The Restless Nester

By Angie Mizzell

I moved to my current home seven-and-a-half years ago, and that’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. Growing up, my mom and I moved a lot. Then I went off to college and entered a career field where getting promoted meant changing jobs and cities every couple of years. In total, I’ve moved 22 times in my life.

Today, my husband, three children and I live on a cul-de-sac with lots of kids and neighbors who like to socialize. As ideal as it may seem, years went by before I felt settled here. I constantly searched real estate listings. I craved that elusive sense of home and thought if I kept looking, I might discover the magic key.

Then one day I picked up a book called “The Nesting Place” written by a home blogger who’s known to her readers as The Nester. The Nester and her husband had moved 13 times in 18 years, and her story changed my whole perspective. She said, “Stop waiting until someday.” Embrace where you are. Create the home you love, right now.

It hit me: My house didn’t feel like home, because I wasn’t giving it a chance. I knew how to ask, “What’s next?” I didn’t know how — or was afraid — to stay. In that moment, I let down my guard. I stopped trying to predict the future. I decided to commit.

The problem was I wasn’t a nester by nature. Beyond buying furniture (which I couldn’t figure out how to make work in my current home) and hanging some pictures on the wall, I was clueless about decorating.

Around that time, my friend Michele came to town for a visit and mentioned she was transitioning from fashion design to interior design. What luck! She offered to help. It was an easy and obvious “yes.”

Michele and I have been working together for several years now, as time and budget allow. Today, my home is becoming a space that feels more intentional — a place to retreat and relax, entertain friends and accommodate the needs of my family of five.

As a newbie to home design, I’ve learned some things: I’ll spend days painting a detailed stencil wall — not once, but twice — until I get it right. My favorite colors are white and gray, but I’m not scared to dip the brush in a big can of tomato red. Art from Etsy and Minted makes me happy. My kids’ art on the magnetic chalk wall in the kitchen makes me even happier. I declutter often, yet I want an abundance of throw pillows, fluffy blankets and good-smelling candles.

And this came as a total surprise: Nesting can stir up plenty of unhappy feelings, too. It started last Thanksgiving, around the time when I’m typically full of holiday spirit. Instead, I was overcome with sadness. The reason felt like nothing and everything; a lifetime of things. It rose to the surface and washed over me like a wave. I believed I’d consciously moved in the direction of joy and happiness, community and connection. Where did I go wrong?

I looked around at my newly decorated walls and saw myself entering midlife, my kids growing up, and all the things that are so much different now. For years, I expected home to be like an anchor, never moving. But few things stay the same for very long. That’s the biggest lesson this redecorating project has taught me.

Finding home is more than installing new countertops and subway tile. Home is the moment when something, or someone, feels familiar — even if it’s our first encounter. Home welcomes us where we are, as we are. It holds our joy and our sadness. It doesn’t judge. It reminds us to take a breath and encourages us to keep going.

So I’ll keep doing my house projects and inviting others into my space. I’ll turn up the music, light every candle and cook a homemade pizza. I’ll mail Christmas cards and don a Santa hat while running errands. I’ll remember that home is so much more than a place. It lives everywhere: inside our walls, in our relationships and inside ourselves.

Home is an energy, and it’s contagious. Now that I’ve finally found it, I want to spread it around so others can feel it, too.