I Tried Furniture-Free Living for a Week to See if I Felt Healthier

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(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

Minimalism is all the rage in decor. From Marie Kondo to the airy white images floating around Instagram, it’s hard to escape the burgeoning love for simple living. I used to joke with colleagues that soon, the new minimalist trend would be to toss out your furniture.

Well friends, it’s finally happened.

The furniture-free movement is the newest home decorating trend—and it’s all in the name of optimal health and minimalist living. The idea is that with fewer places to sit and more room to move, you’ll start to live a more active life, overall.

The concept of totally removing your furniture just to get a little movement in the day seemed so outlandish at first. But I decided before I could really comment on the lifestyle, I had to try it myself. For one week, I needed to wholeheartedly embrace the furniture-free lifestyle, then I could decide whether the trend should stick.

My Initial Thoughts:

I was trying not to be a pessimist, but I went into this expecting to hate every minute. Sure, I want to be healthier, but I love coming home to my couch at the end of the day. I’m all for minimalism, but this just feels so extreme. After finally reaching the point where I have matching furniture, I’m loathe to abandon it.

And while I tried to be open-minded, living furniture-free almost felt unnecessarily elitist to me. Maybe that’s just my gut reaction that rose from defensiveness after being told that my whole lifestyle is unhealthy. You don’t know me, science! My sitting all day is FINE.

Not to be dissuaded from my task, I sat down and made a list of rules for this process.

The Rules:

Different proponents of this lifestyle, paleo lovers and biomechanists among them, approach furniture-free living a little differently. Overall, the consensus is that staying in one position without supporting yourself is to be avoided. Goodbye chairs, and hello tree stumps and yoga balls.

Some furniture-free proponents transition to even sleeping on the ground, but for the sake of having energy for this experiment, I am allowing that bit of furniture and keeping my bed. Also, instead of removing all of my household furniture—and causing my husband undue anxiety—I decided to simply remove the more easily modular items. Guest seating and end tables were stored away (in our duplex’s garage) in favor of floor space.

Based on this, here were my rules:

  • Stand or walk for 70 percent of my waking day
  • Sit, supporting myself, for a maximum of 30 percent of my day
  • Avoid all furniture, except for my bed
  • Standing is good, but moving is better
  • Walking is great
  • Sitting is only allowed on the floor at home or yoga ball at work

I made tracking the time easy on myself—I planned to stand majority of the day at work (I took 15 minute “sitting breaks”) and keep mostly standing until an hour or two after dinner. It wasn’t an exact formula, but it worked for me. If I was super tired in the morning, I would just add an extra 15-minute sit break and deduct it from the end of the day.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Brentnie Daggett)

Day One:

I started on a Monday. In preparation, I bought an anti-fatigue mat for my new standing desk and generally complained to my family and friends about the task at hand. No one had sympathy; I added “adopt a new family” to my list of furniture-free tasks.

The first day was hard. I had to turn around halfway through my commute; I had forgotten my mat and my coffee at home. (Both were vital.) After a couple hours, standing started to feel tiring and even boring. I imagine if I was working at a job where I was moving more that I would have felt less antsy, but as it was, I just wanted to veg out while writing.

At home, I was organically moving around to cook dinner and tidy the house which was a natural distraction from the challenge and helped to dissipate my nervous energy from earlier. For dinner, I sat on the carpet with a picnic blanket; my preschooler was a glad participant in the floor picnic adventure. My husband? Not so much.

Day Two:

Day two was uneventful but not easier. I attend a bi-weekly dance class, and already go on regular walks… but my feet were hurting.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Brentnie Daggett)

Day Three:

I had anticipated that by day three I would acclimate to the furniture-free life. I was horribly wrong. My feet already hurt terribly, and I had ballet later that day. Worse still, my coworkers knew about my furniture-free commitment.

Pro-tip: If you want to stick to a goal, loudly announce your plans in an office meeting. I counted that 25 people would have to disappear to “swim with the fishes” before there was no one left who knew about my experiment. Join me later when I experiment with keeping my mouth shut for a week.

Day Four:

Day four was, surprisingly, a lot easier. Maybe I really had made it over the furniture withdrawal phase and was on my way to a healthier life. I had less difficulty staying focused at work and even had the energy to go on a bike ride that evening. I did feel antsy after dinner, while watching a movie. Sitting around isn’t nearly as appealing on the floor, apparently.

Day Five:

On day five, I was bored of being healthy. I just wanted to sit in front of the television, binging on Netflix and an unimaginable amount of pizza. Yet, I soon realized I actually had gotten the hang of it. I definitely felt a spark of energy at work, and didn’t feel as lackluster during the afternoon slump. Instead of feeling tired at the end of the day, I was itching to do something active.

Day Six:

Over the weekend, I was excited about getting outside, but simultaneously, was nervous about an entire weekend without furniture. The trick seemed to be getting out of the house as much as possible, which I think is part of the point of going furniture-free.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Brentnie Daggett)

Day Seven:

Everything went well until day seven. I was in a bit of a funk, and simply wanted to curl up and be sad on the couch. I groaned inwardly as I decided to take a walk. This was completely against my natural inclination. Admittedly, it wasn’t the holy grail of mood-changers. However, sulking until an eventual Netflix binge never did me any favors. The walk was arguably a better choice, and I never would have done it if I wasn’t forced off of my furniture.

My Takeaways:

Once I had made it through my last day of furniture-free living, I reflected on the week and realized… I did feel healthier. Plus it was satisfying to accomplish something completely outside my comfort zone. I might go back to furniture-free living every few months (like a Whole30-style reset button), but by the end of this week, I was greeting my furniture like I would an old friend.

As I transition back to everyday life, I’m going to aim for balance instead of Total Comfort Omission. I admit the open floor space has been nice, though, so I’ll probably permanently abandon a few unnecessary furniture items and get back a little more room for activities.