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

132 comments to Minimalist Living: Questioning the Couch

  • Our RV came with a couch that was built for tall people. I can’t sit back and still bend my knees. My feet don’t reach the floor. I’m too old and inflexible to sit on it with my legs folded under me. So, I don’t sit there at all. I wanted to take it out so my DH could put his piano keyboard there. But he sits there to watch movies so it does get used. Plus we use the seatbelts on it to fasten down things while we travel. :)

  • Lis

    I lived without even a mattress before but the floor did get painful, so I got a thin futon mattress and was happy. Now I have a bed and I have to say, I hate it. I feel so far from the ground and like I’m going to roll over and fall off. Kicking a foot out from under the covers and it landing on the floor, instead of floating a couple feet off the ground, is somewhat comforting. I’m working on convincing the husband and cats of this, though. Beds make a good cat hiding place.

  • I lived without a couch for the most of my life, my parents still don’t have it, and probably they won’t buy one ever again and they aren’t even into minimalism, my father thinks it’s healthier to sit on chairs than on a couch :)

  • zabie

    I have a futon couch but I do love to sit on the floor and end up there often. My teen-aged daughter is not of the same lifestyle as I so I keep the futon. We have always been without a car and always lived in small apartments. This was mostly imposed by finances, but it is what I would choose anyway. We also don’t have a lot of “stuff”.

  • Fi Serrago

    I don’t have a couch. I simply do not have room for it. I live in a small condo of 330 sq feet and I have a bed and table and chairs among my 6 pieces of main furniture in the entire place. Upon arriving in my home, my guest(s) see my bed and dive for it! They lounge on it very happily while I sit at the table. It is very cosy and I do not miss having a couch. You can live without one!

  • Peta

    I recently gave my couch to a charity…they even came and picked it up!! I am loving the space.

    Couches seem to have so much extra material like wood and springs and things in them. It is much more than is functionally required for seating. It sort of seems like too much complexity. I like your simply shaped, effective Ikea chairs as a comfortable alternative…and I like the idea of non attachment. I live in a bushfire risk area and have tossed lots of things out, and detached from others so that I now am not concerned if everything goes up in smoke.

  • dirkie

    sorry to say, but I love the couch.
    for me it is the most important item of the living room.

    gr. Dirkie

  • YEA for no couch! My husband & I just moved into a lovely home after being nomadic for a number of years, and upon move in I started thinking about the “Couch”. We currently have a thai mat on the floor( we’re both massage therapists), cushions strewed about and we eat from a low coffee table sitting on pillows. I don’t think we’ll be purchasing a couch anytime soon! I love the zen/bohemian vibe of our new home. I’m equally thrilled to have stumbled upon this wonderful site! Thanks for all the inspiration!
    Blessings & Love

  • CoCoYoYo

    I went without a couch for quite some time when I moved into my first apartment. My parents and siblings weren’t redecorating at the time so no hand-me-downs LOL And while I certainly could have scrounged up a few bucks for something second (or fourth) hand I made two with two plastic Adirondack-style chairs. Was it stylish? HARDLY. But did it serve the purpose? OF COURSE! And thinking back, no one questioned me or commented on my lack of a couch.

  • Di

    We have two couches (one is a love seat) that are both used regularly for sitting and sleeping. However, one thing we have been able to do without for about a year now is a kitchen/dining set. We eat at the kitchen counter bar and when guests come, depending on how many, we take out a card table or folding 6ft table from the garage and bring out the folding chairs. I love the open space in my dining area without the set. I have had large group meals at my home using this method and it works great.

  • Di

    We have two couches (one is a love seat) that are both used regularly for sitting and sleeping. However, one thing we have been able to do without for about a year now is a kitchen/dining set. We eat at the kitchen counter bar and when guests come, depending on how many, we take out a card table or folding 6ft table from the garage and bring out the folding chairs. I have had large group meals at my home using this method. It works great and I love the open space.

