Furniture Free Freak?

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Don’t Just Sit There. If you’d like ideas on all the ways you can sit without furniture, check out this poster.

Joe Rogan called me a freak for reducing my home furniture (e.g. getting rid of my couch and dining room chairs), but hey, I’ll accept that label. Especially as freak doesn’t mean much more than “unusual or unexpected,” and I didn’t feel any hostility or condescension. I agree: eschewing the couch in the name of health is unusual. It’s, well, freaky.

Our reasons for getting rid of our couches and chairs aren’t because we seek to be “fringe,” or “hippies.” Nor do we glorify those furniture-free days of yester-year and forsake modern developments and technology. One of our reasons for ditching the soft sitting stuff is simply an attempt to problem-solve given the abundant research on excessive sitting, sedentarism, and the role of the home environment.

It’s pretty straight forward, actually. I have a small house. I have two small children. I study the health benefits of movement. If I put furniture there, not only will they sit on it, they can’t move in the space occupied my my couch (or TV or coffee table or whatever).

The Dynamic Family Home: a qualitative exploration of physical environmental influences on children’s sedentary behaviour and physical activity within the home space does a great job at breaking down what it is, exactly, about a home (interior and yard) that tends to reduce movement.

The study findings indicate that families perceive the physical environment of the home space influences childrens sedentary behaviour and physical activity via: overall size, space and design of the home; allocation of home space; equipment within the home space; and perceived safety of the home space. Furthermore, the home space seems to be a dynamic environment where many of the physical elements are chosen, controlled and changed by family members, particularly parents.

One could think of my home as freak-like, or you can think of it as a design selected in the attempt to reduce limitations to movement. Environmental constraints on movement are often very subtle. For example, my 2-year old just started weaving–great for fine motor skill and artistic pleasure, but not really a “whole-body activity” if you know what I mean.

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But this is what went down: she didn’t like sitting and pulling the string, so she started walking the needle away from the loom to pull it through.

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Then she’d walk it back, weave it through, and walk it the other way.

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I’m not making this up, people.

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 photo-117My friend dubbed it a “dynamic loom station.” But I’m not sure it would be dynamic if her loom was surrounded by the furniture we no longer have.

One woman just posted another example of a small (under the freak-radar) change to her home decor on our Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 1.33.06 PM

And she sent me some pics.

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Kids (and adults for that matter) already sit the bulk of the day, so is getting rid of some sitting stuff in the other place where you spend the bulk of your time really a crazy idea? Just askin’.

My furniture-free-freakiness has been getting some press lately:

Biomechanist gives up furniture for life of natural movement

Parenting Against the Grain: Going Furniture-Free

Maitland et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2014) 11:157
DOI 10.1186/s12966-014-0157-1

Are you still interested in learning more on this?

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41 thoughts on “Furniture Free Freak?

  1. We would love to see a tour of your new house.

    DH and I have just about decided to cut the legs off our old junky table and switch it out with our nice dining room table. I can use the nice table as a standing desk and bring it back out when we have older guests…

  2. Since beginning to read your material, we have made some lifestyle changes. One of the “big” ones has been getting rid of some major furniture. One of my husbands only complaints is that our home is beginning to remind him of the living space of a college student, which is obviously undesirable to him. But for his sake, I have attempted to make things more aesthetically pleasing. As we are sitting on the floor much of our time now, I have found a beautiful yoga pillow for him, since floor sitting is quite “unnatural” for his body right now. One dilemma we are currently facing is our new sleeping arrangement. Our mattress is now on the floor, but after attempting a night on a mattress cushion alone, I’ve found that I LOVE it. However, myself and our one year old who currently sleeps with us can swing the solo mattress topper, but my husband says he just can’t. (Hurts the hips, back, etc). So I’m back to the mattress, which makes my sleeping sad now. But as to the “freak” part, yep I’ve had some “looks” and “comments” from visitors!

  3. I’d love to remove more furniture from our house, but we host our families quite a bit, and sitting on the floor is a tough sell to those who are not used to it. We never use our dining room table unless we’re having guests. Our latest solution: those bed-riser thingies for people who like using a ladder to get into bed. We put those under the legs of the dining table. Voila, the chairs fit nicely under it, and we have a large standing work space.

    Keep being a freak Katy, and showing us new ways to think about living, moving and being flexible!

  4. I would like to point out that in some homes couches seem more like mountains to climb and rocks to jump off of for kids than a sitting apparatus. My kids end up using the couches to vary immensely the way they move and the loads to their bodies.

  5. We’re freaks together! I’m not yet sleeping on the floor, but we got rid of our dining room table in favor of a low one and cushions. We haven’t owned a couch in years and years. We do have a card table and some folding chairs for older guests, but in general our furniture is minimal and we’re removing more. The space is luxurious!

