I'll admit it: we're in possession of three trench knives. There's a sword, a tomahawk, a very-important non-trench knife knife, and a bunch of other weapons I'd be hard pressed to name and am even harder pressed to find a home for, too. Our house is overrun with military memorabilia. And there is never a natural place for them to live.
(Someone else's home?)
If your house is anything like mine, you know the drill. There's the rug brought home from Afghanistan you can't possibly fathom why he decided to buy, all that stuff they get in training school or when they leave a unit or for some reason for celebration that still, after years in the military, remains somewhat lost on you. And all of it comes home to you. And all of it needs a home.
We've compiled five simple tricks to help corral the "war prizes" in your home and display military memorabilia, in case figuring out how to explain to your husband that he might want to avoid home decorating decisions made overseas is evading you, too.
1. Make a Man Cave
I can't recommend this one enough. And I don't mean a fancy t.v. with a gaming system and those sofas that fold down to reveal a cup-holder and beer rest. I mean a place where they can hide all their stuff so you can close the door on it. Until the addition of our newest family member, my husband was enjoying what is now the nursery as his beloved "War Room." It's where all the gear lived, it served as staging area for any military-related packing, it's where boots and cammies went, and it's where all those trench knives went. And all that other gruesome-looking paraphernalia and some of the more curious acquisitions that happen in military life. (We needed another knife in a fancy sheath? really? I thought we needed new tires.)
But if you don't have a whole room to devote to this, find a closet. My husband's military life has actually been relegated to the shed (along with my art supplies, because I'm trying to be fair). But he needs a staging area for all these things, and I need a baby-proofed home that doesn't include trench knives within reach of fat little fingers when I'm not looking.
Apartment Therapy may have found the ultimate man-cave (it even has a movie theater!) but if all you have the guest room closet up for grabs, consider investing in some serious storage facilities to maximize the space. I love Ikea's shoe storage units - they fit easily in closets, and what you don't put inside the drawers and cubbies, you can easily mount or hang out of reach of the kids. Memorabilia is safe; your house doesn't look like the armor room at the art museum. Win-win.
2. Hallowed Hallway Space
Two birds with one stone: not only will sharing your hallway space with hubby's military memories make him happy, it'll also add some pizzazz to the walls you still haven't really done anything with even though you're going to PCS soon. Make the hallway a place to celebrate everyone's achievements! Intersperse kiddo's t-ball photos and painted macaroni masterpieces with photos from a deployment and all the according stuff. These shelves from Pottery Barn look great on every wall, as do these from Ikea. Lowe's also has some good options, and of course, you can use your military discount there.
And remember, the minute you hang a rug on the wall, it becomes a fashionable tapestry! Take that, strange rug.
3. Make an "Heirloom Memorial Footlocker."
You can buy one for a thousand dollars. Or you can recreate one for under $100, like the creative, resourceful, brilliant genius you are. Goodwill usually has a ton of old (vintage!) trunks, and even if they don't, you can find a bunch online. Stencil your spouse's name, branch, and rank on it, and in it goes everything that's been lovingly collected during service. Or, you know, all that stuff you couldn't find a home for finally gets a good storage container. Where it goes once it's in the trunk is your guess, but I find that steamer trunks are great on the floor of a coat closet (boots on top!). Or you could turn it into a stylish occasional table in the living room, where of course it can be opened for "show and tell" whenever the opportunity arises.
4. Integrate What You Can
My grandfather brought home TONS from overseas, but he also had a great eye for design. My grandmother found a way to integrate what she could into her house, and a lot of this has been passed down to me. I cherish every little bit of it, so I can get behind the idea of creating family keepsakes here. And when it comes to things other than trench knives, I feel pretty much the same way she did (as long as it isn't weaponry) - if it means enough to bring it home, I can find a place for it. Even when it means finding a slipcover for the pale green sofa since the evergreen and red rug doesn't exactly blend with the beachy pastels of our den.
5. Set Limits
But if you're going to try to find room for what comes up, there needs to be some limits on just what can come home. Just like you don't buy every pair of darling shoes in sight, there's no need for every possible bit of military whatnot to take up residence in your home. For example: three trench knives, like we have, are two trench knives too many. When Bill gets home from deployment, he can choose the one we keep. But the other two are going to have to find new homes. Since the trench knife acquisition, we've done a better job of only bringing home the necessities. I don't buy ten different cartons of pastels every time we're at an art supply store, and Bill doesn't bring home more military stuff than we have room to safely keep. It's a good balance, although it doesn't always work.
And for that, there's always grandma and grandpa's. Some things are just meant to live ... at someone else's house.