We fell in love with the house as soon as we saw it. This is it, we said. This is the one!

And we were right. It’s a beautiful house with all kinds of fabulous features—marble checkerboard floors, wood paneling, more staircases than you could shake a stick at. We’re so lucky to live here. It’s perfect. Really perfect. There’s just one little draw back, but it’s so unimportant that I feel bad complaining. It’s just…it’s a little hard to navigate. We still can’t find the cat.

Our daughter especially loves the house. She’s always wanted to live in Narnia; she was extremely disappointed when house hunting didn’t involve long-forgotten wardrobes. The second she saw the place, she was sold. She spends hours running around and around her favorite staircase, like a little feedback loop—wears herself out, she does. It’s great. She’s been sleeping like a dream.

She’s a problem solver too. A few days after the move, we discovered that the house’s “good bones” shift according to where you stand, (hence the navigation issue). Rather than stumbling around getting lost, she had the idea of using breadcrumbs to find our way around. She loves fairy tales, you see. Especially “Hansel and Gretel”. Mommy, you be the witch! So fun.

Unfortunately, Zipcode (the cat) doesn’t have thumbs so she can’t leave breadcrumb trails. We tied a spool of ribbon to her collar thinking we could track her that way, but she’s young and covers a lot of ground. We found the empty spool somewhere on the second floor. Sometimes we hear meowing coming from the kitchen, but we can’t find that either…at least, not with any consistency.

I’m the one who had the hardest time adjusting. My husband is an artist so he loves it and, of course, our daughter does too. Compared to them, I’m kind of a control freak. I just really like to know where I am. I mean, I design software that makes mapping things more accurate, so charting locations is pretty much my life. You can imagine how challenging this layout would be for someone with my temperament.

It’s better now but, I’ll be honest, the first few months were rough. My brain couldn’t stop trying to figure out why my shoes wouldn’t stay in the closet, or why the closet was sometimes a hall. Don’t get me wrong, the design is super clever, but the randomness kept me up at night. You can’t map a place that doesn’t make sense, right? But everything makes sense in some way, even a house with a perspective driven interior. I just had to figure it out.

I started going to bed wearing my running shoes so I could jog around the house and try to get my bearings when I got tired of looking at the ceiling, (which is normally antique white, but sometimes pale yellow). I’d even leave little bags of breadcrumbs by the door, but that stopped working after a while. I suspect the house integrated the breadcrumbs into the landscape, which made them shift too. Might be why the ribbon failed, come to think of it….

Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that kept me awake. It didn’t help that I was the only one struggling. My husband and daughter just go with the flow. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see the appeal. In theory, at least. I don’t know. Maybe the insomnia finally got to me, but I went a little nuts. Not like, stripping the yellow wallpaper nuts. More like, I-need-to-be-in-a-place-that-doesn’t-change-when-you-step-to-the-right nuts.

I was getting a little desperate when my daughter came up with a fix. Like I said, she’s a problem-solver. Instead of my trying to move around the house, we should make the house move around me. As crazy as it sounds, I’ll be damned if it didn’t work.

I have an amazing boss who totally understood, so now I work from home. Not having to get out of the house cuts back on stress more than I can tell you. Even better, I have a big, beautiful room that I never have to leave. There’s space for my desk by the window, along with an extensive GPS tracking system. There’s even room for a bed and a mini fridge. My family uses the GPS to find me in the house, so I never have to leave or get lost. Even better, I know exactly where I am all the time. It’s the perfect solution.

So, here’s my advice for anyone who buys a “one of a kind dream home”. Accept it for what it is. Embrace its almost-perfection, even if the roof leaks. Or the school district is awful. Or it’s a nightmare of chaos and loss. Take the house on its terms and remember why you fell in love with it. Make a list of every single pro in your list of pros and cons. Repeat it like a mantra. Or a prayer. Whatever works.

As for those sticky, little problems, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Is the broom closet a portal to hell? That’s what padlocks are for. Is the gravity patchy in places? Try handles on the ceiling to help you get around. Look for creative answers. Solutions are everywhere. You just have to know how to adapt.


Malin James is an essayist, blogger, and short story writer. Her work has appeared in Bust Magazine, MUTHA, Electric Literature and Medium,  as well as in anthologies for Cleis, Sweetmeats and Go Deeper Press. Read more at

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