  • Peta

    I love this thread..it is really funny hearing about how everybody feels about couches…hehe

  • I hate couches because it doesn’t foster communication. We have two loveseats facing each other. Why loveseats? Because they are good for cuddling a kid and looking at books together. There is an Ikea chair in the room and the piano chair doubles as extra seating for when we have guests.

    A couch in that room would have just taken up space.

    Good points!

  • If it were up to me, I would not have a couch, but my husband really likes having it. We do however keep our furnishings pared down to what is meaningful for us. I’m not a big fan of most furniture in general other than the bare necessities.

  • Pat

    We havedust mite allergies and live in a 1& 1/2 story 500 sq. ft. house(2 BR, 1 & 1/4 bath). I moved the bed downstairs last year for 6 mo. following hip surgery, but prefer the really comfortable rocking chair I’ve had for 20+ years.

  • denise

    i have had comfy arm chairs instead of a couch for years. when i married my husband HAD to have a couch so we bought one and after a few years he agreed with my NO COUCH philosophy and we are back to using comfy chairs. we angle our chairs towards each other and the fireplace so we can enjoy both. visitors enjoy moving the chairs around to make informal conversation groups and our space is much more flexible.

  • We moved to a one bedroom apartment. We did end up getting a sofa-bed to accommodate the occasional overnight guest. Much better that maintaining a two bedroom guest that almost never has a guest. We decided this was the best way to be able to extend hospitality.

    Enjoy the journey!

  • [...] explain your decision to others, let us say it for you. Whether you’re struggling to explain your lack of a couch, your limited number of shoes, or your desire to downsize to a tiny home, you’re sure to find a [...]

  • Aldrea

    I LOVE this post. Though I know some might find it drastic, especially in the city I live in which just revolves around consumerism, I’m going to share it with as many as I can.

    I have moved five times in the past two years, and each time, I lost about half of my ‘stuff’ because last-minute relocating forced me to decide what I could and couldn’t do without. I started out with a tiny room literally overflowing with stuff because my family had that ‘just in case’ packrat mentality and I wasn’t allowed to get rid of anything. I moved on to a fiancee and put a ridiculously large TV, couch, coffee table, TV stand and dining room table we didn’t need on credit cards. When that relationship fell apart, I took my craft supplies, my cat, and the table because the varnish stood up well to all my cutting and hammering of things. However, though my patio closet was stuffed so full the doors had to be tackled and slammed shut, I still ‘needed’ another small TV, a stand for it, a bookcase, side table, sleeper sofa and computer desk (even though all I had was a laptop!)

    Years later, I now live with my (new & improved) fiancee in his family’s house. I have one room, and I confine my personal foods, spices & teas to one of the kitchen cabinets. Thanks to wonderful blogs like yours, my room and my life are beautifully de-cluttered. My entire living space consists of a single room with a single mattress, my work table, desk & chair, [mostly empty] bookcase, and one plastic chest of drawers for my craft supplies. I’ve gotten down to less than 50 hangers in my closet, and I can reach and see everything I have and could possibly need on its shelves, in neatly placed boxes. I have a few boxes in the garage to tackle, but I have donated or given away two large plastic tubs of cooking utensils, endless bags of clothes, and most of the crafting tools and supplies that don’t pertain directly to what I do now.
    When I first moved in with my fiancee, I could barely move around in my room for all the furniture and clothing and junk. Now, I often find him asleep in my tiny bed on the floor, because he claims my room is cooler and calmer than the rest of the house– even his own room, which he spent several hundred dollars to remodel!

  • [...] Sure, there are many who travel the world with as much stuff that fits in a backpack. Some of us do question the need for a couch. Some of us even have fold-away futon beds. However, most of us actually do have a couch to sit on [...]

  • [...] throw pillows for comfort (since they won’t require squishing).  Unless I decide to go the no couch approach, which has its merits.  As for my son, he has enough material in his room to feed his [...]

