Sporty and I are all about lifestyle experiments.
That is to say, I come up with a hairbrained scheme and Sporty agrees to go along for the ride.
When I saw Rich Roll’s interview with natural lifestyle coach Tony Riddle, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of furniture-free living.
Sporty rolled her eyes, but reluctantly agreed that it might be worth looking into.
With all the health benefits the lifestyle promised, how could she not?
Annoyingly, finding an unfurnished apartment in an area we liked proved tricky. In the end it took three subsequent moves before we finally found something that ticked the box.
Sporty was torn. She loved the apartment, but she also recognised that it meant we’d be taking up residence on the floor.
Fortunately, our new abode is part of an old farmhouse and has gorgeous wooden floors, perfect for lounging about on.
The apartment was completely empty, bar for a small dining room table and some chairs. I’m not sure why the landlord chose to leave those in it, but we appreciated the buffer it presented for our new ground living experiment.
As someone who still works old school (chair and desk), it was a relief to know I’d be able to ease into this way of living.
Sporty’s been using a standing desk for a couple of years now, but I think she also appreciated the ‘security’ of having something to sit at should the floor prove too low to contemplate on any given day.
What Exactly Is Furniture-Free Living?
Furniture-free living essentially means eschewing traditional creature comforts in the pursuit of a healthy body and a potentially clutter-free environment.
I say potentially, because ditching the couch and bed doesn’t automatically mean there won’t be clutter. But that’s the idea. It’s a way to free up your space and in turn, free up your mind.
Fortunately, clutter isn’t an issue for Sporty and I. For us, adopting this lifestyle has more to with healthy aging. We’re in our early to mid-fifties, so we definitely need to focus on keeping our bodies in a user-friendly state.
Ultimately though. I’d say furniture-free living is about creating space. Space to move, space to live in alignment with our true nature, space to just be. How that looks will be different for everyone.
Why Live in a Furnitureless Apartment?
Going furniture free makes for a less cluttered home, but essentially it’s for the betterment of your body. As Nick says in the video above, chair time is basically training hip immobility. However uncomfortable it might feel to hang out on the floor, it’s worth sticking with it for that reason alone.
Convenience is overrated. We’ve been programmed to believe it’s a good thing, but is it? I’d argue not. If anything, it’s making us lazy. It also comes at a cost. Whether that’s to our health, our bank account or the environment, quick and easy isn’t cheap.
Living without furniture makes you rethink the way you do things. It gets you out of your habitual way of life. It stops lazy in its tracks, making you hardier and more agile in the process.
If nothing else, it teaches you to engage your core. We’ve definitely noticed an improvement in this area. We’re generally fit and active, but like most humans, we’re prone to slouching when the opportunity presents itself.
Without a backrest to fall back on, you have no choice but to hold yourself upright. We do lean against the wall while enjoying our morning cup of Joe in bed (we’re not masochists), but for the most part we sit upright.
The 3 Benefits of Furniture-Free Living
There are three distinct areas that can benefit from forgoing furniture and spending more time on the floor. Each of them has merit, but for most people the health advantages are the main drawcard.
1. Health Benefits
Probably the biggest advantage of spending more time on the floor is that it significantly improves hip and feet mobility. It also strengthens your core, as I mentioned earlier, and it engages your muscles in different ways.
Getting up from the floor takes more effort than getting out of bed or up off the couch. You become stronger as a result. Specifically, your quads and butt kick in to help you up.
The trick is to rise up from a squatting position rather than transferring to something akin to all-fours and relying on your hands and arms to push you back up to standing.
It’s harder and you’ll have to use your hands a little to begin with, but the more you practice rising from a squat, the stronger you’ll get. Eventually you’ll just be able to stand up without using your hands at all.
An added benefit of engaging the bigger muscles more consistently is that it aids in lymph drainage. And given the sheer volume of work the lymphatic system has to contend with on a daily basis, why not give it a hand?
2. Financial Benefits
If you don’t already own furniture, living on the ground will save you a lot of money. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a futon, a small table and some cushions than it is to kit your home out with the usual items: couch, bed, dining room table, chairs, etc.
And if you have furniture at the moment, you could sell it and earn yourself some extra cash to eliminate debt or fund your coffee habit. Don’t be too hasty in getting rid of your furniture as it’ll cost a lot more to replace it if you change your mind about ground living.
3. Environmental Benefits
Finally, there are distinct benefits to the environment when you decide not to buy furniture. Most people can’t afford to shell out on top quality eco-friendly furniture, opting instead to go with budget decor.
