Looking Back on One Year in Our PNW Cabin

Celebrate our first year of PNW cabin life with a full recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly + all of the renovation projects we did!
Looking Back on One Year in Our PNW Cabin, a recap of all our renovations including a black bathroom with beadboard

WOW, I literally cannot believe it but today is officially the one year anniversary of us leaving city life behind and moving into our PNW cabin. The time has both flown by and crawled along. We’ve had some amazing successes, a lot of really gross discoveries and countless laughs. I’m a firm believer in celebrating milestones in life and living in a spot for one year is definitely on that list. So today’s blog post is dedicated to looking back on one year of cabin life and everything we’ve learned along the way. I hope you enjoy this post!

One Year of PNW Cabin Life: A Recap of Our Projects & What We’ve Learned Along the Way

The good:

I honestly feel like we’ve done SO MUCH to our PNW cabin. It really blows my mind how much we’ve accomplished in a year. Almost every room has a fresh coat of paint on it, the old carpet is totally gone, and we’ve replaced all but the kitchen appliances. The pace of renovating the cabin was absolutely insane — and I blame a lot of that on the fact that we just wanted to make the house smell better as soon as possible.

The most important update (IMHO) is that the house no longer reeks. There are definitely still days when I catch an unpleasant whiff… but it’s happening less and less frequently which is awesome. That is why I’ve spent so much time painting!

Another feature of cabin life that I absolutely love is how quiet it is out here. At night, I can actually hear water moving in a river that’s near us. Plus, frogs, owls, coyotes. Nothing can beat the stillness of an early morning out here!

The bad:

Oh man where to even begin… It feels like this past year has been calamity after calamity. From a tree falling on the house to losing power sporadically to losing water and replacing our well pump… and don’t forget the water heater issues. It’s been one hell of an expensive year. At this point the only appliances left to replace are those in the kitchen (and they’re on their last leg).

In general, the house is in pretty good shape, aside from general maintenance not having been done for about 5 years. We had a lot of catching up to do in order to get the house back to baseline… and then from there, each space has been ready for improvements. But yeah, most of this year has been consumed with cleaning up, clearing brush, and trying to hit the reset button.

The ugly:

I swear, if I open up one more wall and discover even more mouse carcasses I’m going to scream. Same goes for additional messes leftover from the previous owners. This has been a full year, 365 days of working on removing odors leftover from them, as well as body hair, Legos, and epithets scratched into window trim. I’m so tired of finding their stuff. Just this morning, I found more remnants and I don’t understand how there’s still more random stuff to find!

Living on this property has been a constant discovery of trash and litter outside, as well. We’ve found multiple areas where it’s very clear that trash was burned. We even have an area we refer to as “the field of broken glass.” We’re slowly getting that cleaned up. Let’s just say that I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been to the local dump.

And then there’s the yardwork… living in the forest requires quite a bit of dedication to yardwork. We basically bought an overgrown PNW jungle with a house in the mix. Every since the tree fell on the house, we’ve been very attentive to all of the trees surrounding the cabin and our shop. This summer was consumed by removing countless blackberry brambles and SO many stinging nettles. And don’t even get me started on the constant bamboo forest upkeep…

And on a personal level…

Living here has tested me in so many unexpected ways. It’s been so so SO hard. The fact is that I spend a lot of time alone. I’ve learned more about myself, which is awesome, but sometimes I miss people, especially my husband. Sean still isn’t living here full-time. We’re working really hard on making that a possibility sooner rather than later, but it’s still really difficult on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve also learned just how damn tough I am. I’ve dealt with many, many calamities myself simply because I’ve had to. I never want to have to manually light a propane water heater ever again, but at least I know how. While I wish Sean was here to help bear the burden, it also feels good to know that I can hack it in the middle of nowhere on my own, too.

It’s also a lifestyle that’s harder on my body. I’m constantly hauling heavy things like firewood. I’ve gotten great at swinging an axe and I can haul a 50 pound bag of chicken feed without a problem. It’s a different type of strong than ‘gym strong.’

A lot of people ask me whether I regret embracing PNW cabin life and I still don’t have an answer, one year later. It isn’t so much that I miss city life or the convenience. It’s more that every single day out here throws a curveball at me and there are times where I’m just too tired or stressed from work to deal with it… but I have to. Given how much work we’ve done, that is happening less and less, but STILL.

The pace that we’ve maintained over the past year isn’t exactly sustainable, too. I’ve been fairly vocal on Instagram about how burnt out I am with renovating and painting and it’s SO true. Every day feels like I wake up, do chores, work all day, and then have to tackle at least one project per day from the cabin. For a while, that was my full routine, especially since Sean hasn’t been here full-time.