  • dave peters

    interesting read at this juncture. we just bought a small condo and are considering furniture purchases. i lived on the floor for about 12 years on zabuton and futon. for a while i sat and slept on the floor itself but after about a week i could hardly move. i spent the next few days on a 4 inch thick mattress from Ikea. recovery complete. minimalism is something new to my bride. we’re getting there…
    but what about snuggling on the couch? i don’t know if we can do without this american furniture icon.
    d

  • I have lived in a beach hut for most of the last three decades, and just moved into a home 6 times the size. Yup. it has started to fill up. I am disciplined, and organised, and only use car boots, thrift shops or the tip. But a massive L shaped sofa is the first sofa I have ever owned, so please allow me such a novelty. It, like everything else, is on wheels. I have decided I also have room for a wife or a servant (actually this place is more than I can manage), and that is in hand. Experts say in an old Design book about bedrooms that beds as sold are really unsuitable, so I have made two that can bolt together and are 33 inches high…. because our ancestors found that height the most beneficial…if aged, if athletic, if infested with fleas… and allowing the maximum storage space…on wheels….also, all that air above a low bed is not a luxury, it is plain unneccessary. Anyway, .thanks to all this extra space got for a song, and nature abhoring a vacuumn, ..It looks like I am getting a wife, but thank god for a spare bedroom that is now a “slumber” room offering some sanctuary space and a “difference engine”, as Charles Babbage called it, as the equivalent of a garden shed where a house, a machine for living in, an engine for conviviality, but needs occasional separation of functions to harmonise our differences. Last week I went to a trade show for the gift industry at the National Exhibition Centre…It might help if like me whatever seems attractive you see as only an expression of someone else using (at the planet’s and your expense), plastic, steel. wood or glass (say) and it is not your own design albeit it approximates your peculiar commodity fetishes.
    I did write this; http://www.msbnews.co.uk/archives/msn9p11.html
    a while ago, but I still bought a charity shop sofa on impulse and without all the due diligence I should have. Hmmmm,,Wife can sort it . Tip, check out using NeatsFootOil to treat leather, experiment on a bit that don’t show, treat everything and everyone as the most
    important part of life you have, and nature will fill your horizons.

  • Ashley

    Well I stumbled upon this article much after it was posted, but it’s been very helpful to me. I had been thinking about the long sectional couch we currently have (myself and a small child) and began to wonder – do we need this? It was a steal at the price but it’s been such a pain to try to put in a way that doesn’t take up too much of my living room. And I feel it fosters laziness in our house, not speaking of others here! But with a couch we are more likely to plop down doing things and just not get up when we should. I’ve also slept on it before and I want to use my bed, not the couch. I am planning to pick up a rocking chair or two, and a papasan chair so that way we have a super comfortable chair when needed and other chairs for reading and such. This article was perfect for me to read! Thanks for posting this :)

  • Abby

    my boyfriend and i have been living together for a while, and we do have a cross between a couch and a loveseat, but i’m living on my own for most of this year while i finish school.

    in my living room i have two chairs that are cushioned yet more the size of dining chairs. i got them for $4.50 each at goodwill and will bring them back there when i move out. at times i wish i could curl up like i would on a couch, but i can always prop my legs on the table or move to the floor. my place feels huge because i only have as much furniture as i need, and i hope to incorporate this mentality when we move to a new place this fall!

  • Caroline

    My couch was free, and has a light and airy construction. It was my grandmother’s “Danish” until she died. As lovely as it is, it’s also hard to configure such a large piece in our studio. I like all my furniture as individual pieces (the table brought by my grandparents from Germany that hides the extra leaves in itself, the simple “entertainment center” that holds the TV, Xbox – not mine – and printer, the low storage hutch-thingy my mother bought at a yard sale in the 70s that houses all my office-y stuff), but together the space they take up is bothersome. All of the stuff is inherited, so I couldn’t just get rid of it – I’d have to give it back (and I don’t have a car, so that’s another hassle). It’s kind of the opposite of what normally happens – I’m actually “storing” everything so my mom doesn’t have to store it in her basement. If I had a whole new space in a whole new country, I’d go the Miss M route, but I would check thrift stores / online ads first, only because I don’t need white furniture as badly ;)

  • Sandra Becker

    I have a sofa. My son and guests use it, but I prefer my bed for reclining. I don’t use most of my furniture. I think my minimal requirements are bed with a good mattress, chest of drawers, book shelf, table and supportive desk chair, plus whatever I would need for guests.

