by Jill Cooper
I just stepped outside and took a deep breath and then another one and another one. No I don’t have a breathing problem or anything. It’s just that for the first time in months, I don’t feel like I’m breathing in an aquarium. The air is crisp and cool and that means fall is here and the humidity is gone!
At one point in our lives, that would have been the signal for us to haul out boxes and sacks full of Halloween decorations and go to work. It would usually take us at least a month to put everything out. We were one of those families who would put out a “monstrous” (Ha!Ha! No pun intended) display. We literally had hundreds of people drive by our home just to see our decorations. It really was a lot of work, especially because back then you couldn’t really buy much to use for outside Halloween decorations. We had to use our imagination and make our own.
We like to have fun at Halloween and not scare the wits out of everyone, so we try to keep our decorations cute and funny looking. To us, Halloween is a time for children to dress up and for one night a year be what they always dreamed of being, whether it’s a fairy princess, a ballerina, Superman or even a robot. They get to be on the “stage” for one night to show everyone how beautiful, strong or funny they look. And to end a perfect night they get tons of candy, bags of candy and did I mention, a whole bunch of candy??
Here are some ideas of things we did to have a whole lot of fun for very little money. You can use these same basic principles for any holiday decorating.
1. You don’t have to have a lot of decorations for your display to look nice. I drive by one home every year and each season the owners put out one simple something. For example, in the summer they have one beautiful pot of flowers sitting on their porch. In the fall a pot of mums, for Halloween, one pumpkin with a smiley face and at Christmas one pretty lit up wreath on the door. It’s never a lot, but I always get pleasure when I drive by the place and see their one simple decoration.
2. We work all year buying things at garage sales or thrift stores for our decorations. We started out with about 25 plastic pumpkins to set out for a pumpkin patch. The next year we added another 50 and drilled holes in the bottoms so we could put lights in them. After a few years we had 200-300 of them that we had collected. We never paid more then 5-10 cents for them. If you want to have a big display, start small and just add a little bit more to your decorations each year.
3. Cute homemade decorations make Halloween fun! If you see something in a magazine or somewhere that you think is cute but too expensive, try to copy it and make it yourself:
* I saw a cute rake in a magazine that I loved. It was an old rake that had a few silk flowers tied on it and a sign that said “Free leaves, rake all you want.” I just happened to have a dead 50 year old rake in my shed I was going to throw away, so I pulled it out, found an old board and some paint (I could have used a marker too), painted on the words and tied on a couple of stray silk flowers that I had and voila! I had a cute rake and saved about $25.
* It takes nothing to stuff some old clothes with plastic bags and make a scarecrow family.
* If you are a little handy, put your talent to good use. My husband took and old metal trash can and motorized it so that the lid moved up and down and when it opened it popped out a Sylvester the cat.
4. We found decorations in unusual places. Once we went to the grocery store where they had a gigantic pumpkin. The thing was about 8-10 feet across. We asked the manager it they threw it out at the end of the season and he said no. We told him what we needed it for and discovered that he had seen our display and liked it. He said “Come by on Halloween morning and you can take it to use and then bring it back.” It doesn’t ever hurt to ask about anything. Most people aren’t mean and hateful, but are usually kind and helpful.
5. Get more bang for your buck. Buy things that have a big impact but cost little. A couple of bags of spider webs and plastic spiders can cover a lot of area and look “cool” but cost very little. I use spider webs for everything. They’re great to use to cover throw pillows for a party, put in your hair, hang on the lights or wrap around the handles of silverware. You just can’t have too much.
6. Use what you already have around the house.
* We were having a Halloween party and to add to the effect, we dug out some black sheets and covered all the furniture. It changed the whole look of the room.
* Another year, my husband found some 10 foot long, thin metal rods. We stuck them in the ground, added styrofoam wig heads to each one and hung some large pieces of sheer fabric I had gotten for free from a friend over the tops of the heads. Everyone loved them. The sheer material had a much more realistic see through look then just a sheet. At night, you couldn’t see the rod so it looked like these ghosts were floating 10 feet up in the air.
7. Start the day after Halloween to prepare for next year. If your kids get a bunch of plastic spiders when they go trick or treating, save them and add them to the decoration box. If your child dressed as a pumpkin this year, save the costume, stuff it next year and set it out with the decorations. Try to think of ways to incorporate any old costumes into your decorations.