Decking the halls is one of the most fun traditions of the holiday season, but the entertaining that goes along with it can add stress to an otherwise cheery time. Farah Merhi has made a career out of helping others to make decor and entertaining easier and attainable. With only three semesters left in college and a plan to go to law school, Merhi realized that she was not following her passion. Shortly after, she launched Inspire Me! as an Instagram account, which has grown to over five million followers, a successful home decor business and a new book  Inspire Your Home:  Easy Ideas to Make Every Room Glamorous. “I wear many hats each day — wife, mother, entrepreneur — and I am still working on figuring out how to balance it all without stress,” Merhi tells Thrive. “Your home should bring a sense of inner peace, and be a sanctuary to walk into at the end of a long, hard day — especially during the holidays.”  

Merhi sits down with Thrive to share some of her best tips for organizing your home, getting ready for holiday guests, and what to do if you are looking to revamp your home (and manage the attendant stress) in the new year.

Thrive Global: How do you set yourself up for the most productive day?

Farah Merhi: It’s all about the way you start your day. What has made me feel productive is making my bed in the morning. The moment I wake up and make my bed, I automatically feel productive, and I feel like I can do anything. I walk out, go downstairs, and I make my coffee. It’s my time to reflect. It’s my time to think about the day, about my plans, my to-do list, and maybe even write it down and prepare myself for what’s to come. It can be 20 minutes out of your day. I am ready to tackle it no matter what, because I’ve had my me time.

TG: How can we decorate our homes this holiday without getting overwhelmed?

FM: The best way you can decorate for the season, no matter which holiday, and no matter what the season is, is to always think about it as changing out the layering and the accessories, and bringing in new pieces. First, start by changing out your pillows. It’s a simple change, but it’s cost effective, and it will give you that spruce-up that you’re looking for. Then add a throw blanket, which will add that cozy vibe automatically, whether it’s a full fur, a knitted throw, or a velvet throw that you love. And then finish it all off by adding some accessories, like maybe a vase with some floral arrangement, a bowl filled with ornaments to remind you of the holiday season, and then a candle. It’s not about the big pieces. It’s about the smaller things that you can change out, so that you’re not paying too much money, but it’s also giving you a refresh to reflect what’s going on outside.

I usually love to start with my Christmas tree. I decide on a color palette of the year, and I start decorating with my ornaments and designing my tree. And then in my family room, I throw in some decorative accents and pillows to reflect that color palette, and on my fireplace mantle, I add a garland and fill it in with ornaments. Now the whole room is already ready for the season.

It’s not about overwhelming yourself. I try to take it one step at a time, especially during the holiday season, because we already have the stresses of entertaining, and seeing family and friends. So take a deep breath, go room by room, and take it one step at a time and enjoy it. 

TG: What stresses you out over the holidays?

FM: I think a lot of things used to stress me out, but now I’ve taken a step back to try to relax and enjoy it. When you think about buying gifts, being ready, entertaining, people coming in, decorating, work, there’s just so much going on, and it can really overwhelm you. Plus, my kids are off three weeks from school, so that in itself is stressful. A couple of years ago, I realized that I couldn’t do it to myself anymore, because every time I stress out, it takes away the joy of enjoying the season and building those memories that I want with my family. So it’s all about perspective. I needed to stop stressing and just enjoy the process of decorating, and just feel blessed that I’m even able to do that. I’d start with my to-do list — that’s the main thing. It really helps me out, keeps me going, and it keeps me on task.

TG: What is one thing we can do to take the pressure off of entertaining? 

FM: I delegate. Delegating and asking for help is very important when it comes to entertaining. Spreading yourself too thin basically means that you cannot help those around you, and you cannot be the best version of yourself. Ask family members for help with all the tasks. Prepping is also very important. If you prepare ahead of your event, the day that you’re celebrating with your family and friends won’t feel as overwhelming.

I think the most common mistake that people do is they try to jam everything on the day of the event. Try to use the two days before the day of the event to prep for everything. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Just try your best.

TG: If someone wants to revamp their home, what is the first step they should take? 

FM: Designing your home and furnishing your home shouldn’t feel stressful. It should be a process that you are enjoying, because you’re basically building up a space that you’re going to get to relax in, and build memories in. Figure out which is the most important room for you, and then go from there. Take it one room at a time. One of the mistakes that I see people do is wanting to decorate and furnish every room all at once. That in itself can feel very overwhelming, and then it will stress you out. So try to tackle it one room at a time.

TG: Which is a good room to start with?

FM: I always say start in the bedroom. It is where you end up every night, and where you start your day every day. When you wake up, the process of making your bed motivates you to be productive that day. You walk out of that room feeling inspired, and like you can tackle anything. Then go into your family room. That’s the space where you spend the most time with your family. Think about it as layering — like you’re putting your clothes on every day. You put on the main pieces first, and then you finish it off with your accessories. It’s the same thing when you’re decorating your home; it’s just that you have bigger pieces to deal with.

TG: What advice would you give to someone trying to set up a room to make it feel more inviting?

FM: One of the major things that a lot of us struggle with is lack of space.  I think one of the life changing things that I have in my home is furniture that also has organizational tools.  I have kids, so realistically speaking, there’s always toys everywhere. So my secret has been bringing in furniture that also serves as storage. So for example, a storage ottoman, it serves us as seating, and it also serves as storage. So when my kids are done playing, we can just throw everything in there.

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  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.