  • [...] he eventually moved to the more moderate option, beginning to question all of his possessions. “Do I really need this?” was the question he started to ask himself about all of his [...]

  • Anne

    We live in a small house with 5 of our children. There is no room for a couch. Our sittingroom is our office and we entertain our friends around our kitchen table in the most lived in and alive room of all,which is also our schoolroom.

  • RecoveringDreamer

    I don’t have a bed. I sleep on the floor on a pile of blankets, just like I used to do when I still owned a bed.

    I don’t have a dining room table. My husband and I like to eat on the living room floor while talking or listening to music, and we rarely have people over for diner, so the table was really just a place to drop stuff.

    I also don’t have an ipod, ipad, kindle, laptop, picture phone, netbook or cable hookup.

  • [...] Questioning the Couch (on Miss Minimalist). It’s funny what words stick with a person over the years. As odd as it [...]

  • John

    What a coincidence. I have an Ikea chair very similar to the Poang and nothing else, and I was asking the same question: do I really need a couch? Maybe I’ll just get a couple more and, like the author, call it done.

  • [...] 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 [...]

  • Mary

    When we put our counseling practice in our home, we created a living room out of our old master bedroom. We couldn’t get a proper couch up stairs, so opted for a futon. We have two grown sons who still like to visit, and needed sleeping space. If I had my druthers, so to speak, I would have chosen a couple of great comfy chairs. In shopping for the futon, we were surprised at how furniture had GROWN since we first started out!

  • I moved to a 500 square foot cottage from a 720 sq foot mobile home. Instead of a couch in the mobile home we used a rattan loveseat, but it rarely got used.

    These days my futon is on the floor beside the coffee table and I keep a wooden rocking chair as well as some folding chairs. It works for me.

    Daughter is just starting out after getting married and her husband’s stepmother bought them a huge couch and a loveseat. They are gorgeous but her living room seems like it is bursting at the seams now! I like my few simple pieces of furniture instead!

  • Mia

    Got rid of the couch years ago. Found I would
    Pass out after work for hours and sleep my life
    Away. Instead use a rattan loveseat with padded
    Storage ottoman for footrest. Works perfect. Also
    We do not own any dressers,everything hangs up or
    Goes into baskets on the closet shelf. My teenagers
    And I live in a small 2 bedroom apt. Works out great

  • Adriano

    I hear what you say about a couch getting in the way of conversing, sitting side by side and all that. I used to have three couches arranged in the shape of a letter U, seating comfortably nine people. Now i’m down to one. I think i will get rid of this last one also. When i imagine my ideal space i see an airy loft in some old building in an exiting, culturally inclined city. Bare brick walls and generally a bit rough and worn. As is fitting to a dream the details are scarse, simple clear surfaces but with a warm inviting vibe. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Acorn

    As a family that moves frequently we’ve found each new home has different furniture requirements. So each time we move we give all our furniture away on freecyle and replace it all again with what we need from freecycle. Of course there are items we retain with each move, cooking items, futons, dishes, but all in all it makes moving much easier.

  • Amy

    We lived without a couch for a little over a year. Instead we had three large pillows I made to sit on in the living room that we could move around the house where ever we wanted to take them. Our boys would often pull them into their room, lay them on their bed and sleep on them. They fit underneath the bed in the master bedroom, along with most of our other belongings, when we wanted to clear out the living room for play. We ended up getting a futon because we had a friend who was staying with us for an extended period of time and she wanted something besides the floor to sleep on. We’ve since moved and our futon resides in our garage, not the house.

