Home Improvement

by Tyler Sjostrom

My wife and I moved into our house in the weeks after we were married in 2016, and the backhanded praise from early visitors was always the same. “It’s so cute! What a great starter house! You’ll certainly get to know each other!” Each was a roundabout way of expressing the same truth: our house was (and is) small.


What we lacked in floor space, we more than made up for in creativity. For my wife, whose art teacher facade masks an interior decorator’s ambition, our house became her canvas. No nook or wall or corner was neglected. For five years, give or take a few baby swings, we were mostly happy with how things appeared.


But one day last fall, we made the decision to shuffle the entire plan of our first floor. With two young boys and space at a premium, the arrangement wasn’t working anymore. So, we moved our bedroom to the basement, granting our new son the largest room (despite my faint protest that I know way more words than he does). Our kids’ playroom became our central gathering space, pushing all activity-adjacent items into a separate room where our boys could roughhouse and make messes with abandon, and where we could still see them when we were in the kitchen. Once the rearrangement of our home was complete, my wife and I reflected over the revamped layout of our living quarters.


What took us so long to finally rearrange? Why didn’t we do it sooner? There’s so much more room now.


The rearrangement of our house coincided with a similar shuffling of the order in my own life: I finally made the hard call to cut alcohol out of my diet. For lack of a better explanation, the arrangement wasn’t working anymore. And while there were certainly challenges that accompanied the move–any establishments looking for help curating a non-alcoholic drink list, I’m your huckleberry–it didn’t take long to see the parallels between the added space in our home and improved feng shui in my own mind. 


Not only could I enjoy the better sightlines when the kids were playing; I also had more energy to throw myself into the fracas when the situation required a monster or grizzly bear. I was happier and more optimistic, and so was everyone else. Our home–not just the physical structure, but each person with a hand in making it such a soft spot to land–was receiving all the attention it deserved. My life, like my house, was making a better use of its space.


Looking over the months since the decision to go alcohol-free, the questions are largely the same as when we redecorated: what took me so long, why didn’t I do it sooner? It’s not uncommon for any of us to drag our feet in this regard, whether it’s leaving a job we hate, removing unhealthy people from our lives, or finally starting a project we’d planned years prior.


In the case of our house, it was realizing that we have limited space, and we’d be silly to see it go to waste. For me personally, it was finding that certain pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit anymore. In either circumstance, whether from my spacious living room or in my own head, the outlook is strangely similar.


There’s just so much more room now.