Your furniture is a cast. Like liquid, over time we tend to take on the shape of our containers because many of our containers put us into the exact same shape.
I'm going to assume that if you're reading this you're at least somewhat familiar with WHY someone would want to get rid of their couches and chairs to live a more movement-based lifestyle. If you're new to this concept entirely, I highly recommend you check out Katy Bowman's many books (specifically Don't Just Sit There), website (specifically blog posts like this one), and popular podcast Katy Says (specifically Episode 69: Natural Movement and Variability). We've heard the saying that "Sitting is the New Smoking," but it really boils down to HOW you sit, HOW MUCH you sit, and in WHAT RATIO to the other movements you do. Katy's goal is succinct and well-said: "Move more of you more often." That's where the furniture free lifestyle comes in.
Let me say from the start that I'm literally about to show you pictures of my furniture. My house is not a barren wasteland of floor-sitting and squatting. Every person's interpretation of this message and application of these strategies will look different, so I hope you find some helpful options in here that make you say "I could do that!" That's my intention.
What Does "Furniture Free" Even Mean?
For me, I interpret the idea of "furniture free" to mean that I have freedom from my furniture. My furniture does not dictate how I move (or how I am restricted in my movement), it is not the focal point of my life, and it does not invite sedentary behavior. You don't have to throw away your couch if you're able to NOT use your couch as much or use it differently. I am the type of person, though, who can't keep sweets and junk food in the house or I'll eat it ALL. So I decided I won't keep "junk food movement" in my house, either. "Furniture free" also means freedom from the kind of social class structure that comes along with furnishing your house with the right brands, the right pieces. I don't need TWO dining sets even if I have two spaces where I could theoretically eat in my house. I am free to have empty spaces if I want to. I am free to let my home echo if I desire. I am free from the pressure to keep up appearances.
The All-Important Question: But What if Company Comes Over?
On the junk-food and appeasing-others note, I have always abided by Katy's defense of this question. Just because I eat healthy (I'm a nutritional therapist, after all), that doesn't mean I concede to buy Doritos and Little Debbie's when company comes over if that's what they like. It's MY house. I'm not going to craft the health and wellbeing of my home around the few times I might have company who aren't fond of sitting on the floor. I know, I know, "But what about old people and grandparents who come over?" Slow down. Just strategize, people. I'm not telling you that your great aunt has to sit on your floor, I'm saying that your entire house shouldn't have to rest on this issue, and whatever strategy you employ for making your home accessible to your less-mobile guests should be one that does not tempt and invite you to use it as "junk food." I have several pieces in my home that serve this purpose.
It's not about having NO furniture...It's about having furniture that facilitates progress and forward trajectory in your life.
Just because you have some furniture, that doesn't mean you can't be part of this movement-movement. Even though we got rid of our couch, we decided to get something comfy and temporary in anticipation of our new baby arriving in April. I want to have a little nest-y place for nursing and relaxing, and for family to visit and hold the baby. I don't see this as a regression at all, it meets a specific desire for a specific purpose for a specific time, it does not merely fulfill a cultural requisite that we have an 8-seater Pottery Barn couch.
With that, I thought I'd bring you on a little tour through some parts of our home and pieces of our furniture to see what we're sitting on and how we're transitioning to a more movement-based lifestyle. In addition to wanting more movement in my life, I also want to transition away from furniture treated with chemicals or made with eco-un-friendly synthetic materials. Not every single piece of furniture in our house is organic hand-carved fair-trade fairy-dust sprinkled perfect. It's a transition process, a fun journey, and an interesting collection of pieces.
Just Through Here We Have The Dining Room...
I dove head-first into furniture freedom with our dining room. I sold our chairs and donated the table, and ended up finding a big gorgeous oversized oak coffee table through a local re-sale Facebook page. The table only cost me $145 and at the time I replaced all of the chairs with cotton chair cushions (which we still have and use--you can sort of see the stack back there next to the shelf) that were $11 apiece. Recently my big pregnant belly has not been comfortable on the cushions (trying to breathe normally and eat at a low table cross legged is NOT comfortable), so we got these little jute poufs from IKEA to give me a better elevated + firm surface. They're also stackable so people can be chair height if they want, or they can be stacked to use as a table. My sweet spot right now is one of these with one cushion on top. I'm still squatting below parallel each time, getting a good pelvic angle while sitting, and using my core to support myself as I sit.
Adjacent to this little dining space we have a sit-in counter. I myself like to be able to visit with guests here while I make dinner--you know that comfortable kind of gathering in the kitchen that happens when friends and family come over? It's also a great workspace (when it's clean).
