By: Mary Fran Bontempo

IMG_1581There’s nothing like a quickly approaching party for 70 at your house to make you look around and say, “Ew.”

Remember when you first set up house? As a young bride, I was all about my home decor. I scoured magazines, tore out pictures, meandered through furniture stores and obsessed over what should go where and what color went with what. Home was a great source of pride.

Then, I had kids. Which meant that decor quickly devolved into where to put the toy box and how many stuffed animals could fit on the couch. Accessories were soccer cleats, balls for every sport, dance shoes and mountains of dirty laundry.

As the kids got older, the stuffed animals disappeared, but then the roof started to leak, the windows needed to be replaced, the heater went, along with the air conditioner, and the decor? Well, the decor was the same stuff I lovingly put in place in the early ’90’s, and suffice it to say, two decades later, it did not wear well. In fact, the house started to resemble one of those creepy places you yell at people not to go into when you’re watching a horror movie.

Imagine what a house would look like if Country Living Magazine had a baby with the Victorian era and taxidermist’s office. Duck decoys, pictures of flying eagles, and federal duck stamp prints residing on walls with enough paisley and color to bring on a migraine. Throw pillows, coffee table books (who came up with that idea anyway?), weird figurines of more animals and at least 80 different kinds of Yankee candles.

What the hell was I thinking?

Now, youngest daughter, Megan, is getting married and wants to have her bridal shower at home. Which is a lovely idea, except for the whole horror movie thing.

So, for the past five months, I’ve been pulling off wallpaper, scraping walls, painting, moving furniture, and pretty much putting everything my husband has an attachment to in the basement.

Dave was the one who went through the wildlife phase. For years, I happily indulged him with the aforementioned decoys, artwork and weird figurines. Somehow, it seemed more interesting than buying him shirts at Macy’s.

I should have bought the shirts.

He also has an attachment to a random collection of books, along with old photos, countless magazines, religious medals, and enough bits and pieces of stuff to fill the pockets of every ten year old boy on the planet. Bobby Brady would be jealous. At last count, I rid the family room of three bird decoys, one Rottweiler puppy figurine, three federal duck stamp prints, a bookcase full of Dave’s books, and countless bottle caps, bits of string, baseball cards and chewing gum. (Okay, I’m kidding about that last part, but you get the idea.)

However, lest anyone think I’m a controlling witch (go on, substitute the “b,” you know you want to), I did not dispose of Dave’s treasures. Instead, I relegated everything to the basement.

Again, this is not as bad as it seems. Dave’s office is in the basement, and he spends around 18 out of every 24 hours down there, so surrounding him with his stuff  in the cellar is actually his best chance to enjoy any of it. Since I couldn’t care less what goes on in the basement, everyone wins. And of course, then I get to go out and buy new stuff to replace the wildlife.

Yet, I have experienced the occasional pang of guilt. The other day, after I removed the giant soaring eagle print which hung above the family room sofa in order to paint the room, I asked Dave if he wanted me to re-hang the piece.

“No, that’s okay,” he said.

“Really, I don’t want to erase you from the house. If you want it back in there, I’ll re-hang it,” I replied.

“Just bring it downstairs. I’m a realist. I know my place is in the basement, and I’m fine with that,” Dave said.

Like I said, everybody wins. And with any luck, on the day of Meg’s bridal shower, no one will mistake our house for a set piece from  Psycho.

As long as they stay out of the basement.