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Help I'm Hosting: Decorating With Limited Resources


Time now for our holiday advice series "Help, I'm Hosting." There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than with some holiday decorating. But it's not always easy. Sometimes, you're tight on space, tight on money or both. We asked you to send in your decorating questions. And here to help us answer them is Joy Cho. She's a Los Angeles-based designer, writer and founded the company Oh Joy. Joy Cho, welcome to the program.

JOY CHO: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what do you do to make your house feel festive?

CHO: So for me, being festive is all about the things that I can bring into my home that literally bring us joy. I really try to focus on one area because it can be overwhelming to try to think about decorating your entire home, inside and out. So it could be an area by our dining room or it could be an area by the mantel or fireplace. So for me, this year, it's been all about the tree and how decked out we can really make it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we got two questions from our listeners. Brett Herberts is a 21-year-old college student at the University of Minnesota who wants to know how to decorate on a budget. And Casey Nelson said this. We are living in an RV, and this will be our first Christmas in it - no room for a tree and can bring about a shoebox worth of ornaments and trimmings. What would make a joyous and big impact working with little space and little storage?

CHO: There's two things that I would recommend. Number one is if you are a Christmas tree person, it's OK to get a small tree. A smaller tree means less ornaments and less decorations, which means you don't have to spend quite as much money. Another thing that's really great is the front door. Everybody has a front door no matter what you're living in, even if it's an RV. You can go to a party store. Go to the section that has solid colors. And you can pull all the festive colors.

And those things are all paper. They're not as expensive. And it's something that if it gets ruined, it's not a huge deal. So I love the idea of focusing on, how will you make your door feel festive the moment that somebody walks in with this really fun statement that you're making?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course, it is the Christmas season. But it's also Hanukkah coming up. Any advice for those celebrating other religious holidays?

CHO: I mean, I think it's the same idea. Whatever you celebrate, make it festive. Make it fun. You know, it could just be about what small details are going to (inaudible). You know, silver and gold are very festive without being specific to any specific holiday. And those types of things can fill that area of your house that you're choosing to really focus on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Michelle Runnels of California is asking this question on behalf of her father in Houston, Texas, whose house was flooded by Hurricane Harvey last year. And his house is finally renovated. Let's listen.

MICHELLE RUNNELS: All of his Christmas decorations were flooded out. He doesn't have any anymore. And so he'll be hosting us for Christmas this year. I'm trying to help him think of decorations he can use that would be very meaningful, decorative, festive but also not a huge investment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This situation could apply to so many people this year, as you know - people whose belongings have been destroyed by the California wildfires or other natural disasters. So what's your advice for Michelle's dad and others like him?

CHO: Absolutely. If I were her or if you're in a situation where you have a family member like this, I would send an email out to all the relatives and all the close friends and say, listen. My dad lost all this in the fire or in a flood. Let's all send him one ornament that means something to us or reminds us of him, and let's surprise him with that. Ornaments are such an easy thing to buy for somebody else because you can get them for as cheap as you want or as expensive as you want.

So how wonderful would that be if she did that and if all of a sudden, within a week, these packages started showing up at his door of these things? And think about the message you could write with that. Like, think about the feeling of it. And it doesn't involve too much time or money from friends and family. But that's just, like, a way to restore and just give him a new beginning to his Christmas decor.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you're the daughter of immigrants from Thailand. And I read that you said that you don't have generations of people celebrating Christmas. So you had to start your own traditions. And I was wondering, like, if you could give us an example of one of those.

CHO: Yeah. So because I want my kids to understand and appreciate presents and giving back, one thing we do is we try to clear space, literally, for the couple presents they are going to get. And it gives them the opportunity to go through things that they don't necessarily need anymore but that are in great condition that we can donate and give to other children in need.

I also work with a local charity to get partnered up with a family. And we go and pick things specifically for them that they need. And I have my girls involved so they can understand that these kids wouldn't necessarily have these things without us helping them. And I think it's just a nice way for them to give back in a way and start that young.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love that. I really love that. Joy Cho is the founder and creative director of the design company Oh Joy. Thank you so much.

CHO: Thank you.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: And next week, we want your gift-giving challenges. Is it possible to re-gift with dignity? Have to give a gift to someone you don't know well or what to do if you're a gift-wrapping hater like me - tell us your questions. And we may put them to our holiday expert and use them on the air. Call us at 202-216-9217 and leave a voicemail or email us at weekend@npr.org. Leave your name, number and where you're from.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE HUNTER'S "RUN FOR IT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.