I halved the size of my home and doubled my happiness

”I am excessively homey. I just needed to be in the right home.”
Downsizing

Illustration by Kerry Hyndman

It was a hot-air popcorn popper that broke me. I bought it to recreate my own childhood movie nights for my kids, the nights when my mom would pop a huge bowl, then erase every single health benefit by soaking it in lashings of real melted butter.

After its first use, I came up from our basement movie theater to put the popper away. I thought the lower cabinets near the sink had room, so I opened one at random. There I found not one but two near-identical hot-air popcorn poppers, bought for other nostalgic nights and then lost in both my memory and the cavernous reaches of my kitchen storage.

Just like that, I was done. I had, I realized, bought the house TV told me I wanted: three levels, a rec room large enough for a pool table, home office, as much space as we could afford.

It was supposed to make me happy, but holding that third popper, I had to admit that I hated it. A big house requires organizational skills, and I don’t have even one of those. I never knew where anything was. Worse, my children usually migrated to the basement, and my husband was often upstairs. I sat in my office in the middle, searching pet adoption websites for more heartbeats to fill up the space, though we already had two dogs, two cats, and a huge aquarium full of hamsters that got each other pregnant every fifteen minutes.

“I’m not . . . homey,” I told my husband, Scott. “And we are moving.”

I had never heard of KonMari; I didn’t know to ask, “Does this give me joy?” I only asked, “Did I know I owned this?” When the guy from Goodwill saw the donation piles filling my double garage, he called his office. “Send more trucks,” he told them. It took three.

We landed in a 1949 painted brick bungalow in Decatur, just over half the size of the old house. It sits on a slab, and it boasts one small closet per person and a teeny cube of attic space. I can see exactly where most of my things are, thanks to charming period built-ins and glass fronted cabinets. I love everything about it, from the original heartwood pine flooring to the stained-glass window centered in the small dining room to the orange-tiled fireplace in the lone living room.

After the first year, however, strange things began to happen. I Craigslisted my dingy kid-proof sofa, then got a midcentury modern beauty in pale aqua from Crate & Barrel. I began haunting antique shops, on the prowl for period end tables and brushed steel table lamps. When Scott came home to find me lolling on fat orange and aqua throw pillows I had commissioned from an upholsterer, sifting through paint chips from Ace Hardware, he boggled at me, bemused.

“Who are you? Are you nesting?” he asked.

As it turns out, I am excessively homey. I just needed to be in the right home.

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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