life in a tiny apartment.

December 7, 2017

small apartment christmas tree | reading my tea leaves

Survival Tip #159: Put your Christmas tree in a crate.

Last week, on Thursday, after both kids were fast asleep, James and I poured a festive glass of cider and sat down to scribble ideas for this year’s advent calendar. But as we brainstormed advent merriment, we became sidetracked by a conversation about the Christmas tree. Could we have one this year?  Would 11-month-old Silas topple it over? Is this the kind of thing that only parents in our generation even worry about? Surely parents of years past would have just put up a tree, covered it in glass ornaments, and sat back with a mug of spiked egg nog to enjoy the splendor, no?

Well. I can’t speak for everyone, but my sample size of two—my very own parents—reminded me that even hippy parents who generally threw caution to the wind took some minor precautionary measures around wannabe walking babies and toppling trees. And so would we.

We’d perch the tree on my dresser, we decided. We’d stick it in the crate where we normally store cookbooks. The cookbooks would go into the crate where we normally store shoes. The shoes would be a little more crammed than usual in the crates we keep in the closet. In other words, it would require some crate rejiggering, but not a wholesale furniture rearrange, and so we committed and then doubled down. We’d get the tree that very night. Hop to.

Our plan required swapping our metal stand for a sturdy plastic one without feet. James stole out into the Brooklyn night and purchased both tree and stand from the kindly Christmas tree vendor around the corner. He Facetimed me with his fir finds. I nodded a vigorous yes to one that looked sufficiently spindly. James tossed it over his shoulder (saying a polite no to the plastic netting) and was back home twenty minutes later with what might be the very favorite tree we’ve ever had—acquired by way of uniquely modern marvel, but festooned with a bit of old-fashioned charm.

All this to say, if you’re in a small space this year, or every year, consider a tree in a crate, perched upon an existing piece of furniture and strung up with whatever makes you happy. Merry everything.

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #158 RIGHT THIS WAY.

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  • Reply Madeleine December 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Looks beautiful, Erin! I wanted to mention to everyone that in my town, which is decidedly far away from New York City, a local nursery has a “living tree” program. For slightly more than the price of a cut tree, you buy a potted tree. The nursery delivers the tree to your house and also picks it up post-Christmas. Once the tree is picked up, the nursery plants it in a local park. This is a GREAT program because while “real” Christmas trees smell delicious and are beautiful and 100% more desirable than artificial trees -the latter being mildly toxic and difficult, if not impossible, to recycle- real trees take up a tremendous amount of resources for short-lived enjoyment. Furthermore, real trees are often banned in apartment buildings (my own included) because they are a fire-hazard. A living tree program has so many things to recommend it from environmental, convenience, and aesthetic points of view. I’ve never heard of a “living tree” program anywhere than where I live but keep your eyes peeled, fellow earth fans, and perhaps suggest it to your own local nursery for next year. 🙂 Happy Christmas!

    • Reply Michaela December 7, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      I live in San Francisco and our local Friends of the Urban Forest has a similar program. ❤️ Lovely tree Erin! We put our tree up on our side table this year and so far it’s been very successful at surviving our tornado girl. Merry Merry!

    • Reply Sam December 7, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I love the idea of living tree program! However, my dad was a Christmas tree farmer and I’m not totally sure I agree with you re: the resource requirements of Christmas trees. Christmas trees don’t require irrigation, they take around 5-7 years to get to the size where most folks want them and during that time they contribute to air and soil quality. They also preserve open space. When my father’s farm shut down, it was replaced with huge houses which definitely take up more resources than the trees did. Not really conservation issues but our farm was a small local business – employing multiple generations of high school students and donating to community fundraisers etc. That’s my (biased) anecdotal take and I don’t know if this is a well-researched area but I do recall this article from many years ago

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      terrific! agreed with sam that live christmas tree farms aren’t such a very bad thing, but glad to know about this program, too! enjoy!

  • Reply Kristen December 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Your tree is lovely.

  • Reply Linda December 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm


  • Reply Jessica December 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    we had a similar conundrum this year with a not yet walking but extremely grabby 14 month old running around (whose older sister was not nearly as interested in destruction as he has been thus far). we ended up with a wee tree perched on a table in the corner, barricaded by baskets of blocks. the more fragile, heirloom ornaments have stayed in the box in favor of the softer, more hardy ones. next year we’ll hopefully be back to our normal larger tree but for this year I am loving the little charlie brown guy in the corner.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 7, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      sounds perfect!

  • Reply Jennifer December 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Merry everything!

  • Reply Sophie December 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I have a similar problem this year too. My 13-month old son is bent on ‘investigating’ and my parents have our playpen to protect their tree. The solution – one glass jar, a bundle of sticks, battery operated twinkle lights in the bottom and a few angels and sparkly baubles on top. Not very traditional, but definitely baby-proof

  • Reply Brooke December 7, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    We had a 14-month old one Christmas and it didn’t even cross our mind to be worried about her pulling over the tree. We bought a 7 ft tree, put in our vintage metal base, strung it up with way too many lights and all our collected glass ornaments. Sat back, had some Irish Cream and enjoyed the twinkling lights. Our daughter never even removed a single ornament. I guess you have to know your kid and what they are likely to get into.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Yes, totally! Faye’s ages and interests during past Christmases never impacted our tree placement, but Silas is in the midst of wanting to pull himself onto everything and this solution felt just right for the moment we’re in.

