This post from July 2013 was updated and republished in 2019 to reflect our continuous household modifications, and include multiple resources for going furniture free!
Hi. My name is Katy and I live in an (almost) furniture free house. Ok, not really. My house isn't entirely furniture free, it's really just couch and easy-chair free. We have tables and art and a stove and fridge and cupboards and bookshelves. Over time the tables have gotten lower (so no kitchen or dining room chairs) and we've gone through various bedding (read some of my sleep equipment journey below) to the point that we just sleep on the floor. We have a dynamic home office with standing desks, ball chairs, and a low table, a squatting platform around our toilet, and when our kids were little we built monkey bars to keep us all moving year round. They're not that little any more and we still use the monkey bars almost daily. We have a river rock foyer to move the small joints of our feet as we come and go. So not furniture-free at all, but it's true about the chairs. We left our seats behind years ago and never looked back.
We've made these home modifications because we wanted more movement. I study movement which includes how the body reacts when there's not much of it. After helping the zillionth person with corrective exercises for their ankles, knees, hips, and lower back—exercises that are really just elements of the movements one uses to sit upon, get up and down off the floor: calf stretching, hip openers, quad stretches—I said ALRIGHT, I GET IT. We're using these exercises to replace movements that used to occur naturally. Why style my house in a way that's gotten rid of so many movements only to have to do them all later, after something in my body is broken?
We made the change just as we were about to have our first kid. First off, my water broke while sitting on the couch, so that was a no-brainer (Free couch! Small water stain!). Then we moved out of state, and it made a lot of sense to make the house more accessible to kids. Lower tables meant fewer head bonks and their ability to be with us vs. us above the kids. It also meant more space! More space for moving around on the floor, so our small house felt like it had the luxury of ample room. "Furniture-free" kept our kids out of chairs and squatting (jumping, leaping, cartwheeling) on the floor vs. adapting to chairs. It was a minimal change that naturally facilitated more physicality by not facilitating less with so many places to sit.
For natural-living lovahs, food seems to be the greatest focus. Movement, for some reason, has become secondary. In the same way that a single whole-food meal doesn't constitute a healthy diet, a daily bout of exercise does not constitute a healthy movement plan. You are what you eat but you are also "what you move."
The elimination of furniture was a way for use to take a step closer to more natural human movement all day. It's an easy step because it does not require more time to move more when you live without furniture. It is also a difficult step because it is hard to wrap our minds around the fact that furniture, while completely conventional, is entirely unnatural for the human body.
To show you that this arrangement isn't super-freaky (at least to me), take a video tour of my house!
You can also see a tour of my house earlier in the furniture-free process below.
Our home is not devoid of furniture because we don't love it. I love furniture as much as I love ice cream. Which is why I'm all over both on vacation. But think of it this way: If you were trying to eat less ice cream would you stuff your freezer with it? Probably not. I want to move my body more, so stuffing my house with ways to move it less makes no sense to me. This is an early version of the way we did "furniture free."
Finally, our last big change to our house was another change to our sleeping room, not only for the firmer surface but also because it gave us more space (a full room's worth!) and all the movement setting it up and taking it down again.
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Just finished an(other) interview on why we sleep on the floor and why we're pretty minimal in the furniture department and I mentioned that it's not only getting down and up to the floor, it's also the routine of schlepping 30 pounds of bedding twice a day. And it's also the extra space that allows for more movement when you're not using the furniture, e.g. this bedroom is also a cartwheel room, a handstand room, a dog-tackle room, a place to boogie, a place to stretch out. More on #furniturefree and pressure deforming movements linked in my bio. #moveyourdna #letthemmovetheirdna #puppiesofinstagram
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So, kids grow up and want their own rooms, so you have to change the sleeping room/playroom/office situation to kid 1 room/kid 2 room/bedroom-office hybrid. THANKFULLY we sleep on the floor (sheepskins, sheets, comforter) so now my bedroom and office are dynamic in the sense that I have to switch between the two every day. Double the room when you can hang your bed in the morning. (Maybe this might come in handy when you're trying to figure out how to maximize space and movement?) #dynamiclivingspace #dynamicworkspace #dontjustsitthere #dontjustsleepthere #furniturefree #moveyourdna (PS This is a special "very clean" situation because I just moved it all in.)
Want to move in this direction, but don't know where to start?
Check out Your Gear Guide To Going Furniture Free for ideas on what you might need (or just need to get rid of).
You can read up on my sleep equipment journey
It took me a long while to get where we are today. Luckily, I wrote down what were were doing along the way.
What we lack in seats, we make up for in journalists coming to our house to check out a more dynamic living space. You can read some of these articles (and see more pictures) here:
This Family Traded Mattresses for Monkey Bars—Good Housekeeping Magazine
Nourish Your Body Through Movement—Prevention Magazine
The Movement Movement—Pacific NW Magazine, Seattle Times
Furniture-free Living—London Times
You Don't Need More Exercise, You Need To Move—Quartz News
There's a couple other reasons we like keeping our home less cushiony. First of all, it not only gives our limbs more movement taking us to and from the floor, it moves all the parts of us that are sitting, squatting, and rolling on the floor (what I call pressure-deforming movements). Second, it makes going outside so. much. easier. Because in the end, our search for "natural living" is about increasing our interaction with and skill set in nature. The less our house feels like one giant marshmallow, the easier it is for all of us to decide to go outside and get comfortable.