But now I am in the opposite position where I’m just so tired at the end of the work day that I don’t want to do ANY projects in the cabin. Paint touch ups? I’ll do them later. Putting back outlet covers? Maybe next week. Because of that, it feels like all the small tasks are piling up and it’s hard to not beat myself up about not crossing them off the list. I keep telling myself that when winter is here and it’s too cold and wet to do anything, that I’ll start working on that list of small to dos… but we’ll see.

Recap of all of our renovations and makeovers from the past year:

Makeover Reveal, Meet Our Gear Room in our PNW cabin + Organization Tips for Outdoor Gear for rock climbing, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, backpacking and other outdoor activities and sports

Gear Room Makeover

Meet my new favorite room in the house: our gear room! Formerly known as ‘the purple room,’ this room is now dedicated to all of our camping, climbing, hiking, skiing, etc gear and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. The organization alone makes me really really happy. Not to mention how easily accessed everything is when we prep for adventures. It’s just so good.

Read more

Before & After: Our PNW Cabin Guest Bathroom Makeover on a budget with @bhglivebetter @walmart with stylish and affordable towels, bath mats, candles, brass faucet, light fixtures, shower curtain, and more. Shop the post & learn more on jojotastic.com #BHGlivebetter #walmart #betterhomesandgardens #AD

Guest Bathroom Makeover

If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while, you know about the smell. That bathroom has always been gross, ever since we moved in. But now, it feels like a chic space for our guests!

Read more

Curious about the source of something in our PNW cabin guest room? Check out my full source list including lighting, rugs, furniture, & more!

Guest Bedroom Makeover

I could not be more excited to share the reveal of our cabin guest bedroom makeover… especially because it means that we’re officially able to welcome guests to our new home in comfort and style.

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Small laundry closet organization ideas on a budget. storage tips, cleaning supply storage, stylish laundry baskets and more. Shop the post & learn more on jojotastic.com

Laundry Closet Makeover

On a whim a few weeks ago, I complained about our laundry closet to Instagram. All I’ve ever wanted is a proper laundry room and here I am with a laundry closet again… and in the dining room, nonetheless! Check out the transformation of this small space.

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Before and after makeover reveal: Awkward upstairs landing transformed into cozy reading nook and home library. I teamed up with @bhglivebetter exclusively @walmart to revamp this awkward loft area at the top of our stairs — don’t you think it makes the perfect reading nook?? One of my 2021 goals is to reduce my screen time, so creating a library of sorts is the perfect way to dive into that love even more. Shop the post and learn more about how it all came together on jojotastic.com #BHGlivebetter #walmart #betterhomesandgardens #AD

Reading Nook Makeover

In an afternoon, I was able to revamp this awkward loft area at the top of our stairs — while also creating a reading nook to help bring one of my 2021 goals to life. I’m a big reader, so creating a library of sorts is the perfect way to dive into that love even more!

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It’s reveal day for our modern eclectic Pacific Northwest cabin makeover renovation and the amazing paint from @dunnedwards! #AD Learn all about working with a Professional Color Advisor to pick the right paint color + use code JOJOTASTIC25 for a discount. Green doors, trim and windows with creamy white walls and cedar timbers in a mountain home. #dunnedwards

Living Room & Dining Room Makeovers

IT’S HERE!!! Many, many weeks late and tons of wild adventures along the way, but I am so incredibly excited to finally reveal a big portion of our cabin renovation! Typically, I like to reveal one room at a time here on the blog because the post can get so long… but here’s the thing about having such an open house: there’s nowhere to stop the fresh paint! So we decided to tackle an epic project that literally transformed almost half of our home.

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The remaining projects list:

Don’t get me wrong, with 2 acres, a 2000 sqft house, and an 800 sqft shop, we still have a LOT of work left to do. But from now through the end of the year, I’m slowing down with major projects so I can recharge my batteries a bit. Here are a few more of the things we want to tackle… eventually!

  • My office – it’s the last room in the house to be painted and very much needs to be organized
  • Our main bedroom suite – the bedroom and bathroom are still very much a work in progress and partially finished. I’d love to have a bathroom sink again one day! And maybe even a bathroom door!
  • Putting siding on the shop
  • Installing new skylights in the living room
  • Painting the exterior
  • Landscaping, including a massive veggie garden
  • A more permanent chicken coop
  • Kitchen – I’m considering a ‘skinny makeover’ to clean up the space and swap out appliances, so we’ll see if that’s in the budget

I’m sure there are even more projects on the list, but that’s what I’ve got top of mind. I’d love to know what you think about the progress we’ve made, the work that remains to be done, and your thoughts on one year of cabin life! Leave a comment and let me know.

Photography by Jojotastic.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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