Bar stools can be a great piece of furniture to KEEP if you already have them, or to add to your furniture. With no back, sitting on a stool requires you to actually use your back muscles to stay upright, making you less likely to slouch and slump. You can also use stools for a variety of positions. One of my favorites is to stand here to work here on my computer (like I am RIGHT now) with one leg up on top of the stool getting a nice deep hip stretch, then change sides every once in a while. I can also squat on them (and my daughter does this a lot, too), sit cross-legged, or use these as work spaces in other places throughout the house.
Next We Have The Living Room...
This is a double papasan chair that will be my little newborn + mama nest when the baby arrives. I can sit cross-legged in it, I can lie in it or sit if I want to, and it's great for snuggles. It's NOT something I can sink into for three hours on end, and that's a good thing. We purchased it second-hand, and when it serves its temporary purpose in our life we will send it off to its third-hand owners. The pouf is a sweet little cotton stuffed foot-rest type deal that I got for $9 at a thrift store. I use it a bunch of different ways, sitting on it right-side-up, and also on its side. It makes a great back bolster for stretching out my back, and it goes with the rug, too, so...win-win.
This is another IKEA find. Yes, you can actually sit in it and lean back! It's made with natural fibers, it requires that parts of your body are engaged to sit in it, it's light and movable so wherever the company is or wherever I want to use it, I can take it there. I don't need to fully furnish every single room in our house for a gathering, but I have enough options spread throughout the house to call a counsel if I want to.
This is my favorite chair! It's a handmade piece we got at a farmer's market when we lived in Washington. It folds up so it can be moved out of the way easily or put away, it sits the tailbone about 5 or 6 inches off the floor so it's a great squat getting in and out, and it's fully reclined so when you lean back you can just relax, but if you want to sit up to have a conversation or get work done, it requires you to engage your core. It's SO comfy with a sheepskin draped over it. I wish I just had five of these instead of ALL the other seats I just showed you.
A versatile wooden bench. Its most recent use was actually as a table during my daughter's birthday party. It's untreated, easy to move, can be sat on in different ways or used for various surface needs, and will probably be featured in some MovNat exercises very soon!
You Can Move More in the Bathroom, Too!
Here's a change you can make without getting rid of anything. Get a Squatty Potty!
Squatty Potty stools ensure you get at least one good sustained squat throughout your day, and also that you're having easy strain-free healthy bowel movements. They're also super helpful for toddlers using the toilet. You can order a Squatty Potty HERE.
Our Sedentary-Safe Space
I could write an entire blog post about my process for upgrading our bed, but I won't. In short, we had a small budget and my primary concern was getting rid of our toxic flame-retardant treated mattress and cheap particle-board VOC-off-gassing frame. We went with an 6" cotton futon mattress with a wool cover. Since wool has natural flame-retardant properties, they can be sold and marketed as "mattresses" without legally having to be treated with flame retardants. It's very firm, but we've had it for almost a year now and we really like it. The frame is a wooden futon frame that I treated myself with a home made beeswax and olive oil wood sealant, and it's much lower to the ground than most conventional beds (and eventually I'd like it even lower) which is great for our toddler who often sleeps in our bed, and for a new baby who will co-sleep with us.
We generally do not use many pillows, but our collection has grown as my pregnant belly has grown! I recently purchased the large gray square cushions in the back (which are actually "floor cushions") so I have something to lean against when I'm up late at night nursing. When they're done being a temporary headboard, they'll be moved to another part of the house for floor seating. Nothing crazy expensive or exclusive, but I'm able to avoid synthetic fabrics and also meet specific needs--like pregnancy--with versatile things that can still serve me in a healthy way later on.
More Movement Indoors
Here are a few more things we keep in the house for added movement, which I will be utterly grateful for after the baby arrives. We do have a full gym get-up in our out-building, but we keep a few other things around just to make movement more convenient and accessible to us inside. Namely our rowing machine, yoga mat, foam rollers, a couple kettle bells and resistance bands, a 2x4 for balance work, and a rock-climbing/grip-strength/pull-up board. I'm also excited to set our slack-line up in the back yard and do more balance and stability training when my core is ready for some recovery and postpartum strengthening.
So there you have it! ALL that furniture, and I still consider myself to be "furniture free." I hope that doesn't sound hypocritical, but INCLUSIVE. My furniture doesn't make me weak, my furniture doesn't contribute to a decline in my health from sitting too much or inhaling chemicals, my furniture doesn't define my status or success as a home-maker. And I think in general our house looks pretty "normal" for having company, hosting family, and entertaining guests. These are all things we've acquired or transitioned to over the course of about two years, and we are still on that same trajectory. You can make small, concerted, conscious efforts to curate your indoor environment, improve your health, and change your perspective, and they will all eventually add up.