When your home is for sale and it's time for the winter holidays, your plate is full. And it's not cookies!

Homes do sell in the final weeks of the year. So, don't skip decorating for the season. When you are living in your house for sale, and it's Christmas time it sounds like a tall order, but there are some ways to make it easier. Here are my tips to help you glide through the holidays.  
A bar cart staged for the holidays helps people envision 
how they might entertain and relax after they buy your home.

1. Keep it super simple

A house doesn't need to be elaborately gussied up for Christmas. It's more important for your home to look comfortable and clean. Decorations can also distract from some of your home's main selling features.
A welcome mat is a warm touch, and so is a plaque like this 
for hanging coats or hats just inside an entrance hallway.

So, let simplicity be your number one guideline. Remember that whatever you put up has to be taken down. You don't need to pull out every Christmas decor item and ornament you've accumulated over the years. Instead, be selective. Be good to yourself. Limit what you take on. Focus on curb appeal and a warm, welcoming interior.

If you are just listing your home for sale now, my advice is not to decorate until after a video is made or after a professional photographer has taken the MLS photos. If your home is still on the market come January, you don't want your listing photos to look dated. When your Realtor shows clients the property via Facetime in real-time, you don't need to worry so much about dating the property with holiday decor.  

2. Select a theme early 

Having an overall simple color scheme or a singular holiday motif streamlines your decorating. Plan ahead. Once you've settled on a red and white decor palette, or a winter theme for the season, for example, you've minimized how much work and expense lay ahead, and you'll create a more harmonious staging. You won't be tempted at Tuesday Morning or Dollar General to grab whatever appeals to your holiday spirit. With a plan, staying focused is easier.

For example, if you decide to stage with a white and silver color scheme, you could wrap packages with white paper and tie them with silver bows, arrange white painted branches in thrift store glass vases, decorate the mantel or dining table with silver candlesticks for white candles, and hang a purchased wreath you can decorate with a white bow. All these items are available at dollar stores or second-hand outlets. Or are already in your closets.
This colorful, $7 welcome mat got a little quality-boost
from being snug next to the regular, heavy-duty mat.

3. Consider buyers and your family

Of course you'll want to honor your family's traditions and beliefs, but subtlety is the key. There's no need to keep decorations secular, but the focus should be on festive. Some seasonal touches and a little bit of glam, or else touches of old-fashioned homey-ness, go a long way. 
This Advent calendar can sit on a mantel or shelf. Photo: Lisa Leonard
No one ever said that the only place for holiday 
stockings is the fireplace mantel. Photo: Pottery Barn
If your household includes children, I understand it will be more difficult to simplify Christmas traditions. Buyers will certainly understand when they see stockings hung on the mantle, an elf on the shelf, an Advent calendar, and a stack of favorite children's Christmas books. The delights of childhood are an important part of Christmastime.

4. Don't rearrange furniture 

If a Christmas tree is a must for you, it's best if you can add it without having to rearrange furnishings to accommodate it. Stay to the traffic pattern that makes sense -- one that will encourage home buyers to easily walk through your home and see all its best features clearly.

Consider a smaller than usual tree. You can buy a regular-size one and use all the lower branches for swags and garlands and outdoor arrangements.  If you have access to a variety of greens, you might enjoy constructing your own evergreen wreath according to my tutorial. I learned some good tips from floral designers that I'm passing on to you.

You might also consider substituting a tabletop tree for the full-size tree you usually pull out of storage or buy as a fresh tree. Depending on your floorplan, available tabletop space, and budget, these trees can be as tall as your customary one, or as small as doll-house size, but they will take up less floor space, and that's a good thing. The more floor that's visible, the larger a room looks.       

One of my favorite home staging props is a wrapped package, and of course at this time of year an arrangement of gifts is more than just appropriate. It's almost expected. But the advice of experienced home stagers and Realtors is not to display real presents when people are touring your home. I will take it a step further and suggest that gifts not be displayed in a video that goes public. Thieves are known to canvas homes listed on the market for valuables they can steal. It's better to stay safe and keep valuables hidden.  
A clever way to incorporate a holiday tree that
doesn't require floor space is this
lights-on-the-wall technique. Photo: Reciclar e Decaror

Here is another space-saving idea, a
smaller-than-usual tree that can easily fit in
the corner of a room. Gavin and Co.

5. Avoid certain products

Sure, glitter is almost unavoidable at holiday time. It's in bows and candles and wrapping paper and cards, and ... everywhere! 

Glitter is festive and dressy and cheery and colorful, but if you can keep it out of your home, you'll save yourself the trouble of cleaning it up over the next few months, or longer. I know I'm not the only person who thinks this way.  

The other issue with glitter is the environmental one. Plastic glitter is hardly "earth-friendly." Glitter is made of micro-particles of plastic that end up in the oceans of the world, floating as garbage. Ocean-dwelling animals die from glitter that builds up in their systems.

Another decor prop I don't recommend is decorative plants that you don't usually have in your home, like amaryllis and paperwhites and poinsettias. Paperwhites have another downside and that is their scent is overpowering to many people. Everyone senses smells differently, so what may seem pleasantly floral to you may seem nauseating to others.  

Unless you love taking care of plants and have the surfaces to accommodate these living specimens, I would suggest using trouble-free accessories that pack (almost) the same punch. I'm thinking of things like bottle brush trees and faux or real greenery. Of course, if your mother-in-law gifts you a poinsettia, you're going to display it prominently as part of your decor! 

Other perishables are things like bowls of winter fruits -- pears, apples, cranberries, and citrus fruits. If your fruit bowl is strictly for show, why not make it permanent and stage with artificial fruits instead of perishables? You won't have to refresh them or check for spoilage, and your edibles can stay fresh in the fridge, ready for snacking or cooking.

I always encourage DIY home stagers
to use what they already own,
like these fluffy mittens filled with
real or artificial greens and twigs.
Photo: My Crazy Quilt

6. Limit your crafting  

Many of my readers are crafters, and often begin knitting and gluing and sewing in August. That's fine for those do-ahead DIYers. But if it's December and you're scrolling Pinterest for Christmas crafts, think again. 

My experience is that even simple-looking crafts can take longer than you expect. Remember my rule #1 -- Keep it simple. If there is a traditional craft that you do every year and you're familiar with the materials and process, have a go at it. 

I'm not the Grinch. I just want to remind you it's okay to stop yourself if you are thinking in mid-December that you want to embroider individual holiday stockings for your entire extended family. 

Get the look, get the book

These are still the months that buyers shop for homes. Serious buyers are not hibernating. Winter can be a very appealing time to market a home, no matter where you live. Some buyers are looking for a vacation home, or a retirement home, or a first home in a new location, or a house nearer to family. People move for all kinds of reasons and at all times of the year. Keep your home staged and ready for them. Don't leave here without downloading my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.