Seven Decorating Tips from House Horrible Magazine

We’ve had a lot of doctor’s appointments lately, so I’ve been reading a lot of dumb magazines.  My favorite features are the ones that show some enviable tableau from someone’s home, and then glibly explains how to achieve this effect.

I don’t mean to promote envy, but it occurs to me that my house is full of uncommon little scenes which you may or may not want to recreate in your own home, depending on how much crack you’re smoking.  And so I present:

Seven Quick Ways To Spruce Down Your Home



This effect can be achieved by allowing your teenage daughter to be the only one in the house with her own bedroom — the trade-off being that her room is the one everyone else has to tramp through on their way to their own rooms.  Her only recourse will be to hang a sheet in front of the most sacrosanct part of her living quarters, and to make that sheet as threatening as possible.  To prep for this project, expose your child to inappropriate movies and heavy doses of sarcasm at an early age.



These gorgeous gold footprint stencils adorning the back steps simply scream, “Yes, yes, spray paint anything you like, just let me finish this post!”  Or maybe that was me screaming.



This fin de siècle vignette captures the very moment when our family made its last stab at homeschooling, and then gave up and just taught the kids poker.  For an edgy touch, someone seems to have taken a bite out of the bulletin board.



You can achieve this effect by leaving the camera lying around unguarded.



Classic trompe l’oeil:  to the untrained eye, it may appear that Mama went to the bathroom for a couple of minutes or an hour or two, and the little ones got into the paper plates and glue.  But in fact, what you’re really seeing here is:  “I make a fwower for you, Mama!”



A progressive approach to decorating, with a twofold purpose:  one, to encourage creativity in your children; and two, to give parents plenty of practice rehearsing the phrase:  “He’s going to grow out of it at some point, right?”



You’ve heard of shabby chic?  This is happy bleak.  Tie festive balloons to your mailbox every time a kid has a birthday.  Never get around to untying them.  Feel shame daily.

Well, that’s it.  Now you know how you, too, can have . . . House Horrible.  Don’t forget to check out Conversion Diary for everyone else’s Seven Quick Takes!


  1. I really, really hope mine grows out of it before he can draw a godzilla that well! Currently, he’s covered his walls with pictures of people in jail and then taped a picture of the family to his bunk so he can “remember everybody when he’s trapped.” Good grief… he’s never had a time out longer than 10 minutes!!!

    We’ve decided to blame toy story 3 since he loves woody and we’re the sort of evil homeschooling Catholics who allow our kids to watch Pixar and Disney and shun those “Catholic Values” cartoons. Because, as a wiser friend said, “They know scooby doo and michey mouse aren’t real. Do you want them to put Juan Diego and St. Patrick in the “Just a cartoon” box too?”

    • Oh my gosh, Deirdre, that is an amazing argument against those “Catholic Cartoons” and now I feel so much better about letting my kids watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I have to remember that in case my sister in law tries to give me some of those Catholic Cartoons.

      • I wish I could take credit for the insight, but it came from a friend’s mom, who let her kids watch Muppets and Disney and Looney Tunes but didn’t let them watch the Catholic stuff. Her kids have all turned out better than OK, IMO, and they’re very clear on the whole “God is real, Donald, not so much,” thing. 🙂

        For Saints tales, I prefer the Tomie De Paola picture books. Kids understand that PBs can be about real people (look at all the Abe Lincoln books out there!) and they’re beautifully illustrated and well-written. Meanwhile the “Good Catholic Cartoons” usually have poor production values and seem to do most of their marketing based on the “guilt and visible holiness” principle– They look “more Catholic” on your shelf than Sleeping Beauty and Princess Bride do…….

        • We love Tomie de Paola here, too. Good point about the books being about real people!

          I have a sister in law who is attempting to keep all pop culture references out of her home…and her oldest son was trying to tell my six year old that Spiderman is a BAD guy, because he breaks into people’s homes…and my six year old said, “Only to save them from a fire or something!” I don’t know where he got the idea that Spiderman is a bad guy, but I think it’s the idea that forbidden by parents=bad.

          • That’s really sad, because kids love superheroes! (Also, everyone knows spiderman and batman CATCH the bad guys and put them in jail. Sometimes for hours a day. Especially when the bad guys have broken into their sisters’ doll house and are trying to steal all the babies……… our dollhouse has a very….tumultuous…existence. Luckily the superheroes are there to fix things!)

