The COVID “quarantine” period has been a dream for me. I have been able to focus time and energy on projects that truly bring me joy. Giving our family cabin a facelift was one of those projects.
For years I have wanted to tackle updating the mobile home style cabin my grandma has on the Mississippi River in Lansing. She had made major improvements to the exterior (siding/roof), plumbing, electric, completely renovated the bathroom, and had new ceilings and light fixtures installed. Huge things checked off the list, all worth it. The thing was, the décor throughout the rest of the cabin wasn’t matching with the updates that were made – distracting from all of the great work that had been done.
Because I didn’t have to work every weekend this summer due to the pandemic, I had time to knock out the work I did over the course of a few consecutive visits up there. I knew that when I did it, I wanted to do it all of the way, all at one time. I didn’t want anything to be partially done – because when I do that – I have a tendency to leave it partially done…I’m also a control freak so I wanted to make sure the way everything was finished was the way I envisioned it!
I ended up doing most of the work on my own, working 12+ hour days. My grandma jumped in to help me with removing wallpaper and final touches. Working on my own knowing I had full days with no interruptions to check things off my list made me very happy! I was focused and fueled by soda, sugar, and Mexican food. Heaven. All work was done on a tight budget. I used as many items I already had or from the cabin as possible, like paint and décor.
I started with the guest bedroom. It had been wallpapered a VERY long time ago and was fully taken up by a set of huge, solid bunk beds. The mood was dark and dingy. The bunk beds were used quite a bit when we were younger, but as everyone got older, the person who drew the short straw got to sleep in that room. The beds needed to go. I was able to sell them on Let Go to a super sweet family who really needed the beds for their growing family. We said goodbye to them and got to work.
Luckily, the wallpaper was done over wood paneling. In this room, removing it was pretty easy for the most part. I removed all paper and glue, filled holes, and caulked some big gaps in the paneling where water had gotten to it (making sure the cause was addressed beforehand – it was). To brighten things up, I taped everything off and painted it a very light grey and navy blue. Here are some before and after photos:
Much more welcoming now. Everyone, myself included, is in love with how it turned out. On a side note – all of the things I did really freshened things up as well because as I was making cosmetic changes, I was deep cleaning along the way.
Next, I moved on to the master bedroom. This room was really just a mish mosh of random things. One of my goals was to give each room a “theme.” Grouping like items together so instead of looking messy/cluttered, the cabin looked clean/curated. It made a HUGE difference. This room became the “fishing room.” I took down wallpaper here as well, patched things up, and painted with a pretty light green.
You’ll see in the photos below that we have fishing poles hung on the wall I painted. There was a rack on one side, not the other, so once the paint dried, I added a second rack so I could hang all of the fishing poles. I was able to use scrap wood I found in the cabin and bought some cup hooks to screw in. I then attached a fishing net to the wall behind the bed and assembled a nightstand to add. Here are some before and afters of this room:
Wow – right?! The vibe is now much more welcoming and it definitely feels more cozy.
The last place I did big changes in was the kitchen. Unfortunately…I’m terrible with before photos and forgot to take some of the kitchen! Please use your imagination to picture an outdated, grimy space with peeling wallpaper that was powder blue and white with a teapot pattern everywhere you looked. Some of the walls were partially painted white over the wallpaper – but it never got finished.
This is the room I’m most proud of because it was the first time I used removable wallpaper. It was definitely the biggest challenge. I was extremely nervous to do it and of course, my grandma wanted to help that day, so I had an audience! But once I had the first piece up, I rejoiced, knew what do to, and was able to get it all done in a day. I applied a weathered wood wallpaper to the backsplash area of the counters and behind the sink. I painted the rest of the walls the same light grey as the extra bedroom.
Cleaning was key in this area. I magic erasered every surface several times! It made an amazing difference. I also rearranged how some of the items were on the counters and bought grey kitchen rugs to bring the grey from the wallpaper into the room a little more. Here is an after photo of the kitchen:
In case you are wondering, I found the wallpaper at Menards. I bought 3 rolls but only needed part of one. It cost around $30.00 – well worth it.
