I think it was the lamp that started it all.

I’d been casing this neighborhood, and noticed a pile of newspapers clumsily hidden next to the front door of this brick rancher. There were no cars in the driveway. I watched the place for a day, and sure enough, the neighbor came by and moved the afternoon paper behind the bush with the others. The owners were out of town.

That night, I broke in.

Everything went as usual, until I was unplugging the 50-inch television in the living room, and realized I couldn’t keep my eyes off this damn lamp on the table next to the sofa. It was one of those tripod lamps with an old brass-and-wood nautical theme. The rest of the room was done in 1950s retro by way of IKEA.

Something in my cheek just started to twitch.

I tried to put it behind me. I went down to the basement and found a “man cave” in its embryonic stage; nothing but an old navy couch with little embroidered anchors all over it, a sofa table, a neon Budweiser sign and a rough-in for a future wet bar. I took one look, and the next thing I knew, I was bounding back up the stairs, two at a time. I grabbed the tripod lamp from the living room and ran it back down to the basement, setting it on the table next to the anchor sofa. I swear my blood pressure dropped twenty points after that.

I packed up my goods and left.

A week later, I broke into a big, gray contemporary overlooking the bay. There was some pretty choice stuff, and all was going well, until I found my attention drawn to this rug in the middle of the floor. It was just floating there. So, I took a second to slide it back and tuck the edge of it under the legs of the sofa, to make the room feel more connected. While I was at it, I moved the furniture in and away from the walls. They looked like they were preparing for a barn dance, for crying out loud. The place was pretty stark, so I took some pillows they had on the bed in the guest room and arranged them on the sofa. The color really made the room pop.

That’s probably when things went south. Antarctica south. I started spending 30% of my time thieving, and 70% redecorating. I took key pieces from houses that didn’t deserve them, just so I could relocate them in more deserving homes. I was like Child Protective Services for furniture. I spent an inordinate amount of time porting ugly crap out of houses just to get it out, until finally I got smart and started piling up all the really bad shit with a note on top that just said NO, like I was scolding a bad dog. Once, I left a really atrocious statue of an apple-cheeked kid pushing a wheelbarrow in the middle of the owner’s kitchen with a note that said, REALLY?

The only time I made any real money, was the house with the carpeted bathroom. Let me say that one more time so you can appreciate the full horror: They had a carpeted bathroom. It made me so damn crazy I ended up taking every valuable I could find. It took urine-soaked, polyester shag to finally return my focus. Without that carpeted bathroom, I probably would have just rearranged the family room and barely taken a thing. Those people just didn’t deserve my help. Of course, I spent most of the money I made off that heist buying a Herman Miller chair for the office in the house down the street. It was the only thing missing. They’d come so close I just couldn’t help myself.

I know the people on 4th Street probably loved that salt shaker collection, but let’s be honest—I did them a favor. And sure, I have a feeling the lady at the edge of town made those hideous fringed curtains herself, but ripping them down and suggesting she get some plantation shutters was an act of sheer kindness.

Thieving became more exhilarating, but also more of a chore. You try climbing through an unlocked window with a bag of cabinet hardware and a sweet antique throw rug. It isn’t easy. And try pilfering when your eyes are filled with tears, thanks to a sofa wrapped in plastic and an expensive vase filled with fake flowers. That place almost broke my spirit entirely.

Eventually, they caught me. The cops busted in to find me halfway done painting someone’s dining room. The walls had been white, but the aqua I’d run out to buy really made their Chinese rugs sing. Luckily for those people, Home Depot is open 24 hours a day.

Less lucky for me, as it turns out.

I’ll be out of prison in about a year. After the local newspaper ran my story, I got five thank you notes from my previous “victims.” You just can’t beat free press like that. One lady said she’ll even back me to start my own business. As soon as I get out, I’m going to open my own interior decorating shop.

But first, I might have to stop by that “man cave” again. I didn’t like where it was headed. They could really use my help.