If you’ve managed to get the majority of your cleaning and organizing done then you’re ready to start making your house look festive.
Each holiday has different decorating needs. For the Fourth of July you’d be celebrating in the backyard, for Christmas you’d be in the living room, and for Thanksgiving you’ll be in the kitchen/dining room.
It’s important to be aware of the space you’ll be entertaining in when buying or crafting decorations.
Now I did say that for Thanksgiving the main celebration will be in the kitchen/dining room, but your guests, especially overnight guests, will be spending time in other areas also. If you don’t have the time to do complete house decorating, try to focus on the dining area, and make sure the other areas are neat and clean (you can refer to The First Stage if you need help). For anyone who is able to find time to expand their decorated areas, we can also focus on the living room, hallways/stairways, entryways and front porch. I excluded the bathroom and guest room(s) as these are private areas and they should be left as accessible as possible for your guests’ comfort.
There is no need to do every decoration I’m going to mention. You can pick and choose which things work for you. I just want to cover as much as possible so there are many options, and ideas for things that you couldn’t figure out what to do with.
For the dining area, we’ll save the table decor for last as you may wish to set that up at last minute.
For the walls (and this could be used in any room) you can hang leaf garland from corner to corner. The Dollar Tree has a 5 foot strand of leaf garland for $1. You can also replace any pictures with harvest themed pictures or decor.
For a practically free wall decoration, you can make your own customized word art. I made a simple FALL letter decoration using only cardboard, a black sharpie, and masking tape. I cut out four squares of cardboard, framed them out with the masking tape and then wrote a letter on each square with the sharpie. Pick whatever word you’d like to fit your space accordingly and cut out a square for each letter. You could even use colored tape and a colored sharpie for a more festive design.
For the the kitchen, you could use the same leaf garland to string under your countertops. Tack or tape it tightly so it doesn’t block the cabinet doors. You can find seasonal towels and potholders in most any store (including the Dollar Tree) to add a little pop of festive flair. Remember not to crowd your countertops with too many decorations or you won’t have room to cook!
For the living room you can also hang garland at the top of the walls (I like garland a lot because it is so easy to decorate with), and switch out pictures for more seasonally themed pictures or decorations. If you don’t want to buy new pictures, you can google whatever image(s) you would like to use and print them off. You can find affordable frames at several discount stores to complete the look. If you are looking to cover a larger area where a big painting was hung, you can print off several simple images of a similar style, frame them, and stagger them across the space.
You can put small ceramic turkeys, pumpkins, gourds, etc. on the side tables and any shelving (try to clear a spot on the shelf first so the decoration isn’t crowded).
For the coffee table, it’s best to pick one larger piece so there is still room to set a mug or magazine. A giant pine cone with glittered tips (glitter glue 3 packs are $1 at the Dollar Tree and include red, gold, and silver in convenient squeeze bottles) would make an elegant centerpiece and could also be used at the dining table. This could be an easy project for kids of all ages!
If you have a mantle, there are beautiful pine cone and leaf candle sets sold especially for this purpose. You could also make your own piece with a clear vase filled with leaves, pine cones, and small foam gourds, flanked by candles and pumpkins.
For hallways, the best bet is to keep them neat and consider getting or making small wreaths for each door. This will give your guests a bit of holiday cheer as they walk from room to room, without needing to clutter your hallway.
For stair ways, you could place a pumpkin on each stair (or every other if that works better for you) and even paint a letter on each to spell out your own greeting. Make sure that you leave enough space for guests to pass through and they can still reach the railing as they go up and down the stairs. Garlands could be woven through the spindles for an extra touch.
For the entryway it might be nice to have a welcome sign to let your guests know how happy you are that they have arrived. Since this area will probably only be viewed by your guests upon arriving and leaving, this is a great spot to allow younger children to decorate as they wish. It’s a great opportunity for them to show off their talent to the family, and to let them know that they are an important part of the holiday.
When decorating your front porch, keep in mind that this is the first area your guests will see and so will your neighbors. A few pumpkins, some mums and a wreath will stay neat without much attention. Natural decorations are great because they are weatherproof, and don’t require storage after the holiday. Just toss them in with the compost!
Finally it’s time to decorate the dining table! Try to wait as long as possible to do this unless you have a special table you use only for these occasions. I say this because you don’t want your decor to get messy.
