Decking the halls: love it or hate it? Chances are, if you’re reading this, it’s not your favorite pastime.

Even if you absolutely love the holidays, decorating can be pretty stressful. Not only does it cost money and take time, but it also doesn’t help that your next-door neighbors’ decorations make the tree in Rockefeller Center look equal parts sloppy and subtle.

But the good news is that it’s generally pretty easy to make your house look just as festive. We’ve found the following five tips are fail-proof ways to decorate this year and beyond.

  1. Start Early

One of the best tricks for decorating beautifully is, well, giving yourself enough time to do so. The weekend before Christmas, therefore, is not the time to throw up a tree, string lights and hang a set of stockings. Make it your goal to be done at the end of the first week of December. You’ll have your Thanksgiving weekend to start and the weekend that follows to add any finishing touches. Voila: your house will be Santa-ready in no time if you give yourself a deadline.

  1. Choose a Theme

Another tried-and-true way to make your Christmas décor look cohesive? Give it a theme to tie it all together. There are plenty of ways to give your festive home a theme: you can choose a set of colors to define your theme, for example. A plain, neutral backdrop with pops of red and green is, of course, a classic. But silver and gold, red, black and white or any other color combination that reminds you of the season can work.

Your theme can also be inspired by a Christmas-y motif. Do you love snowmen? Make your entire home a snowman’s paradise — minus, of course, the temperature. You can do the same with angels, snowflakes, Santas — whatever reminds you of Christmas, use that symbol to lead your design.

  1. Don’t Forget Less-Obvious Areas

So, now that you have a semblance of a decorating timeline and look you’re going for, you should next figure out what will go where. And, as you do so, it’s important to remember more than just the obvious spots, such as the front stoop, fireplace and, of course, the Christmas tree.

There are so many spots in your home that are perfect for a little bit of Christmas cheer. A throw pillow on a bed or sofa can instantly make the entire room feel festive. The same goes for bathrooms and, of course, the kitchen, where you’ll be spending plenty of time baking cookies and prepping holiday feasts. A holiday decoration on your counter can get you in the spirit, even if the recipe you’re whipping up isn’t going to plan.

  1. Use What You Have

You don’t have to go out and buy an entirely brand-new set of decorations just because you’re revamping your design style this year. Try and incorporate as much of the stuff you already have. If you’re going with a color scheme, for example, separate your ornaments and decorations that match and make sure to use them this year.

You can get even more creative and use other festive items you wouldn’t normally think to decorate with. The best example is the Christmas presents you so carefully wrapped. You can place these on tables, line the staircase or, you know, perfectly assemble them under the tree. No need to hide them away until the morning of the 25th!

If you have kids, you have helpers who can aid you in your quest for homemade decorations. Aside from the ornaments and drawings they’ll undoubtedly bring home from school, you can get them crafting simple DIY projects you can use to decorate. Whether they’re stringing a popcorn garland, cutting out paper snowflakes for your windows or piecing together popsicle-stick reindeer, you’ll treasure their creations for years to come.

  1. When in Doubt, Light It up

If a room is feeling a little bit less festive than you envisioned, there’s an easy way to solve it: mood lighting. Simply lighting a few candles — especially candles scented with aromas of the season — can make the whole place feel warm, cozy and, of course, Christmas-y.

You can do the same instant update with a string of white twinkle lights. Whether you line your fireplace mantle, wrap a regular houseplant or hang them from your curtain rods, their gentle glow gives just about any room a taste of Christmas magic.

Now, Get Started

With these ideas in mind, it’s easy to see how simple Christmas decorations can be. Plan early — and plan your look — to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. Oh, and make sure you have a few extra strings of twinkle lights, just in case. With that, your home will finally by the winter wonderland you always imagined — and you can treat yourself to an extra gift or two for making that vision a reality.