How To Go Furniture-Free In 8 Easy Steps
One of the best ways to start moving more is to go furniture free. This sounds a bit crazy but I think it’s actually one of the very best things you can do for your body and your long term health. Plus it’s FREE (no furniture, right? Costs waaaaaay less than furniture). And it helps you save time by letting you move more without needing to spend time exercising. It’s a win-win-win!
This is a picture of my boyfriend Chris. He’s sitting on the couch. Chris loved our couch.
It’s kind of a cool picture because it shows pretty much the last time Chris ever sat on our couch. We moved it to the garage in November, 2014, and took this picture when we were getting ready to put the couch on Craiglist. We’ve been living furniture-free for a couple of years now, and selling the couch made it extra official. Why would we want to live with no sofa?
Quite simply, because having less furniture means that you have to move your body more. You just don’t have the option of plunking yourself down into a comfortable cocoon and staying there for hours. For the price of a little discomfort, we get to work all day on improving our core strength, increasing our mobility, and getting all kinds of movement variety. Furniture free life makes moving more really easy in a way that doesn’t any extra time. So good!
On top of all the body benefits, many people find that getting rid of some or all of their furniture (or even just choosing not to use furniture) is a great way to connect better with their family and their lives. By learning to squat and sit on the floor, you can spend really special playtime with kids. Your space will allow you to be more creative and allows for all kinds of play in ways that you can’t when you have tables and chairs every where. For instance, I can easily set up an obstacle course in my furniture-free living room. It’s one of my favourite ways to take a break from work.
So furniture free has lots of benefits, but let’s talk about some of the challenges. First, your body has to be ready to make the transition. If you’ve adapted to living with furniture, your body probably won’t love you if you take it away all at once. Even though sitting on the floor isn’t exactly like running a marathon, it’s a big change for your body if you’re used to sitting on a couch. Second, your family has to be ready to make the transition. And third, furniture is just a part of life in our culture. It’s kind of strange not to have any. So it makes sense to experiment and see what you think before you go all gung ho on this.
Here are the 8 essential steps you need to know for a successful and enjoyable transition to furniture free life (or even one that just has less furniture).
Step One: Start Slow – One Piece Of Furniture At A Time.
Maybe start with just your dining set. I am all about baby steps and making everything easy. It’s a LOT to get rid of the bed, the living room and the dining room all in one fell swoop. My preference? Pick your battle and win it! And the dining table and chairs are probably the easiest way to start. I didn’t feel ready for floor sleeping two years ago, and Chris wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the couch, so we started eating at our coffee table, and it helped prove to us that it was totally a comfortable and good way for us to change. The dining set change is super easy, doesn’t require much commitment (in time or energy) and gives everyone a chance to test the water. Another easy way to start is to try sitting next to the couch when you hang out in the evenings. All the same advice still applies.
Step Two: Get some stuff to sit on (that’s not furniture).
No one is expecting you to sit on the floor in agony! You need bolsters, cushions, poofs, sofas with no legs, whatever – some stuff that’s going to help support your body and meet yourself where you’re at. We have mostly used yoga bolsters and half domes. I like bolsters and half domes a lot because they’re multi-purpose and you can use them to stretch with as well. I am ALL ABOUT EFFICIENCY!!! But, this is a time when anything goes. If you like it, and think you can sit on it, and it’s not going to put you in the same geometry as a chair, it’s fair game.
Step Three: Consider what else you’re going to need.
If you’re going to be eating dinner, you will probably enjoy having a table. We were lucky – our coffee table is built like a tank (literally) which makes it well-suited to its current incarnation as our dining table. It’s also a good height and we can get our legs under it. If your coffee table doesn’t allow this, then you may need to find an alternative. You can try cutting the legs off an old dining table, search Craigslist, or go upscale and invest in a more functional coffee table solution. We also bought a carpet. Sitting on bare hardwood wasn’t the best.
Step Four: Learn how to sit on the floor in a variety of ways.
The point of this is to help your body adapt to new shapes. So do stuff that will help your body adapt. Learn what a neutral pelvis is and why it’s important. Stretch your hamstrings as an exercise and learn how to get up and down from the floor in ways that will enhance your health. That’s what I’m for! My blog, my classes, and my one-on-one sessions are designed to help your body get back to the state it’s supposed to be – the state where it’s easy and comfortable to sit on the floor.
Step Five: Practice for a while.
No need to rush into things. Eat some dinner around the coffee table (make sure to wear stretchy pants and have lots of things to lean on). Stretch a bunch. We ate at our coffee table for a year and a half before taking the next step.
Step Six: Move just one piece of furniture out of the house.
Ok, this is a big one. Maybe you’ll never be ready for it….but maybe you’re ready right now! Move your dining set to the garage. Don’t sell it, just do a trial separation. See how the first couple of days go. If you’re feeling up to it, leave it there for a few more days. Baby steps! Soon, you will either decide you need it back, or you will not even notice that it’s gone. If you want it back, take it back! Maybe furniture free isn’t right for you just yet. But I’m going to bet that if you’ve spent enough time making the transition, you’ll barely even notice that it’s gone.
Step Seven: Choose another piece of furniture and repeat.
You’re off to a great start! Once you’ve adapted to chair free dining, maybe chair-free TV watching is a good next step. Or maybe you are ready to start making some changes with your sleeping arrangements (this is a good one to go really slow with – maybe just swap sides of the bed with your partner to start). Get a standing desk arrangement of some sort, or just move your laptop to the kitchen counter. Bit by bit, your whole house can transform. Then, after a couple of years with all your furniture in the garage, you will finally be ready to post it on Craigslist. Now you can make some money while you improve your health – bonus!!
Step Eight: Dealing with common challenges.
My husband/wife will divorce me if I get rid of the furniture!
If your partner will seriously divorce you for trying to get rid of your furniture, your best option may be to keep your furniture. But perhaps you can still get some bolsters and cushions and practice using them. Be patient – over time, many people find their partners get used to these ideas and become more open to change. I don’t recommend doing what I did and talking about nothing except Katy Bowman & movement for 6 months. It’s taken 2 years for Chris to get over my initial burst of enthusiasm. Now, though, he is a happy participant in our furniture-free lifestyle (despite his regrets about the couch).
What about having people over?
We’re lucky – most of our friends are pretty open to this sort of stuff. When I invite them over, I remind them to wear their stretchy pants, and most people seem pretty comfortable. I also figure that if people don’t like it, that’s just too bad. They invite me over and offer me chairs to sit on, and I have to suck that up, so it’s pretty reasonable of me to offer them the accommodations we’ve chosen. And because I’m not actually heartless, we also have a few folding chairs to offer as a back up, just in case.
How To Sit Better, With Or Without Furniture
One of the biggest body mechanics issues with our comfortable couches and chairs is that they make it very easy to sit all the time with a ‘tucked’ pelvis. This means that your lower back is always rounded, which can overload your lower back and underload your hips. Plus it tends to lead to pelvic floor shortness. So to help you with your transition to furniture free, I’ve put together a little video to help you learn to sit with a neutral (or untucked) pelvis. I hope you love it!
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Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. She's on the road right now, travelling the world and moving in as many ways as possible. When she's not out exploring or working on her movement practice, you can probably find her hanging on some monkey bars.