Style

Buying a Christmas tree? Your definitive guide to setting it up without stress… or injury

When a Christmas tree is up and lit, it’s a magical thing. But achieving that goal isn’t always joy to the world. There’s the schlepping. And the shedding. And don’t even get us started on the sap. But with a few handy tips, bringing the tree home won’t mean needing a new paint job or wood floors.

For the best advice, we consulted two experts: Jessica Becker, an interior and restaurant designer in Rhode Island and New York City, and stylist Erin Swift, founder and creative director of Holiday Workroom, a New York City Christmas tree concierge service that will pick, deliver and decorate an Instagram-worthy tree. Read on for ways to set up a tree while keeping your sanity.

Choose a fresh tree

• Rather than just going by looks, prioritize freshness to minimize shedding. “Most trees in tree lots are not as fresh as you would imagine,” Swift tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Many were cut weeks before and travel a long journey. For the freshest tree, visit a tree farm and cut the freshest tree possible,” suggests Swift. “Then shake, shake, shake the tree to get rid of any loose needles.”

• “If you do go to a tree lot, ask for a fresh cut so it takes in adequate water and won’t dry out,” Becker tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And make sure the trunk is cut flat, so that it’s grounded in the tree stand. If it’s lopsided, the balance will be off.”

• Some species shed less than others, so ask what’s what as you shop around. “Douglas fir is the most popular and holds its needles well, but can cost more,” says Swift. “Nordmann fir and balsam fir also have great needle retention.”

The Douglas fir, Nordmann fir and balsam fir shed less than other trees

The Douglas fir, Nordmann fir and balsam fir shed less than other trees, according to one expert. (Photo: Holiday Workroom)

Minimize mess

• “Use a moving blanket to hug and protect your tree while in transport and avoid damaging walls and floors,” says Swift. The blanket will also protect your car from sap. And in case you do get smudges, keep two tools on hand: “A Magic Eraser for walls, and Murphy’s oil soap for wood floors,” says Swift.

• Take precautions so as not to traipse needles throughout your house. “After buying your tree, put it inside a plastic tree bag and when you get home, attach the stand and pull the bag down to the base, then cover with a tree skirt,” says Becker. “When you’re ready to take the tree down, just pull the bag up and around the tree so you won’t get needles everywhere,” she says.

• To protect floors from moisture damage, place a plastic planter saucer under the tree stand, says Swift. “The stand often gets overfilled and can stain carpeting or hardwood when you remove the tree,” she says.

• For a chic way to catch those inevitable falling needles, Swift suggests a sheepskin rug or soft throw blanket instead of a traditional skirt.

 Keep your tree hydrated

• Prevent shedding by hydrating. “Your tree will drink the most water on its first day home — up to a gallon in the first 24 hours!” notes Swift. “Check the tree stand daily, and add water when levels get low.”

• To help the tree from drying out, “Turn off your tree’s lights before leaving the house or going to sleep, and lower the temperature in the room at night,” says Swift.

Pick the perfect spot

• Minimize the dreaded tree topple by “avoiding high-traffic areas where it can be knocked around,” says Becker. But there’s no reason to put baby in the corner. “You want the tree to be a focal point, so don’t be afraid to move furniture around to optimize where you place it,” says Becker. “It’s pretty in front of a big bay window so you can see it from outside, and it acts as exterior decoration. It’s a nice scene to come home to.”

• “Put the tree in the room you enjoy the most, and on the side of the room you enjoy the most,” says Becker. “If you have a fireplace, position the tree on that same wall so you can enjoy seeing both at the same time,” she says. For safety, the tree should be at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Heavy ornaments do better on the thicker bottom branches that can support them

Heavy ornaments do better on the thicker bottom branches that can support them. (Photo: Holiday Workroom)

Make sure it’s secure

• Decorate the tree with a plan: “Put heavy ornaments on thicker bottom branches for support, and make sure the tree isn’t weighted down more on one side,” says Becker. “Use zip ties and green floral wire to secure fragile ornaments and light strands, and reshape a few lopsided tree branches,” says Swift.

• If you have curious kids or pets, however, “just add simple white lights but keep the tree ornament-free,” suggests Becker. “Or keep ornaments minimal and stick to wood, plastic or soft stuff — nothing glass or breakable — especially at the bottom of the tree, where cats tend to bat around ornaments.”

• If the tree is against a wall and you’re concerned it may tip, “wrap a wire around the trunk and secure it to a nail in the wall,” says Becker.

The pros of going faux

Thinking about investing in a fake tree that will last for years? Some are tall and thin, so they’re great for tight spaces too. For this option, Swift swears by the brand Balsam Hill. “I love the 9-foot BH Balsam fir with clear incandescent lights,” she says.

• Spruce up a fake tree with creative flourishes. “Fake trees often have gaps between branches, making them look even faker,” says Becker. “Fill in holes with fresh greens, baby’s breath, gold-sprayed branches, or wispy-looking flowers.”

• Consider the rest of your space. “If you go faux, it’s nice to bring in that yummy fresh scent elsewhere by adding pine or cedar roping to a banister, mantel or curtain rod. You can tuck pieces of eucalyptus and red berries in a fresh wreath, or use beautiful magnolia leaves as a garland.”

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