Minimalist Living: Questioning the Couch

Have you ever been in a house without a couch?

I don’t think I have. I’ve thought about my friends’ houses, my relatives’ houses, and my neighbors’ houses. I’ve thought about all the places in which I’ve lived, from childhood until now. I’ve thought about the homes I’ve seen on TV, in movies, and in magazines.

From modest studios to million-dollar McMansions, from inner cities to suburbs to out-in-the-sticks, you’d be hard-pressed to find a living room without a couch.

In considering the subject, I realized that our sofa has always been the key piece of our décor. When we looked for houses or apartments, we’d wonder how the layout would accommodate it. After we moved in, we’d spend time experimenting with its optimum orientation (against the wall? at an angle? facing the window or TV?) In some cases, we even bought a new one because the old one didn’t suit the style or size of our new digs.

So naturally, after we found a flat in the UK, one of the first issues to arise was that of a couch. We’d lived without a single piece of furniture for two weeks (minimalist heaven!), but our backsides were growing a bit numb from sitting on the wood floors.

Personally, I would have purchased a couple of floor cushions and called it a day. No matter how comfortably a room is furnished, I usually end up on the floor anyway. I simply feel more relaxed on the ground—and whether I’m eating, reading, or surfing the net, that’s where you’ll usually find me.

It seemed unfair, however, to deny my husband (and potential guests) more proper seating—and so our hunt for a couch began. We spent a weekend searching online, and visiting furniture stores, to find the perfect sofa for our new flat. We looked at every type imaginable—from futons to loveseats to sectionals—and tried to imagine how they’d look in our open-plan living room.

We had just about settled on one with a mid-century modern design, when my husband suddenly asked, “Do we really need a couch?” (Whoa. Is it any wonder I love him so?)

Do we really need a couch? Hmm. Good question. We took a break from shopping, and talked it over. We didn’t have a TV, so we weren’t sure what our couch would face. Furthermore, we’d always have to sit side-by-side, instead of face-to-face—unless, of course, we bought some additional chairs. The more we thought about it, the less appealing a couch seemed to be. Not to mention that it would likely require more pieces of furniture to balance it out.

We concluded that not only didn’t we need a couch; we didn’t even want one.

But would that be weird? We wondered what our landlord, guests, or family would think when they came to visit, and found an empty space where the sofa should be. But then we reasoned: we were already considered somewhat eccentric for quitting good jobs, getting rid of everything we owned, and moving to a foreign country. Why not go for broke and confirm our (already-suspected) quirkiness? Why not live in a house without a couch?

So instead of arranging delivery on a heavy, expensive sofa (the resale of which we would someday have to orchestrate), we decided on a more lightweight, mobile, and versatile option: we threw two Ikea Poang chairs and a coffee table into our Mini, and were on our way. And thus we completed the task of furnishing our flat.

I’m certainly not suggesting that minimalists can’t have couches. My point, rather, is that we should think about why we own what we do. We should make our possessions fit our lifestyle, instead of the other way around. We shouldn’t feel pressured to own things just because it’s expected, or because everyone else has one. We should feel free to own only those things that meet our needs (no matter how strange that may seem to anyone else!).

In our case, a sofa doesn’t meet our needs at this particular place, and at this particular time, so we’ve simply decided not to own one.

So what items have you decided you don’t need to own? I’d love to hear about them!

161 comments to Minimalist Living: Questioning the Couch

  • This is absolutely true! sometimes we have stuff because is normal to have it (or because everybody does) adn we never think if we really need it.
    For example I got married and started living in a rental, as the apartament was not the place where we were going to live “forever” we never bought the couch, and I got really used to being without a couch, it was never necessary!. Now, a year later, finally we bought our own apartament and although I wanted to be without couch we bought it as we got more visits.

  • ilja

    my grandparents never had a couch and in my first two appartements I didn’t want one, but in my current house I have one, I like laying on it but I don’t know if I would take it with me if I move again

  • julie

    I love how your minimalism intersects with Katy Bowman’s movement ecology. Less stuff = more movement. She doesn’t have a couch because it brings more movement into her life when she and her family sit on the floor.

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