Mark Ballard

Get creative in decorating without breaking bank

I always get a little blue this time of year. I refer to it as my post-holiday blues.

I know from talking to some of you that you feel the same way. Everything we have put all our attention and efforts into for months has come and gone in what seems like an instant. Then we look around our homes and realize we have to not only “un-deck” all the halls but also safely pack away everything for another year.

This year was especially difficult for me because I have been sick, but I somehow managed, with the help of my wife, to take down our decorations between coughs.

I pretty much lived in my pajamas for days and, in the process, grew a beard and didn’t wash my hair. In a way, it was liberating. That is until I looked in the mirror.

The one thing that almost frightened me as much as looking in the mirror was seeing our empty house after the holiday decorations were packed away. I got so used to all the extra holiday embellishments that, when they were gone, my house looked “naked.”

As I vacuumed up the last remnants of glitter from our rugs, I looked around the room to see what I could do to make it feel special again. In these economic times, I knew totally new decor was out of the question, but there had to be something I could do to spruce up our house on a budget.

I am very familiar with this process; I have had to do it all my life. Not having much money growing up, I developed ways to take things we already had and somehow alter them to appear different and special. I think this is when I first learned how to put on my creative thinking cap. Looking back, I think it drove my parents crazy.

I would go into our living room at that time and move all the furniture around. I dragged and tugged until the furniture appeared to be in a major traffic jam.

The room turned into a giant puzzle, with the sofa, chairs and end tables becoming pieces. Around and around they went like a spinning wheel, each time ending up in a different position. Since our rooms were small, there weren’t many options, but I tried them all anyway.

Sometimes, I would luck up on a change that offered a fresh new look. Other times, the pieces of furniture ended up in the exact same place they had started. After all the moving around, it was very easy to locate where they had been. All I had to do was look for the deep indentions the furniture’s legs had left in the carpet and slide the legs directly back into them.

When moving furniture proved futile, I resorted to other means of change. The time that sticks out in my mind the most involves paint. Our den had dark, fake wood paneling that made an already small room seem even tinier. One day, it was closing in on me and I reached for the paint brush. A couple of gallons of Kilz (to cover the brown) and paint, and our den became bathed in a cheery off-white. It literally doubled in size. I tell you all this to remind you that some decorating changes can be made without spending a dime.

All it may involve is moving a single piece of furniture that has been in the same place for years from one place to another. Or it may involve relocating an accessory and lamp from the table they have called “home” for years to a new space. By making these simple changes, you can add a “freshness” to your room.

And you will have the added bonus of things looking brand new. I cannot tell you the times I have moved something that had been in a certain place in my home for years and years to another place and people thought it was a new piece. “Is that new?” they’d ask. And I’d say, “No, I have had it for years!” Change is good.

Please don’t rule out the painting option. Paint is still one of the most inexpensive ways to make the biggest change in a room. Remember our little den when I was growing up? Maybe all you need is a brighter wall color to lift your spirits during the month of January.

As you put away your holiday decorations, get things back in order and clean, take this opportunity to look around the rooms in your home and see what you can do to shake things up a little. It doesn’t have to be a major change to make a difference. A small one can go a long way.

It is fun and refreshing to make some changes. There is no need to be scared or worried. If you don’t like the changes, simply put them back where they were. Remember the old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”

So, I intend to do just that. I am going to chase my January blues away by putting on my creative thinking cap. Who knows where this will lead. Just between you and me, I think my wife is worried.


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Mark Allen Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA; fax them to (478)474-4390 or call (478) 757-687.