  • A few years ago I found myself on a personal journey with my three small children, pregnant with number four,(My husband is military and was deploying) and I rented a small cabin with less than 500 sf and the living area was big enough to hold 2 arm chairs, my baby’s bassinet and a small bistro table where my young children spent most of their indoor time.. eating! It was lovely and perfect for my small growing family at the time. I am blessed now with a much larger home and with 5 children, I wish I had a small cabin once again. There is always so much space to clean! My large sectional sofa is much too large and it takes 6 1/2 hours to shampoo after a few midnight snacks and a Crayola marker attack! Less is more. :)

  • [...] junk, I got rid of my TV, I killed the internet at home, I stopped using a dishwasher, I started questioning my possessions, I donated 90% of my stuff, I left corporate America, I cleared my plate, I stopped trying, I got [...]

  • Marie

    Hi,

    I have lived in two apartments without a couch and it wasn’t a problem at all.
    As for the item I can live without, I would say a TV.

    ^^

  • I gave up a couch for cushions when I didn’t want to pay to expense of moving the couches (I had 7!) accross the country. Then I gave up a bed (foam mattress on the floor), the TV, and the microwave. There’s more space in my living room for yoga and I feel more grounded :).

  • Lee Bones

    I’m currently living in a tiny house (185 sq ft), and I don’t have a couch. I have two wooden folding chairs and a tiny matching folding table. I’d actually like to live without chairs some day and sit on mats or cushions like some cultures have in the past.

  • Linda

    We have a couch, but what I have found we can live without is traditional bedding. After taking a three week backpacking trip, I found that I slept incredibly well in my ultralight down sleeping bag. When we got home I felt encumbered by all the sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. I took everything off the mattress except the fitted sheet and got out my sleeping bag and laid it on top of the mattress with one small pillow. Perfect. In the summer the bag is too hot, so I use one light cotton twin quilt, no sheets. It is all I need and it saves so much money – the only bedding I need is a bottom sheet for my mattress and a pillow case.

  • [...] on the internet that have living rooms without couches (like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one), and even this designer says that a couch can be unnecessary.  Sure, I even know [...]

  • Amy

    We’ve lived without traditional beds for years. For a long time it was just a matress on the floor, now it’s a foam mat. We got rid of our couch 2.5 years ago, someone brought a couch over to our place and dropped it off about 9 months ago. We tried it in our living room for a few months but ended up posting it on Craigslist because it just didn’t work for us. I made several pillows that we use to sit on instead. People don’t come over to our house, but if they ever do we have some folding chairs that we use in our dining area they could sit in.

  • Alixandra

    I just renovated an apartment in the alps. I had given away about half of my possessions to the humane society for their annual barn sale and auction prior to moving to europe. I also sold my crate & barrel couch for a fraction of what I originally paid for it. After renovating my apartment here I opted for a futon placed on two tatami mats for the bedroom. This is extremely comfortable and I have always slept on a futon. I had kept my round wood dining table but ordered some nice modern danish chairs to go with it. Very happy with that. There is also an Ikea Poang chair in the living area which is perfect. I spent months looking for a couch and opted for a beautiful wood sofa made in Thailand. It has two ‘wings’ that can fold down and it can be used to sleep on. It too is very comfortable and has a firm futon for the seating part. One small detail: Two years on, I have had a couple of naps on it but have never used it for sitting. I use the Ikea poang chair. I don’t entertain much and now realize it was a complete waste of money to buy. My two small dogs use it, and that’s about it. I plan to sell it, no doubt for half of what I paid….equivalent of about $2,000….Don’t do it!!! :)

  • Oh goodness…I’m getting rid of my couch tomorrow (was planning to buy a new one)…but this post has got me thinking. I think I will explore some options before I go out and buy anything. I have a feeling I’m going to love the room being so bare. Plus it would give my mom and sisters something to talk about – they already think I have crazy ideas. :)

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