How To Decorate Your House for Halloween

Consider this your complete guide to Halloween prep, including when, how and what to decorate.

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With Halloween just around the corner, many homeowners are considering their festive decorations. Whether you want to be the house all the kids flock to or prefer a more subtle approach, decorating can be a fun fall activity for the whole family.

However, there are many factors to consider before you fill your cart with fake cobwebs and skeletons. When should you put up your decor? How long do you leave it up for? Are there Homeowners Association (HOA) rules to consider? And where do you store your scary items in the off-season?

This year, let our guide to Halloween decorating help you make the most of this goofy, spooky holiday.

When to Decorate for Halloween

Start with your decoration timeline. According to Martha Stewart magazine, “The most popular time to start decorating for Halloween is during the first two weeks of October.”

Lynn Lilly, a Michaels Maker and the founder of Craft Box Girls, told the magazine, “My rule of thumb is as soon as October 1 rolls around, I pack away the fall harvest decorations, put on my witches hat, stretch out the spider webs, and start planning my annual Halloween hunt.”

However, if you’re extra-eager or want to do a massive install, there’s nothing wrong with starting early. Spirit Halloween encourages real fall fanatics start after Labor Day, and the popular Halloween decor chain opened its physical stores nationwide in early August.

If you’re running late, that’s OK, too. There are plenty of ways to decorate last-minute.

Planning Halloween Decorations

Stephen Ferrone (left) and his son Stevie Ferrone, 16 carry Herman back into their garage in Middletown, Maryland on October 20, 2020.The Washington Post/Getty Images

Next, come up with a plan for your decor. Consider your budget and research relevant rules in your HOA or municipality.


As soon as you set foot inside a spooky superstore like Spirit Halloween, you may be tempted to buy every fake gravestone you see. But commercial Halloween ornaments can add up quickly, costing you way more than you intended to spend.

To avoid this, craft a budget before head to the store, and stick to it. To get the best deals, Southern Home and Hospitality suggests shopping early in the season before items sell out.

HOA Rules

According to Brian Douglas Law, many HOAs restrict the light, sound, size and perceived offensiveness of ourdoor displays. Use the following guidelines, and always consult with your HOA before purchasing that massive cackling witch animatronic.

  1. Keep lighting considerate: To avoid disrupting your neighbors, opt for non-blinking lights in basic colors. Douglas notes some HOAs may limit red or flashing lights. Additionally, New Home Source recommends setting the lights on an timer so they’re not shining while others are trying to sleep.
  2. Limit noisy decorations: Refrain from blasting “Monster Mash” at all hours of the night, and opt for decorations without scary sound effects. If you simply must have a howling werewolf sculpture, speak to your HOA before purchasing.
  3. Get permission for large sculptures or inflatables: Again, always check your HOA guidelines before purchasing inflatables or giant looming skeletons.
  4. Refrain from offensive decorations: What may be hilarious to you may be insulting or vulgar to someone else. “[W]hile there isn’t a specific definition of what qualifies as inappropriate [decor], the rule of thumb is to avoid gory, frightening, politically offensive or racially offensive Halloween decorations,” Douglas says. Additionally, avoid anything with religious overtones. New Home Source notes some HOAs may prohibit witches because they “can be associated with the Wicca religion.”

What to Decorate for Halloween

A plethora of surfaces make perfect backdrops for festive decorations. However, some locations are better than others to preserve the safety of your family and accessibility of your throughways. Here are some excellent places to decorate, as well as some that are inadvisable.

Outdoor areas

Halloween Jack O Lantern Pumpkins On A Porch with decorations for a Halloween party in the backgroundvalentinrussanov/Getty Images

Outside, feel free to decorate the following locations:

Keep all sidewalks, driveways, steps and handrails clear so you, your family and guests can get in and out.

Indoor areas

Fireplace Halloween Decorations with assorted skulls, cobwebs and fall decorationsAnjelika Gretskaia/Getty Images

When decorating inside, consider potential fire or mobility dangers. Our favorite locations include:

  • Counters;
  • Tabletops;
  • Mantels;
  • Interior walls;
  • Windows
  • Cabinets;
  • Couches or chairs.

Avoid obstructing foot traffic in tight, busy throughways or hallways. Make sure all doors and windows can close properly. Keep dangerous or fiddly decorations out of reach of curious kids and pets.

Additionally, never place decorations too close to potential heat sources like ovens, radiators, lights or electrical outlets. Stay safe out there!

Popular Halloween Decorations to Consider

Now for the fun part: choosing your decorations! Here are some of our favorite types of Halloween decor, plus tips on how to style them.


