Start with this item first.

By Alicia Brunker
Updated December 15, 2017
Christmas Tree in Living Room
Credit: strike0/Getty Images

The race to finish your holiday decorating is officially in full swing. While lining your home’s exterior in Christmas lights and decking the halls with boughs of garland and holly are important accents, the true star of the season is the tree, which means it must be decorated to perfection. But, with so many sparkly ornaments, garland, and bells, it’s easy to dash straight to the finishing touches before wrapping around a string of lights.

“The most common mistake when setting up a Christmas tree is putting the lights on the tree last,” author and design expert Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar says. “Often we have emotional connections and memories related to various baubles that we rush to decorate the tree with them. The result is either a tree wrapped with unsightly wires or lots of damaged ornaments on the floor.”

In order to avoid this common Christmas tree decorating fumble, Taylor suggests hanging the lights beforehand, ensuring you walk around the tree in a circular configuration, rather than zig-zagging across the front. Tuck the wires deep into the branches as you go until they appear nearly invisible. Afterwards, you can unpack your special heirloom ornaments and elegant baubles, filling the tree’s branches to your heart’s content.

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However, there is one decoration that should come before the lights: the topper. Whether it’s a star or an angel, it’s difficult to reach the tree’s peak without a single brush. “You might have to stand amongst some of the branches or bend the top to attach the topper, so leaving the rest of the tree bare while you do so prevents any unnecessary damages,” he says.