First things first- pick out a tablecloth. If you already have a tablecloth, check for any stains you may have missed when you used it last. Even if it’s been a long time, you still might have some luck with a good stain remover. If you don’t have a tablecloth, then you’ll probably want to get one. Don’t be too worried even if your local stores have swapped out their Thanksgiving merchandise for Christmas. You should still be able to find a tablecloth that would work wonderfully. Look for something like a solid red (you can use it for Christmas too!). You’re going to cover it with dishes and decor so it’s actually very nice to have a simple base to work with. Keep in mind who your guests will be. If younger children will be present, you may want to choose a flannel backed vinyl tablecloth over a fabric one. It’s easy to wipe spills away without having to stop the party before a stain sets in.
Next you should decide whether you’d like to use placemats. I think using placemats is a great way to frame out each person’s spot at the table. I bought felt leaf cut out placemats because they are affordable if you are buying a lot and cheap enough to replace if they get stained ($1 each at my favorite store!). Of course you could buy fabric placemats instead, but they can get stained and a lot of the styles are an image that will get covered up by the dishes. A patterned or shaped placemat would work best.
Now we should work on the centerpiece (or pieces if you have a long table). You should decide whether you want a single piece or a multi-piece arrangement.
Flowers are a great way to brighten up your table. You could pick up a few bouquets at the florist or your local grocery store. They usually carry seasonal bouquets. If you have mums that are still going strong, you could cut a few stems and make your own bouquet.
Another option is a small group of candlesticks to create a simple and elegant look. LED candlesticks are a safe choice in case they get knocked over.
You could also use the giant glittered pine cone I mentioned for the coffee table. If you can’t find one in your yard or local park, a craft store should have them. (Normally I would suggest checking a place like Walmart, but stores like that have a limited craft department so you may not have much luck.)
A tastefully decorated pumpkin (jack o’ lanterns are so last month!) is another easy way to spruce up the table. Painted pumpkins are easy to do and super affordable! I made one with a style I found on Pinterest. If you haven’t checked out Pinterest yet, you should definitely make a point to give it a look. It’s a great way to get decorating ideas by just searching for things like “Thanksgiving decor”, “autumn wreaths”, etc. Pick out one or two paint colors, and use masking or painter’s tape to mark out your design. You can use spray paint if you’re pinched for time. Actually, you might want to use spray paint either way, because it’s a lot easier to work with. I used regular paint and it took about an hour, as I needed to do several coats and it took forever to dry. You can get a can of spray paint for about $1. There’s no need to invest in a good quality paint as the pumpkin won’t last forever. You can make several pumpkins at a time to decorate lots of places. If you don’t have the time to design each one, just choose a solid color and spray them all at once. White and gold are great choices for solid pumpkins.
Another easy idea is to get a clear vase (or vases depending on the length of your table) and fill it with pine cones, leaves (I suggest fabric leaves because even though real leaves are free, they crush and crumble if you put anything on top of them), small foam gourds, acorns, etc.
If you would like to use napkin rings, you can easily make a set yourself. Cut a thin strip of burlap, about 1/2 inch wide and approximately 10 inches long, and hot glue an acorn to the center of each strip. When you roll up the napkins you can tie the burlap strips underneath.
Another option is to pick out a festive colored ribbon to tie around each napkin.
If you plan to arrange the seating, you’ll be wanting place cards. If you already have place card holders then you’ll be ready to make the place cards. If not, you can make your own.
Pine cones are an easy, natural holder. Once you make the place cards, you can easily use a dab of hot glue to attach the cards to the top. If the pine cones do not stand up straight, break off a few of the bottom points till it becomes level.
You can also skip the holders and make place cards that stand up on their own, by using unruled index cards (or the backside of regular ones), and folding them in half. Make sure you flatten the crease well so they don’t slide down and flatten out.
Decorate your place cards with a simple border. Use a ruler to make a frame with your choice of colored marker. If you are an artsy person you may wish to add a small drawing to each card. Write out each person’s name with your neatest handwriting. Index cards are cheap so you can always redo them.
I made a rough draft of one just to give you an idea of the design. I plan to use color on my real ones since they do look really plain now.
Now set the table and you’re all ready to serve the feast!