Unfortunately, while it might be easy on your wallet, fast furniture is an environmental fiasco. Ground living means you avoid adding to the more than 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings annually that Americans throw out each year.
How to Create a Movement-Rich Home
Bestselling author, speaker, and a leader of the Movement movement, biomechanist Katy Bowman is a huge proponent of, well, movement. In this tour of her house Katy shows just how easy (and fun) it can be to incorporate movement into everyday life.
She has lots of interesting and clever tips for creating a living space that’s focused on health and movement. If you’ve got kids and a house full of furniture be sure to check out her video to see how she approaches furniture-free living as a family.
Sporty and I went cold turkey on quitting furniture, but our situation gave us little choice. It was either that or rent another furnished apartment and we definitely didn’t want to do that again.
Renting furnished invariably means living with other people’s clutter.
It was simple enough to do since we already had a couple of camping mattresses to sleep on. We also had our yoga mats, so all we’ve bought so far are two cushions to make sitting a little more comfy.
Now that we’ve been living like this for a couple of months, the next step is to find a low desk to work at. The table has been helpful, but I’m keen to stop using it now.
If you live in a furnished home, try spending more time on the floor. Eat a meal on the ground (start with something easy like a smoothie bowl). Watch the first 15 minutes of a movie sitting cross-legged on a cushion. Lie on your stomach and read for a bit.
Whatever you routinely do, see if you can carry out part of that activity on the ground. However you approach it, it’s important to make it easy and inviting to sit on the floor.
Like I said, we have beautiful wooden floors that make the prospect of sitting on the floor super inviting. We’ve also got cushions and yoga mats to soften the landing, as it were.
The point is to make it enjoyable. You can’t expect to be happy sitting on bare tiles, for example. There are plenty of things you can buy to improve the experience, but be mindful of buying too much, too soon.
Take it slow. Start with what you need and see how you go. Otherwise, all you’ll end up doing is adding unnecessary clutter to your home and it would be nice to avoid that if possible.
Movement-Friendly Furniture and Accessories
As you’ll notice from our apartment, you can get by with very little. We plan on getting more things as we go, but we’re taking it slowly to make sure that when we do buy something we’ll actually use it.
The items listed below could make us more comfortable and probably improve aesthetics as well. For now, the two things we’re most keen on getting are desks and a rebounder. Both of which we could sell if we decide to leave here and live in a van, which is an idea we’re toying with.
Our camping mattresses work well, but I could see us splashing out on a traditional Shiki futon at some point. It would work well in the van, too.
Our cushions do the trick, but when Nick suggested sitting on a buckwheat yoga cushion we immediately added it to our wish list.
Extra Large Yoga Mat
I mean, given how much time we’re spending on them, upsizing to an extra large yoga mat is super appealing. Not practical at the moment, but appealing nonetheless.
A bamboo laptop table is one of the two items we’ll more than likely be buying in the next little while. It can also double as a dining slash coffee table and you know how we minimalists love our stuff doing double duty.
We’re looking for other ways to increase our exercise and movement and mini trampoline seems like a good candidate. It’s not very big and comes with a host of health benefits. Plus, it’s fun!
Having an adult version of these monkey bars in the living room is probably not most people’s idea of how to use up their living space, but it definitely appeals to me. It’ll never happen, but it’s fun to dream.
Our Ground Living Experience So Far
Two months isn’t especially long and although we’ve been enjoying it, we didn’t feel like furniture-free living had made that much of a difference. Serendipitously, our friends asked us to kitty sit for them last week.
I think we were both wondering if we’d regret our latest move after spending a week in the lap of luxury.
Our friends have a really lovely home with all the creature comforts and Sporty and I were especially excited about sleeping on the uber deluxe spare room bed.
Spoiler: It was a total anit-climax. We did not sleep well at all.
Being so new to this lifestyle, we’re still habituated to chair-living. Apart from yoga and meditation, we spent no time on the ground whatsoever.
By the end of the week we could definitely feel the toll it had taken on us. We actually felt creakier. Crazy, right!? Or maybe not.
Experiencing such a significant shift so early on in our ground living experiment brought it home just how beneficial it’s been for us to spend more time sitting on the floor and sleeping so close to the ground.
Simple activities such as making the bed are significantly easier to perform. We don’t use our hands as much for balance or to get back up again. Perhaps more telling, there are no effort noises.
You know, those grunts and groans synomymous with aging.
We were both incredibly happy to come home to our sparsely kitted out little pad. Living with less stuff is incredibly freeing. Our friends have all the mod cons, but to be honest, we found it overwhelming.
There’s something to be said for the simple life of the furniture free minimalist. Free home, free life. We like it.