Minimalist Living: Questioning the Couch

a(Photo: Knoll)

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!

Related posts:

  1. Furniture Update: A Couch and Table and Chairs, Oh My!
  2. Minimalist Furniture: The Bare Essentials
  3. Casulo: All Your Furniture in One Box

133 comments to Minimalist Living: Questioning the Couch

  • So all this thinking of a no-couch-living-room concept caused me to make a pinterest board of couchless living rooms. I think I’m going couchless!!

    http://pinterest.com/blissfulmindy/minimalism-no-couch-living-rooms/

  • [...] Furniture – With shelter as one of the requirements, I’m assuming you’ll want more than a sleeping bag. Chairs, tables, beds. Maybe couches. [...]

  • Kathleen

    Our family gave up owning a couch when the Basenji ate the last one. It’s been over ten years now and we have no plans to replace either the now deceased couch or now deceased Basenji. The only ones whoever used the couch was the Basenji and one cat.

  • Dean W.

    I’m glad to find this web blog! I have been “waking up” spiritually for several years now. As I progress in my spiritual quest, I also find that certain aspects of my physical life quite naturally change also. One of these “aspects” is POSSESSIONS! They can truly be a heavy burden. For decades I have been moving furniture every time I need to move … just asumming that it’s required to have the typical “stuff” … the couch; table; bed; T.V., etc. To me, these were All burdens!
    To make a long story short, I have now adopted a lifestyle to match my new spiritual lifestyle … which is that of being FREE from mental clutter and mind stuff … free from EGO … realizing my higher Self as my true eternal “Self” as opposed to my lower self which identified TOTALLY with form. As a result, I have cleared my physical surrounings as well … I no longer have the need to comform in any way whatsoever. I now live in a furniture-free apartment … and it is all GOOD! Sleeping on a mat on the bedroom carpet is healthy and I never have back pain anymore (plus no hassle with all the bed clothes, etc). Also, I’m no longer a slave to my couch and to my t.v. remotes that were always waiting for me there on the coffee table. I’m no longer a slave to any of these things. I now have the space for yoga practice; mediation and a lot more. I also feel much more free just knowing that I can pick up and move at any time without being plagued by the concerns of heavy material possessions. Whatever I need to move in the future, I can easily move by myself.

  • Diane Wright

    My sister in law does not have a couch. I didn’t even realize for a while. Her livingroom is very cozy. Four comfy chairs, the usual end tables and lamps. It is my ideal, cozy, comfy and simple.

  • Andrea

    I too have gone through health scare. I have always liked the idea of convertible furniture. Haven’t had a sofa in many years…only 3 chairs. One is an Ikea chair that’s held up well over 20 yrs and 1 antique chair from auction and other is a comfy plastic patio chair. The cat enjoys these chairs as well and I don’t entertain much…prefer to go out instead.
    My dining table is also Ikea and folds into a desk to be pushed against wall, along with 4 foldable patio chairs used as dining chairs. My t.v. broke down, yet no need to replace it and have lived without cable before. Now enjoy only radio and internet. Minimal feels better, lighter, not as tied down. My mom hasn’t had a sofa either for many years. So nice to read others feel same way!

  • [...] el blog Missminimalist leí una entrada titulada Questioning the couch (cuestionando el sofá)  en el que explica por [...]

  • [...] lounge around much these days. I first learned realised I could live without a couch after reading this post from Miss [...]

  • [...] couch, we have two replica Barcelona Chairs. I realised I could live without a couch after reading this post from Miss Minimalist. We can push them together to create a sofa, or we can have them facing each [...]

  • Beccs

    I suffer from back problems and am only 36. The reason I’ve been told by the physio is bad posture. I got rid of my sofa. It is the best thing I have done in helping my back to recover. Instead I have three ikea chairs which are far more comfortable and give far more support. Sofas are positively bad for our posture (unless they are recliner) and unfortunately most people will buy one because they feel they “must” have one without thinking why.

    • I absolutely agree. The first part of the original post bothered me as I’m over 50 and have arthritis (I’m an ardent cyclist, and physically active). It is very hard for me to sit on the floor. Remember that if you have older friends or relatives, unless they grew up in a “low-to-floor” Asian culture.

      Supportive, harder chairs (with some cushioning if you want) are far better.

  • My husband and I live in a mobile home with 6 kids. We have some bookshelves, dressers, and a low table for eating on. Our beds are layered blankets and pillows that are easily put away for the day. I just love to sprawl on the floor; it keeps my joints mobile.

  • Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to stumble across a room full of like minded people. Just moved back to the US from years in SE Asia (all very couch-less living) and am renting in the US for the first time since 2007. The last time I furnished a place here in America, was Venice Beach and the year was 2001/2002. Myself and partner at the time had a papasan instead of a couch with no TV in the room. In SE Asia, all of my homes were a single room indoors, as the beauty of living in tropics was the open air porch or balcony. Again, no TV.

    Here lies the crux of my internal debate of how to furnish my new living room in an 800 square foot, two bedroom, hardwood converted attic apartment back in Atlanta. I still don;t want a television to dominate the layout of the common space, and I still don;t want a big honking couch. This is the first furniture I’ve bought in over 10 years that wasn’t floor cushions and Thai wedges…. and I STILL don;t feel like living in an unholstered world. Too much stuff is no good for my soul.

    Anyway, thanks a million for the post. Will keep my eyes open for more.

