It’s time to deck those halls! Unfortunately, if you live in a rental, many holiday decor ideas have a downside—one that you might not feel for months or years after the holidays, but could hit hard once you move out. We’re talking about your security deposit: The money you forked over to your landlord when you signed your lease and that he gets to keep if you don’t return your apartment in as good a shape as when you moved in.
Though it’s the season of giving, your landlord can’t use easy excuses to siphon off your precious deposit, OK?
Here are some decorating rules renters should keep in mind during the holidays—and some creative workarounds so you can still create that Instagrammable backdrop you crave.
Decorating danger 1: Hanging twinkle lights
Why it could cost you: Any time you’re hanging something in your apartment or other rented residence, you have to be careful. Using nails or tacks to hang pictures, posters, mirrors, or any other kind of wall decor is a risk. The tiny holes left behind by tiny pieces of metal hammered into your wall are a perfectly valid reason for a landlord to deduct from your deposit, especially if you leave a ton of them.
The workaround: Simply switch up where and how you display your twinkle lights. Instead of affixing them to the top of the wall or the ceiling, for example, try attaching them to a piece of furniture.
Another option that’s even easier: simply drape or wrap the lights around something in your home—anything from a headboard to a bannister.
If you’re totally set on having the lights strung up around your room, however, there are still some rental-friendly options when it comes to setting them up. Instead of using nails or tacks to hold them in place, use removable plastic clips. Command (the company that makes so many of the products that make decorating less of a headache for renters) has a line of decorating clips made just for hanging things like strings of lights.
Decorating danger 2: Bringing in a real tree
Why it could cost you: For some people, nothing says the holidays like a real tree, cut down from nature and dragged awkwardly into your home. The dragging is part of the problem here. Most rental agreements will hold tenants responsible for scratches on hardwood or laminate flooring and rips in the carpet.
Even if you get the tree into your apartment and set in place perfectly, real trees have other potential issues, like leaking sap, which could damage your flooring. Check your lease, too, because some landlords ban real trees altogether, citing potential fire hazards.
The workaround: Invest in a fake tree! Or consider other more creative options.
Crepe paper trees
All you need for this one is a paper cone, crepe paper, a hot glue gun, and a little creativity. Here’s an easy tutorial for making them yourself.
Hanging Christmas tree art
Pinterest is a great resource if you’re looking for inspiration in this department, with boards dedicated to hanging birch trees, or hanging trees crafted from wrapping paper and cloth. Remember, of course, to hang these trees with Command hooks or other removable wall mounts.
Book Christmas tree
If you’re a bibliophile, this one is for you: You can create a tree shape out of books, and decorate that in lieu of a traditional tree. The basic idea applies to anything you love (or just have lying around your house). Pinterest boards are bursting with creative ideas ranging from trees made of wine corks to trees made of ladders.
Decorating danger 3: Lighting scented holiday candles
Why it could cost you: Some rentals ban candles as a general rule because they can be a fire hazard if used irresponsibly. It’s worth noting here that, according to Project Sentinel, a nonprofit that educates the public on issues of housing discrimination, this ban could legally extend to candles used for religious practice.
In addition to the potential ban, candles bring with them other potential hurdles, like dripping wax (which can be a nightmare to clean out of carpet) or smoke damage to the ceiling (which would require it to be repainted and could be charged to you, depending on your local rental laws).
The workaround: If your goal is to fill your home with smells that make you think of the season, consider an essential oil diffuser or a wax warmer, which will give you the same candle scent without an open flame.
Decorating danger 4: Using spray-on snow
Why it could cost you: Spray-on snow can make your windows look frosty and wintry—which can be appealing, especially if you live in an area that’s frequently too warm to get actual frost or snow. Unfortunately, this holiday staple can also leave a milky film on windows (or on your sills, walls, curtains, or other bystanders caught in the crosshairs of a spray gone awry).
The workaround: Decals are cheap and easy to put up, and easy to remove at the end of the season. They also come in a range of designs. You could also go totally old school and make paper snowflakes, just like you did in elementary school arts and crafts class.
No matter where you live or how strict the rules in your rental unit art, there are plenty of creative ways to get into the spirit of the season.