            Also, does she also ban cowboys and indians and cops and robbers? Because those have their roots in pop culture too! Oh, and shakespeare? I mean, he was really popular back in the day…….. better ban most Rennaisance Art too, just to be safe. And also Christmas carols……..

            Total bans aren’t as effective as watching and filtering. So, Batman yes, Bratz no….. Ponies yes, Sexy vampires, no…….

            I honestly do think some of this comes from a “more Catholic than thou” one-upmanship. It’s easy to get focused on outward signs of what a holy Catholic parent you are, and to compare yourself to those sinful neighbors, than it is to actually try to do the whole “in the world but not of it” balancing act. Not that I’m particularly good at THAT either, but really, I think the key (based on some awesome people I know who don’t realize how awesome they are) must be to try to work on resisting your OWN temptations and fixing your OWN relationship with God, rather than trying to totally control your kids. Unfortunately, that’s also hard. And takes a long time. And if you actually get there, you won’t KNOW it because you’ll still be aware of the magnitude of your sin and be busy loving your neighbors.

            So, it’s definitely faster to make blanket rules, declare them “more Catholic” than everyone else’s and then act horrified at the people who claim to be Catholic but let their daughter play with barbies and their son have transformers. (Come on–they’re robots AND cars. It’s like two toys in one!)

            • Deirdre, I don’t know about Shakespeare, but I know that the children are only allowed to read books published by a Catholic publisher. No secular books, which includes the Little House Series, which makes me sad. Of course, the Ingalls family wasn’t Catholic anyway, so that puts them right out of the running.

            • I know there are a lot of people who judge and whatnot, but we are very good friends with a wonderful family who don’t allow any pop culture into their home and only watch saint videos, etc. They don’t judge me for my values and I don’t judge them for theirs. We are both trying to do what we think is right. Only time and eternity will tell. Gulp!

    • Yes, I went through the phase where I bought Catholic videos for the kids (the cartoon type) and the kids didn’t really enjoy them that much (except the St. Nicholas one, which I guess connects with Christmas and Santa and well…. gifts!). No, let me know say “enjoy them” but rather did not connect with them. I’ve found that just allowing them to watch secular shows on tv, while I explain that “this is the bad person and that is the good person” helps a lot. You can actually point out virtues if you really watch the show. My younger ones like Cailliou (sp?) and for some reason I’ve never liked the show that much. Too sickly sweet BUT the episodes are true-to-life in what they teach. I know, it’s the bald thing. Why does that child have no hair?! And speaking of cartoons, Max & Ruby is a favorite here and it’s absolutely adorable how Ruby takes care of her little brother (a great lesson in helping and responsibility) but of course, the kids always ask: where is their mom and dad?!

      • Caillou is also the whiniest cartoon child out there. I’ve heard other moms complain that after watching that show, their own kids started whining just like him.

  2. Please excuse the misspellings, BTW– lack of caffeine during pregnancy is becoming crippling! (Luckily, I’m halfway to all the coffee I can drink again! And booze! Because I’m paranoid and my kids are crazy enough WITHOUT FAS and colic!)

    • Your a good mom. Sacrifice is a huge part of being a mom. Right now I don’t even have a moment to enjoy this article and board in peace (children talking around me and asking me for things every five seconds)… of course, for my own sake (and to drink my morning cup of coffee…. er late morning cup), I am ignoring the noise and reading anyway. 🙂
      Seriously though, when I’m pregnant I only allow myself one cup of coffee. I usually only finish about half a cup before it gets cold, so that means later in the day, I can have another half. I looked it up many times (different years) and all docs say one cup of coffee will not harm you.

  3. You make me laugh! (And I don’t want to chop my hands off, so I’m leaving out the smiley I wanted to put there.)

  4. 3,4,5 = PRICELESS. I especially like 3 because my boyfriend plays a lot of poker and gets so smug when I get the rankings all wrong. 🙂

  5. This was hilarious! #4 and #5 happen a lot in our house and I just love the “Neverending party” because I see this all over town… tangling, weeping balloons, still tied to some mailbox. You know the party was months ago but there they are! Yes, the shame line was so true. We don’t have a mail box at the end of our drive (we have to use a PO Box here) so can’t abandon the balloons but I can imagine (given my own sense of daily shame) how a mom would drive out every day and see those balloons and shake her head and sigh. LOL!

