing to a condo. Among some of the items I wanted, were all the outdoor Christmas lights dad used to put on their house. Every Christmas season, I ask my husband to put those same lights on the outside of our house. In my mind, everyone gets to enjoy them, AND my daddy can see them from heaven. Yes, even at 50, he is still my ‘daddy’ and I am transformed into a little girl when I speak about him. ;)

Amanda Clark December 13, 2012 at 3:34 am

I was just having the same thought as I put out a Christmas blanket dad had bought me at the Pendleton Woolen Mill years ago. I lost my dad in 2001, and every year when I put out that blanket, its like a little snuggle or hug from him when I sit down with it… even more special now that I have kids. I make sure they know where it came from. :-) Warm thoughts to you this holiday season.

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