  6. Yay! Furniture freaks of the world, unite!
    People thought we were a little fringe when we told them that we had moved the sofa, but we get some crazy looks now when we tell people that we sold our bed and are sleeping on the floor. One friend has said that she might be willing to get rid of her furniture, but her husband is “from the South” and thinks that homes should be furnished. 🙂

  7. I’m sure the journal editors intend for “Behavioral Nutrition” in their title to refer to the effects of food on psycho/neurodevelopmental realms, but when I saw that I immediately thought of your movement vitamins. =)

    Our home is not as furniture-free as I aspire to, and that’s partly my fault — I get sentimental about some of the things, especially if there were projects attached. We *did* just get rid of our bed frame, though (which I built, my first completed large-scale woodworking project, so there was some angst in parting with that), and now our mattress is on the floor. Given we’re at any-day-now with expecting baby #1, though, I’m really hesitant to mess with my sleeping situation in any other way. =)

  8. I am constantly sharing your information with anyone that will listen. I love your blog and all of the information that you provide. I will admit though that a lot of people (even after fully agreeing that it makes sense) have looked at me like I was a freak… I am constantly having to tell people “she’s not crazy, she’s very normal” lol. I guess it probably doesn’t help that maybe they think I’m a little crazy too. I definitely won’t stop sharing the information. I think people deserve to know. Thank you for continuing to share as well.

  9. I love how your gal does her dynamic looming, Katy! 😉 Thanks to you my family has been thriving on a low dining table and floor mattresses. Sofas and counter stools are still there but come in handy for er… keeping piles of clean laundry off the floor!

  10. Maybe its not about having the sofa , or not; but the awareness of how to use it?
    I grew up in a home, my mom was a yoga teacher. so to do my homework I sat on the rug with my legs apart… eating? yes, on the chair but with my legs folded under me so my back will be erect… walking to school…barefooted with my sandals in my hand. Many years later having a child of my own the floor was a great place to cut the beans for dinner etc. My daughters room had only a photon on the floor and a long board a block high from the ground. The furniture were sturdy enough to take abuse, jumping, building castles and so on…
    As I am writing this, my two great couches are behind me as I am on the floor typing.
    so my two cents.. awareness, creativity, and flexibility.

  11. As part of our transition to less furniture we designated the largest room in our house to be “the space” it has no furniture, except a thick wool rug. and shelves to hold plant. This is where we watch shows on the TV and do yoga, streching, and Katy “movement”. Our newest addition is stringing a rope from wall to wall, and hanging a trapeeze from the cieling. The apparatus are tied to eyebolts. When we have guests we can easily take down the ropes and put in a blow up bed and viola the space is our best guest room.

    Have you noticed romms become echoy when the furniture is not there to asorb sound? We installed sound panels in one room that seemed to echo when we removed the “lazy boy” (perhaps the most aptly named piece of funiture ever). Though not all sound panels are created equal. It seemed to help.

    1. We didn’t put furniture in our living room for the first several years that we lived here, because the acoustics were wonderful. Now, it’s hard to go back. (Of course, we also just have more stuff, because we have four more people in our home.)

  12. Katy: I already knew you were furniture free and that was the best part of the interview, I don’t think Rogan knew what to make of it, I can’t recall exactly what he said, but I don’t think anything was mean spirited. I wish he would have asked you more about vaccination. There are so many issues there and it’s hard to find a rational discussion on it. We are not in the furniture free club but I try to sit on the floor more, a hard habit to start, but I happily let my daughter run around as a kangaroo last night with new pajamas as her tail and delay her homework — oh to be young again!

  13. I actually love that your house is essentially furniture free. We moved from our one bedroom apartment to an rv last year and got rid of most of our furniture. Now we are moving to a bigger house this weekend actually, and my husband is actually on board with me to not bring furniture back into the house! I am really excited about this! It will save money and my two young girls will stop sitting like they did in the trailer (or at least not on couches). I wish there were more people doing this because I’ve been looking for more inspiration of how to also provide an inviting space for when people visit. My husband thinks no one is going to want to come over since we will make them sit on the floor 🙂 but I think some will rather enjoy it. Anyways, thank you for paving the way!
    Side note, I’m having a baby in a couple of months so I’ll have to key you know how it goes with no nursing chair and with everything being on the ground 🙂

  14. We’re trying to reduce furniture as well, but like many, have the problem of entertaining family and friends who just may start making up excuses not to visit if we reduce any more! One of our family rooms is furniture free and though my husband is pretty much behind any zany Katy-inspired idea I come up with we too, echo the “worry” that our house will start looking very college dorm-y. If anyone comes across any websites, photos or has ideas on how to make the rooms look like intentional and attractive open spaces rather than slightly barren and messy ones, let me know!

