Illustration by Jason Schneider

My parents have lived in the same house since the early ’80s with no intention of moving, but from a young age, I would spend the odd Sunday with my mom walking around our small suburb going to open houses. I loved those days. For 30 minutes, we’d wander each one, inspecting carpets and closets, cooing and critiquing. I’d pick out which room would be mine and imagine which shelf would store my Barbie collection. Years later, I still remember my plans for the bedroom in a certain 1920s brick bungalow, down to the direction I dreamed of orienting my bed.

A quarter century later, I still do this. Except now, I don’t even have to leave my house. When I am even the slightest bit stressed, I don’t need a meditation app or yoga practice. I have Zillow.

I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time, as if my mind starts typing “three-bedroom houses for sale in Wilmette” like a computer automatically entering cooldown mode. I’ll set arbitrary guidelines — perhaps a price range, or a yard worthy of the multiple dogs I intend to own someday. And then I hunt, scouring hundreds of slide shows for the exact right property.

Imposing a task with absolutely zero consequence quiets the chaos that is my brain. I look at large suburban houses and find serenity in their manicured order. There’s no clutter to be dealt with. No laundry piling in the corner. I imagine inserting myself into these static-free environments, and I can almost envision a future where peace and structure are always mine.