Pumpkins and Fall Floral Flower Halloween Display On Front Porchakaplummer/Getty Images

Pumpkins are a sure crowd-pleaser, adding quintessential autumn flair to any decor theme. They’re typically inoffensive to HOAs and cheap to buy at most major grocery stores. The whole family can get involved by carving or painting the pumpkins to personalize them to your interests and Halloween theme.

Indoor and outdoor lights

String lights for Halloween are another inoffensive but festive addition to your holiday decor.

For a simple, classic look, opt for orange and purple lights. Up the spooky factor with novelty lights with ghosts, bats and jack-o-lanterns. If you want something to last the entire fall season, try this leaf garland variety.

Finally, to illuminate an outdoor pathway, opt for staked LED lights. We particularly love these rainbow solar-powered pool lights.

Inflatable yard decorations

Inflatable pumpkin decorations glowing in the front yard of a houseyhelfman/Getty Images

Halloween inflatables are one of these easiest ways to make a big statement. Plenty of giant jack-o-lanterns and cute ghosts offer a sweet, family-friendly approach. But if you prefer a ginormous dragon or creepy clown archway, go for it, though they’ll require a little extra love to maintain.

After Halloween, wash them with soap and water and let them dry before rolling up to store. Additionally, always inspect for holes or tears before inflating them.

Novelty sculptures

In the fall of 2020, The Home Depot’s 12-foot skeleton “Skelly” became the must-have Halloween decoration. Years later, this kooky novelty sculpture proved its staying power. If you’d like to invest in Skelly or another large item, consider a few factors.

First, be sure you have ample time and assistance to assemble and disassemble the sculptures. The Home Depot claims Skelly takes two people to put together and three to stand upright! Additionally, because Skelly needs to be stored in the original box, you’ll need storage space to accommodate it.

We also love the weird clown handyman, Sinister Steve.

Buying vs. DIY-ing Halloween Decorations

Making Halloween decorations by cutting bats and pumpkins out of colorful construction paperM_a_y_a/Getty Images

After considering all the above factors, would you rather DIY your decorations or buy them? Read on to determine what’s right for you.

Why DIY?

As aforementioned, store-bought Halloween decorations can be expensive. DIY-ing your own decor can you save money while still creating a wonderfully scary aesthetic. Better yet, crafting your own Halloween decor can be a fun bonding activity for friends and family.

Here are some ideas for affordable decorations to DIY:

  •  According to the debt relief company Money Fit, you can “fluff up some cotton until it resembles cobwebs.”
  • Black and orange spray paint can transform basic pots into festive vessels.
  • Cut construction or butcher paper into spooky shapes like bats and pumpkins.
  • Craft silly spiders from styrofoam balls and pipe cleaners.
  • Grocery store gourds and foraged grass make cheap and beautiful table centerpieces.
  • Laundry baskets can become eerie cages for skeletons.

Why Buy?

If you’d like something specific or particularly grand, or you’re short on time, buying Halloween decorations can be a major relief. To find great deals and unique designs, consider the following stores:

  • The Dollar Tree;
  • Goodwill;
  • Target;
  • The Home Depot;
  • Ross;
  • Marshalls;
  • Party City;
  • Spirit Halloween.

When to Take Down Halloween Decorations

A moldy, rotting, flattened and disfigured jack o' lantern pumpkin has been left outside on the ground Long After HalloweenWillowpix/Getty Images

While the rules may vary for HOAs in different neighborhoods, Douglas says, “A common rule is removing the decorations within 20 days of the holiday.” Fortunately, removing Halloween ghosts and ghouls by November 20 still gives you a full week to decorate for Thanksgiving!

How to store your Halloween decorations

Once you’ve taken down your Halloween decor, you’ll need to consider how to store it all until the next spooky season. Follow these tips from Storage Rentals of America (SROA) to maximize your storage space and keep your beloved decor safe:

  • Utilize see-through, labeled bins: Sort your items into different boxes and label them according. All your lights could go in one box, while paper cut-outs could go in another.
  • Use vacuum-sealed bags for fabric and cobwebs: Keeping air and moisture away from these delicate materials will preserve them for years to come. Plus, vacuum-sealing saves storage space!
  • Place small items within larger ones: If you have “small figurines and spooky plastic bugs,” put them inside “larger items like trick-or-treat buckets or candy bowls.” Then secure the top with plastic wrap.
  • Bubble-wrap delicate or oddly-shaped items: According to SROA, store a fake skeleton by disassembling it and wrapping each bone in bubble wrap before boxing it away.
  • Store your decor in a climate-controlled environment: Heat and humidity could warp or even melt plastic items. Keep them in a cool room in your house or a climate-controlled storage unit. Be sure to read up on our favorite storage tips before you pack up for next year!