    1. This is a link at the bottom to photos of my home…the style might not be for everyone but the things I have done to keep the pretty/cozy look without a lot of stuff is to hang lots of things…lanterns, carpets, wall hangings etc. I live in the Middle East and they, like much of the world haven’t heard of closets yet! So I miss having closets, especially the nice walk in ones in some parts of the US. We have wardrobes instead and as I have 3 boys who like to play ball in the house :p I use the high spots on the wardrobe and bookcase to put my pretty, breakable things like my glass candle holders. Also if you google pictures of Japanese decor you will see a ton of minimalist homes as they really have that way of life down! Their homes tend to have less stuff and less decoration in general…beautiful and serene. If you google Moroccan decor you will see a ton of color and decorations in the form of carpets/lanterns, wall hangings but often times still not a lot of furniture. Happy browsing 🙂

      https://plus.google.com/photos/110824600832212051740/albums/6120440143322519457

      1. The spaces in the photos don’t look as big as they really are, for the most part we only use the floor/bed for sitting and the sofas are used for guests and as desks to color/read/jump off of lol

        Also often we spread a table cloth on the floor of the kitchen/living room or on the balcony and eat there. You can still have table/chairs/sofas etc for guests as we do but the kids model our behavior and my husband and I like the floor so that is where the kids end up too 🙂

  15. I no longer have a desk chair. I raised my desk (with bed lifters, about $18 a HomeSense) and I could’t believe how little time it took to adjust.

    This is all inspired by you.

    I’m standing on a folded yoga mat with rolled up socks in between the layers. They massage my piggies nicely and keep my feet moving.

    I keep a guitar stool behind me; I occasionally rest my foot on it to stretch my quads. And occasionally I sit on it, but never for long. It’s easier to write while I stand.

    I’m in my 50s now and 25+ years of writing and editing while sitting was really messing up my lower back.

    It’s so much better.

    Plus, I sit on the floor when I watch tv now. Six months ago I needed my hands to get myself up. Not any more.

  16. Love the pics/idea of the kids standing – especially during homework. I can speak from experience that in my office, standing workstation helps with my productivity.

  17. I have tried to sit on the floor, but have had trouble with my lower back. I feel as though I keep sinking backwards and have trouble sitting up straight. I am older, not too active or thin. Any transition advice? Thanks!

  18. Avid Joe Rogan listener. While I enjoyed the podcast, as an expat living in Asia, the ability of many American’s (including Joe) to think outside US culture is extremely frustrating. Basic concepts of sitting, constant and dynamic movement, locally sourced food etc. are everyday life occurrences in most parts of the world, in particular poorer countries. They don’t have the luxury of large rooms that accommodate sedentary lifestyle pieces, or lead the life of a bored soccer mom who has to think of ways to keep moving (no offense). They HAVE to keep moving, because their income and stability depends on it. They don’t have a choice.

    For an equivalent GDP culture that does have choices, I’d suggest you study Korean or Japanese culture. The constant waves of trite American health fads that exist in everyday life is startling. While every culture has their vice(s), its normal for people to sleep on floor pads (‘Yo’), lounge and eat at home or restaurant sitting, have immediate access to locally sourced food, walk frequently and take public transportation, hike, travel with their children strapped in a harness. I could go on, but this is all normal life for a majority of people.

    I love what you are doing and advocating, but I hope Americans realize many of this is easily achievable and already occurring throughout the world. Joe is a great guy, but I’d encourage him to stop being so ‘busy’, take a month and travel the world. He thinks he’s too busy, but his business endeavors would only benefit from new perspectives. (Plus you can podcast from anywhere)

  19. I have been sitting on the floor in front of our couch ever since I heard you on Joe Rogan’s podcast. My 6 year old son has refused to use a chair at the dinner table ever since he was able to stand.He will either squat with his feet up on the seat of the chair, or move the chair completely out of the way and stand in it’s place. My wife wears shoes as little as possible. I would like to transition to sleeping on the floor. My current challenge is convincing my wife that it is a good idea.

  20. I’m here because of the Joe Rogan podcast. Just wanted to say awesome chat and I can’t wait to explore your site further and learn more 🙂

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  24. Can you explain what is wrong with using furniture? What is the difference between sitting on the floor and sitting on the couch or sitting on a chair at the table? Does it count to sit on the floor leaning against the wall? Is it just as good as sitting on the floor if you pull your legs up, sitting on the couch or chair?

  25. I have to say that I find it really interesting that people seem to forget about their floors and walls while decorating…we have a beautiful 6 by 9 reclaimed cotton rug, beautifully painted walls, and LOTS of hanging artwork as well as beautiful curtains. No one could accuse my home of looking like a college dorm room…and yet all of the furniture we have is for holding THINGS, not people! Maybe a furniture free gallery is in order?

  26. Go you : ) Modern chairs and desks put us all in tiny, anxious poses all day long and we wonder why we’re sad and fat.
    Be free, guys. Remember that a desk job wouldn’t be such an awful thing without the desk.

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