Anytime a PCS pops up, we’re all faced with the inevitable question- does living on base/post make sense for our family this time? Sometimes that answer is dictated by availability, sometimes it’s location, sometimes schools. At our last base we had the luxury of building a home that we would enjoy for six full years, really letting us make it a space we loved.
My husband’s current assignment has us living in base housing for the 3rd time, and while it’s absolutely the right choice for our family given the local market and space our larger family requires, it’s (surprise) not the most aesthetically pleasing space I’ve ever lived in. In fact, we moved to Hawaii right as the giant water crisis came to light, so when I tell you I’m trying to put lipstick on a pig, I mean that I am trying to dress up a real hot mess of a home here.
It was built in the 1940s, had the cute historical charm renovated right out of it in the 1990’s, and is still a sought after house despite it’s very quirky quirks. This house isn’t winning any beauty contests.
We will be here for three years, though, so as we settled in I wanted to make a few changes to make the house a little more homey. Military housing is tricky because we don’t want to spend a lot of money since there will be no return on investment, and there are strict parameters to what’s allowed. Social media boasts a couple of different pages that specialize in overhauling rental home/military housing spaces into a much more beautiful home and I’ve seen some amazing transformations by people who were willing to put in serious work, but I needed things that took very little time, money, and effort.
Here are a few things that I did for our home that made a big difference in feel without breaking the bank (or really breaking our lease):
– Peel and Stick wallpaper/back splash. There are so many companies who make this product at a variety of price points. I ordered RoomMates brand off of Amazon and found it easy to work with at a reasonable price. The selection of patterns was really remarkable! Our kitchen looks like a builder grade, low budget job straight out of 1998, so I really wanted to something to bring in a little bit of warmth and personality, and maybe tone down the orange oak cabinets a bit. Adding the stick on backsplash wall paper took me probably 8 hours total over a couple of days so I could really match seams properly, but the payoff has been huge. The print isn’t something to live with forever, but it is so much fun for our time here in Hawaii. Bonus points are that it’s easier to wipe down than the paint, hides splatters, and is easy to remove when the time comes (while staying up perfectly since I stuck it up there!). I would definitely order it again, and have thought about getting some for my oldest child to give her room more of the preteen vibe she wants now.
– Switch out your kitchen faucet and shower heads- This one is a project that takes a little bit more work, and you might have to switch them back when you leave. But if you expect to be in a home for 2-3 years, it could be well worth it! It sounded daunting at first, but it really wasn’t even half as bad as expected. The kitchen faucet in our home had lost it’s hot/cold indicator, and had such a low mount that doing dishes was tricky as we maneuvered our larger pots and pans under it. I ordered a $40 model that matched all of the other hardware in the home (again off of Amazon) and it took my spouse maybe 30 minutes to put it in. It looks so much better, but even more important is that it is so much more functional. Shower heads can be expensive if you want do every one of them in the house, but you can also just do the most used shower. Especially in homes where there is hard water and no softener, a shower head with a built in filter can make a huge difference in your hair and skin. While we’re talking bathrooms, I’ll also add quickly that a soft close toilet in the tiny master bathroom that’s this close to where you have your headboard is a true gift to your marriage. So even if your honey is up at o’dark thirty for work, he can let that toilet seat drop without you jumping out of your skin.
– Command strips- I used them to attach cabinet pulls to our kitchen cabinets which are a long bank of cabinets with no real indicator which side opens and even with a 50/50 chance on opening the right side, I picked wrong most of the time. I also used the water proof strips to attach soap dishes and shampoo shelves in practical spots in our showers. The heavy duty hooks are perfect for mounting a wreath on your front door, and I used a tiny version of them to hold the cord out of place for the window exhaust fans I put in our bathrooms to help stave off mold. There are probably a hundred more ways to use them, like putting up pictures and making a key hook by the door, and as someone who never really got the hype of not putting a bunch of permanent changes into a home before moving into base housing, I am a convert to this handy short cut.
– Take down blinds that aren’t in good shape, are dangerous to kids, or fall apart easily (vertical hanging blinds, I’m looking at you), label them and store them, and put up curtains instead. Curtains don’t have to be expensive- check the thrift shop and Goodwill, Facebook BuyNothing groups, or if you’re like many of us, you have the giant box that has the curtains that fit the windows two houses ago but haven’t since and maybe they will again? IKEA has curtains for low prices that come in super long lengths so you can make the work no matter the size of your window. I used to put up curtains but leave the blinds because I thought I had to. Once I started taking them down and tucking them away, the spaces feel much more put together to me.
– Get an easily washable area rug that compliments your furniture no matter what home it’s in, or what flooring is under it. Ours is from Ruggable, but there are several companies with the same working concept. Most likely you’re not going to have great flooring. Maybe you’ll even have downright bad- stained, old, should have been replaced carpet that you don’t want your babies crawling on, and has allergens that trigger a documented breathing reaction in one of your kids that has been signed off on a doctor per the policy and procedure for base housing so that you can get new carpet but they deny you anyway….. I mean not that I’ve experienced this particular situation myself or anything. It’s fine, we’re all fine. In a normal home, we might feel like we’ll just sink the cost and put in new flooring for peace of mind, but that’s of course not really the way it works with installation housing. So I ordered a large area rug that was delivered as our movers were sealing the last crate for our OCONUS PCS. Let me tell you, I’m so glad I have it. While I ended up winning our flooring battle with housing, having the area rug has made the space feel much more like ours while also protecting the brand new carpet that we are sure to stain in our time here.
– Hang a medicine cabinet with actual storage- This is another fix that is less than $100 but fixes the problem of minimal bathroom storage with no counter space. There is a tiny medicine cabinet in our bathroom that’s big enough for my husband’s deodorant, shaving supplies and our toothbrushes. Sound about right to you? I suspect we’re all opening the same medicine cabinet in military housing no matter what the contents. So before our move, I went to IKEA and bought a white medicine cabinet that was easy to mount in our bathroom here. It’s triple the storage of the other one, and gives the bathroom a second mirror so we can both get ready at the same time. We could in theory, anyway. Not sure yet if we’ll have to remove it upon move out, the last time they just told us to leave it, but if we do it’s 2 minutes of work to take it down.
When all else fails, remember that this too shall pass. In the end, you’ll just have more things to add to the list of “Our forever home will definitely not have this…” or ” I liked having…” because of course one day, this big military adventure will end and we’ll get the chance to pick our homes, just as we want them to be. I’m sure we’ll all win the lottery and be able to score that dream home someday, right?