      • Reply Brooke December 8, 2017 at 11:52 am

        how funny!
        I hate to think it’s a girl versus boy thing, but our friends with boys all were shocked that we had a full-size Christmas tree with fancy ornaments, etc.
        All kids are different! I love the solution you came up with – it looks so festive!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 8, 2017 at 12:30 pm

          Yes! All kids are different! Definitely not implying that this was a boy-related decision!

    • Reply Jessica December 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      we did exactly the same thing with our daughter. she loved to just sit and look at the lights and we could gently guide her in looking at each delicate ornament. in fact, we barely child proofed our house at all when she was little. our son however, is a veritable tornado of destruction. I have never seen a child who can decimate a room as quickly as he can. needless to say, we’ve done a bit more “child proofing” this time around 🙂

  • Reply Sam December 7, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Doesn’t help apartment dwellers but my 18 month old’s level of activity means that our tree was relocated outside, with lights+tree viewable from our back sliding glass doors. No ornaments and no gifts under the tree but my sanity is preserved…and the tree will last longer. Added bonus is that toddler occasionally sits still in her chair gazing at the lights (“Oooooooooh wooooowwwww”) – pretty much the only time she is motionless all day. Reading these stories of less destructive toddlers with a bit of envy and wistful exhaustion!

  • Reply Samantha December 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Erin, I love your tree and the way you decorated it. May I ask where you found those lovely candles? Will you light them or are they faux?

  • Reply Debbie - MountainMama December 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    What a charming little tree!! I remember when my kids were small I was in the kitchen cooking and they were playing in the living room….and then there was a huge crash and two crying children. My older daughter had crawled under the tree and knocked it down! That was NOT fun…..thankfully everyone was ok, we just lost a few ornaments that year…but gained a good story to tell!

  • Reply Courtney December 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Your picture of your tree in a crate on top of your dresser was a game changer for us! Thanks for this solution. Our tree went up on our mantle this year out of the reach of curious fingers.

  • Reply sasha December 7, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Such a pretty tree! !
    A couple years back, we had a frisky puppy that wasn’t quite trustworthy yet and we had a similar solution, tiny tree on a table. It was awesome because zero rearranging of furniture (which is tricky in a small space). We live in Montana so always go into the forest and cut our own with a $5 permit from the Forest Service. It’s my favorite part of the holidays. On the day after xmas, we take the lights and star off (we like it better with just white lights and a pretty star ), and move it to the backyard and decorate again with fruits and bird seed for the birds. We put it right outside the window and it’s wonderful to watch the birds in our tree for the rest of winter.

  • Reply Carol December 7, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I look forward to every post you have in this series. I don’t have a small apartment but I have a small house. You have some ingenious ideas and are so positive about where you live. These posts are always a delight to read!

  • Reply Shelbi December 7, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I like your tree and how you and your husband collaborated so well. I also live in a smallish apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area and I have a 3-year-old. My husband and I argued for days because we couldn’t agree on one freaking Christmas tree. It should be really simple and easy like this. I love the simple decision making. Virtual high-five.

  • Reply stacia December 8, 2017 at 6:01 am

    Santa Claus put our tree up. While most of my friends had their trees up (at that time trees and decorations were not put up until about a week or two at the most before christmas). Our living room stayed empty. But on Christmas morning we woke up to the most beautiful tree in the world. My dad loved the spindly type. To this day I have never been able to find trees like that. But the smell of fresh pine and very old Italian ornaments with the old type big christmas lights and gifts spread all around it. Such a great memory for me. Thanks mom and dad for keeping Santa real.

  • Reply McKenzie Allyshia December 8, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I absolutely adore your tree — those decorations are absolutely amazing! Also, that is a brilliant idea with putting the tree in a crate. Not to mention, cute! I wish that I would have thought of something like this. Our boys are old enough to leave it alone now, but my lab with his always wagging tail sends ornaments flying constantly.

  • Reply Ruchita December 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Lovely tree! Wish you a merry Christmas from Simple N Chic 🙂

    We recently moved from nyc to bay area and we bought a place where entire street get small christmas tree for front yard. I guess this crate idea is great! I will explore this for my front yard tree!

    Thanks for Sharing.

  • Reply Amelia December 8, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    My family has done a traditional German Christmas tree with beeswax candles my entire life. However, in recent years it’s gotten harder to source the candles and clips (without going all the way back to the motherland itself). Could you share where you got yours?

  • Reply Petra December 12, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I agree that all kids are different – I’ve heard all kinds of “horror” stories from my friends about how their kids want to “investigate” (*cough* destroy *cough*) the tree, LOL, while my kids never seemed to be that interested in it.

    But cats – well, let’s just say that’s a different story, haha 😀


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