  6. I do the one cup of tea or coffee thing too. Unfortunately, I’m a bit ADHD (like I’m a bit pregnant. There’s a shocker. I mean, it’s so hard to tell!) and usually use massive amounts (well, a pot or 2) of coffee a day to self medicate. So I get REALLY unfocused and stupid during pregnancy. BUT the alternative is screwing up the kid or, worse, giving birth to a caffeine addict with no hope of a hit! (Because 100% of caffeine crosses the placenta, but almost NOTHING goes into the breast milk! So it seems cruel to give birth to a kid who gets to spend the first few weeks of life with a killer caffeine headache and no way to ease it!)

  7. No words.
    Ok, actually, two words, “Happy bleak”
    bwa-hahahahahaha! (which isn’t a word, but meant to convey hysterical laughter)

  8. I always love you and you always make me smile, but today you really made me laugh/cry.

    I’m not sure if I’m doing better or worse – I did cut the year old balloons of the sconces in the dining room, and we don’t have godzillas, just little-girl-drawn smiley faces with crazy long legs. I was all in a panic today because I couldn’t get enough scuz scraped off my bathroom floor to let the plumber in to fix a leak that is about to bring a ceiling down, but then I found a zen place and decided instead to teach the little boys how to mow the lawn to surprise my husband when he come back in town.

    I’d love to see if you make it into the landscaping issue.

  9. Oh, Simcha, I was totally feeling like a failure today, one of many reasons being my messy, messy house, and this put a huge grin on my face!

  10. Oh wow. #3 reminds me of when we called friends of ours (whose daughter was staying the night at our house) to ask permission for the girl to play poker with our kids.

    We would be seeing them at Mass the following morning…

  11. After a five-hour car ride home from the Writer’s conference, this was just the thing to bring on that life-saving laughter. Now I’m wondering how those spray painted feet looked in Church the following Sunday.

  12. Our last house had a problem with spiders. The crayon kind on the walls! I have a whole mental file of great ideas from those kind of magazines that I plan to act on approximately a decade and a half from now.

  13. I read this post earlier and totally appreciated it, so I just showed it to my husband who immediately got the “primitive screwheads” reference and thought it was completely awesome.

  14. Number 7 had me laughing out loud.

    And it seems your eldest enjoys Army of Darkness (or maybe primitive screwheads is in another movie?). Awesome. Glad to see teenagers are still being exposed to the classics…of B movies. A little Bruce Campbell is a good thing.

  15. I thought for a minute that you had somehow taken a picture of our family’s bulletin board!

    I think you have the most beautiful house I have ever seen!

  16. I love you Simcha. My house is decorated just like this! Only instead of screwhead, we have doofus butt. Sigh….

  17. Can I add an eighth one? The dining room carpet whose bold abstract pattern is a Pollockian mixture of ketchup, mud, milk, and coffee!

    • And lime popsicle! You know, the healthy fruit juice ones that are even more bright green than the fake flavors!

      Last week, my husband came home to find a big red stain from dropped pizza and a big lime popsicle stain, and said, “Look, dear! Our dining room is already decorated for Christmas!”

      • Oops, now Simcha’s gonna get all over me over excessive exclamation points. But you know, I have a 8 yr. old boy (!!!), so there really are way too many extra exclamation points in my life right now. Sue me.

  18. I have enjoyed your writing for sometime now but this post was extra special ! God has given me many gifts but a knack for house keeping is not one of them. Many other blogs made me feel like I wasn’t really much of a Christian mother if I couldn’t keep a tidy home. When honestly, things like Godzilla on the window sill or glitter glue on the curtains doesn’t trouble me too much.Thanks for sharing scenes from House Horrible.

  19. I’m reading this again because I need a laugh, and it worked even better than the first time. This is seriously, one of the best things you have ever posted. Don’t ever take it down!

  20. That makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER about the state of my own home, which looks shockingly like yours, that I cannot tell you the relief I feel. Too many episodes of shows like “Nanny 911” and “Supernanny” which showed rotten kids running around being horrible in perfectly decorated, well appointed, clean and tidy homes was wearing at my brain grooves. Thank you so much for posting that!

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