  • [...] the living room, I seriously considered not having a sofa after reading this post by  Miss Minimalist, but my housemate made me realise that we were going to entertain often and [...]

  • Haven’t had a couch for about 5 weeks. Ordered a new one, tossed the old one fast just to have a half-empty room for a couple of weeks….and the new couch never arrived.

    I have really liked the half-empty room – wish it was more empty. Been thinking of eliminating 90% of my “stuff” just to have a clearer focus on what is essential to my life. Thought again & again of taking all the “stuff” to a storage facility for at least a year to detox and then I could look at it again or toss it.

    Anyhow – I have enjoyed the breath of space in the house by not having the big furniture. I know soon my gal will find something to fill the space – maybe I should just move to an empty tent in the back yard…???

  • Monica

    I have not one but two couches. No one but guests sit on these couches! My family all sit/lays on the floor! Yesterday I put my dining room set on Craig’s list and almost could not sleep for worry that I “might need it”. We don’t eat at the table. I asked my 10 year old daughter if we should sell it, she said, “yes”. I asked her what would we do with the space she said, “make it into our yoga room”. Smart girl. My son said sleep on it, so I did and after reading this blog I am more convinced than ever that I want to get rid of more stuff, starting with that dining room set!

  • Judy

    I love these ideas! I’ve been thinking of going couchless for a few days because of varies reasons. 1. It smells like doggies :( and 2. Our daughter will fall off of it. I’d rather have something close to the ground that she can climb up on anyway and sit with us and if we get floor cushions or make them I can totally wash em!!!

  • Brickhorse

    I decided not to have a couch in my house several months before I read your posting. I never knew anyone without a couch who was not trying to figure out how to get one, and I thought to get a futon to use as a couch. Reading your post helped me see that no couch isn’t weird; it fits the way I want to live my life. Thanks!

    • Brickhorse

      To clarify, I didn’t get the futon, but got two LazyBoy chairs that can be slept in and are really comfortable. My doctor recommended them to help with back pain. They’re the smaller, trimmer style, and in my small living room, take up little space while providing multiple uses. I’m very happy with them. They also come apart into two pieces, so I am able to move them on my own. Thank you so much for this site.

  • Evie

    I recently got out of a ten-year relationship that was largely based around sitting on the couch wasting my life while my partner played on the computer. He never wanted to go anywhere, and I didn’t see the point in doing fun things on my own if I was in a relationship. After we broke up and I got all of his stuff out, the couch felt like a dirty wound in the middle of my one-bedroom apartment – taking up too much space and constantly reminding me of all the time lost, as well as the negative emotions of resentment and waiting for something that didn’t exist. So I had a friend help me cart it out of the apartment.

    Six months later, I don’t really miss it. There are times when I’m pooped and it would be nice to recline in a throne of cushions while I play with yarn or read, but for the most part the floor does just fine. We have a few big cushions and large stuffed animals that we sit on, and since I don’t have a table, meals are eaten with the plates on our laps. I have a couple of padded folded chairs for company, but most of the time they get in the way so they’re folded up and stashed in the closet. So no, I don’t think it’s strange at all. ^_^

  • Bethany

    I’ve been wanting to throw out my couch for a while. Its L shaped in my dinky apartment and I hate it. I can’t move it around. It is stuck in that one shape and one space. It is like a fixed ugly spot I can’t get rid of.

    I’m going to try to convince my husband to junk it, hopefully reading this article will help him out!
    Thank you!

  • […] will continue to question my stuff. Do I need this couch even though I rarely sit on it? Do I need these jeans when I have two other pairs? Do I need this […]

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t have a couch in my living room. I have one chair, a desk and a book stand and a yoga mat. I have such an open living room for yoga, I love it. I have no need for a couch. No TV? No couch needed.

  • Just recently moved, didn’t have much to begin with. Debating if i wanted living room furniture. I am convinced after reading your article,that I don’t. It’s about staying true yourself. Thank you.

  • Jazz

    I was looking up living without a couch and found this gem….we are moving to hawaii next year and our family of 5 wants to get rid of stuff now, I was considering just selling it all now but didn’t know if we could live without furniture….lol….now I know….off to advertise our yard sale.

  • Bruce Cornely

    First off…. The Poang chair looks wonderfully comfortable and it’s clean lines allow it to enhance minimalist decor. I receive, almost daily, photographs of “minimalist” interiors with sofas that approach the size of box cars and have a heaviness that obscures the rest of the room. Re the couch…. have you noticed that usually when people sit on a couch they sit at one end to have a place to rest an arm? The Poang chair offers both support for the back and a comfortable position for legs, but also a place for arms to rest in a natural position. I am basically couchless and have them because a) one belonged to my grandmother and b) one is part of a very special Victorian set from years past. Only the ends of the sofa are used and I especially enjoy the posture re-inforcement. Most of my time is spent in the “he-chair” in the Victorian room. But MOST of my time is spent in a zero-gravity chair. I really like furniture that enhances minimalism, especially that folds-up and can be out of the way. Thanks for your article. Interesting and very thought-provoking, in addition to letting me know that I’m not alone! ;-)

  • P Trout

    We don’t have a couch, because we did not replace our old one when it broke. I did not think it was a big deal not to have a couch until my kids asked when are we getting a new couch because we want to be like normal people.

  • Hi i am a MA interior design student at northumbria university in newcastle and my project is about building a living room without tv and building more converstaions within. could you give me more details on this if have any refernces? or could you explain your idia os this?
    Waiting for your reply

    regards,
    radhika

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