I did a little facelift to the living room. Removed wallpaper, patched holes, rearranged the wall décor, and bought a new cover and throw pillows for the couch. Little things, but the room is now cohesive.
And lastly, I organized the crap out of the dining room. There is a buffet in there that has always been piled with miscellaneous items from years ago. My goal was to at least clear off the top and make room in the cabinets. Mission accomplished! I added a bright tablecloth to the dining table to inject some energy into this area and made the theme “bald eagles and wolves" using décor from throughout the cabin. I also displayed all of the buttons we’ve collected from past “Fish Days” (Lansing's town festival) we’ve been around for. We take a lot of pride in those.
For a quick, cheap update, I'm pleased with how everything turned out! I ultimately did it for my grandma. We are very fortunate that she allows us to enjoy the cabin, so it felt good to show her my gratitude through this work. She was extremely pleased with the results and that makes my heart feel so full. There are a lot of memories in that cabin, many tied to my grandpa. Seeing the cabin change from what it was when he was alive was hard for her, I know, but breathing new life into it has given her a renewed interest in spending time there. I'm so glad I could give her that gift.
When Coronavirus really started to get bad in the United States, mid-March or so and after, I joined everyone else in holing up at home and keeping an eye on the latest. I had a strange reaction to what I call the “quarantine times” we were in, and are still in to some extent. I got busy. I spent as much of my time doing things as my body would allow. House projects. Cabin projects. Personal projects. Work projects. You name it. If there was something to be done, it was on my list and I was working towards crossing it off.
At one point, all I wanted to work on was cards and care packages. I spent two to three weeks planning and gathering (because it was a slow process with limited to no access to stores). The time I spent preparing, delivering, and sending out these items was the most optimistic I was during “quarantine time.” I look back on that period fondly. It seems like it was years ago at this point. My goals were to help people feel less isolated and make them smile. Fill their cup and mine at the same time. Because boy did we need some cup filling.
Connect with Cards
The first round of items I sent out were cards with a quick note and a cloth mask or two. These went to family and friends we hadn’t had contact with in a while, or were more isolated, like grandparents. It may not seem like much, but we received genuine expressions of thanks from everyone we reached out to. It meant a lot to them that someone was thinking about them.
With COVID-19 still being a very real threat across the nation, there is still time to reach out with cards. I’m a huge card person anyway, but now is an especially good time to let people know that they matter to you.
Get Creative with Care Packages
I’ve never really prepared or sent a care package before and now it’s all I want to do for others! We chose to do care packages for our friends who have children. The goal was to provide one to two things that the kids could do to give their parents a little bit of a break after non-stop togetherness. And of course, include some items for the parents to enjoy as well.
I started by decorating the inside flaps of each box with a sunny message:
I used yellow tissue paper to wrap all of the gifts so when they opened the box they couldn’t help but smile! Here are some examples of what I included for the kids:
We were able to deliver some and needed to mail some. Again, this was a very well received gesture. It was so fun to get photos of the kids working on the activities! I will now forever be looking for an excuse to send a care package out because it just feels so good to do. It takes the card a step further, allowing you to help take care of others in a bigger way.
Lastly, I wanted to do something special for our nieces and nephews. It was definitely really tough not seeing them. Again, I wanted to do something that helped keep them busy. In came the idea for a scavenger hunt!
Here is what I did for each family:
For the “treasures,” finding items that would give the kids something to do was what I was aiming for. Here are a few items I included:
We ended up setting the scavenger hunts up in secret and our brother/sister initiated it with the kids. So Joel and I had a lot of fun hiding things in their yards, taping up the instructions, and getting out of there quick! It was a bit of an adrenaline rush. Don’t laugh – not much had been or is going on – so we take excitement where we can get it!
The kids loved it, and again, it was super fun to hear about what they were doing and/or receive pictures of them happy.
I hope that during this time you have found ways to connect with others while physically staying apart for their safety and yours. It is definitely a challenging time – a challenging year – but I think it has shown all of us how important the relationships we have are (or are not) and reminded us to nurture them in any way we are able in order to stay connected.