Parenting Against the Grain: Going Furniture-Free

June 4, 2014

Friends, I’m really interested to hear your thoughts about my interview today with Katy Bowman. I first encountered Katy a few years ago when SlowMama contributor Ann Waterman interviewed her about pelvic floor disorder (PFD) — a topic on which Katy is an expert. Ann’s post became one of the most popular we ever ran. In this second installment of my new series, Parenting Against the Grain, Katy talks to me about an unusual lifestyle choice her family has made and how it has changed their life. Hope you enjoy it!

Katy Bowman Family
Zoe Saint-Paul: Welcome, Katy! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. 

Katy Bowman: I am a 38-year-old, full-time biomechanist with an 18-month-old girl and a 3-year-old boy. I am a writer (books and blogger), as well as a professional biomechanics consultant for footwear and sports-equipment companies (like Gaiam). I am also the director of the Restorative Exercise Institute — an organization offering online education in the biomechanics of natural human movement for optimal human function. My husband and I both work primarily from home (a situation we spent years creating), and we share the workload of day-to-day and professional life, although we both have areas in these arenas that we prefer.

Biomechanics is a new term for me — and, I suspect, for many others. What is it, exactly?

Biomechanics is the study of living structures (I study the body) and how the forces created by and placed upon them affect how they work.

You made the unusual decision to go without furniture in your home — “furniture-free,” you call it. Why?

As a biomechanist, I understand the relationship between musculoskeletal function and the immune system, bone robusticity (density and shape), and functions like digestion and breathing. Having furniture isn’t an option for us, in the same way a cupboard full of junk food isn’t an option for many others. Furniture creates a development-crippling environment in that the stuff literally shapes our body, both in the now and in the future.

Bowman Living Room
So take us on a tour through your home so we can get an idea of what going furniture-free actually looks like. Do you still sleep in beds? Have a sofa? Where do you sit for meals?

No sofa. We have a low table, similar to the traditional Japanese style, where you can sit on the floor — although, full disclosure, we rarely use it. We just eat on the floor off a platter, similar to a Middle Eastern style of dining. Only we don’t have any cool rugs; we just put our food on a towel.

We do have mattresses on the floor but don’t use pillows. Both my husband and I prefer the floor, and we noticed our kids sleep better on the ground as well, so we’ve just started phasing the beds out. They’re still in our house, but we just make bedrolls every night instead. Probably the most unique feature of our house is our indoor monkey bars. Built by my husband (no, there are no blueprints, in case you’re wondering!), this contraption covers a wall of our living room and is dynamic in form. We add rings, ladders, and ropes to keep it constantly different, and we can change the height of the bars. In the same way many families center their life around traditional food and eating, our family is centered around movement.

Bowman Jungle Gym
How does furniture-free living fit into your style of parenting as a whole?

Natural movement is at the heart of both my and my husband’s professional work, so it’s naturally at the heart of our lifestyle. There are many variables covered by the umbrella of “natural,” but our priority is the mechanical environment — specifically, the epigenetic factors of movement and position. This means we walk most places, carry our kids and stuff in our arms (no strollers or carriers), don’t wear anything but minimal shoes, and have eliminated furniture — including chairs and couches.

I’m curious how this decision has affected your day-to-day family life. Have you seen changes in your children and/or in your parenting?

I think many believe that going furniture-free will make them seem odd to their friends and family — and maybe it will. We’re the only people we know without furniture, but I’d have to say that our house is super-popular with the kids, and, surprisingly enough, people love to stretch out on cushions at our parties. They can’t help but stretch and twist on the floor once they’re down on it. It’s a groovy atmosphere, baby.

Perhaps not directly related to parenting, our home is less cluttered, easier to clean, and instead of needing to go to yoga class for permission to get on the floor and sit cross-legged or do a twist, I do these things way more often. This makes all of us happier in general: As a kid, I dreaded all the chores I had to do, like dusting, simply because my mom liked lots of knick-knacks. Living on the floor has made it easy for my husband and I to stay strong and flexible because we’re essentially getting our “workout” all day long, in short and easy doses. It’s perfect for a working and stay-at-home mom and dad who, frankly, don’t have time to drive for 90 minutes to do something for an hour.

And our kids! They aren’t adapting their body shape to bucket seats and furniture. They aren’t being shaped by modern living as much. Typically, all that natural squatting and foot-arch formation starts to wane in modern populations due to the effects of excessive sitting. Just as we have with junk food, we’ve eliminated “junk movement” from their daily diet. Sure, sweets and sitting are great now and then, but sitting on your couch or chairs for hours every day does just as much if not more damage than sugar for every meal.

Tight Rope Walking
We move, as a family, 4-5 hours per day. These hours are logged outside but also inside, stimulated by an environment that begs us to explore the wide-open space of our living room or the nooks and crannies of the bars and rings hanging from the ceiling. Our kids could both walk a mile (slowly) and hang on their own arms by age one, which I fully credit to their mechanical environment.

Do you think going furniture-free will be the next trend in healthy, natural living?

Many people haven’t studied movement in the same way they’ve studied food, but once people become aware of just how much their bodies and health are shaped by their mechanical environment, going without furniture won’t be so “out there.” I also like to point out that most of the world is furniture-less (certainly when it comes to chairs and couches), including modern and industrialized nations. Getting rid of the sitting devices in your house is certainly a step, but it’s like taking a step back — which is the case in many of these “natural” decisions, yes? Back to the basics, which turn out to be the essentials.

Bowman Family
If someone finds this idea appealing but a little intimidating, where do you suggest they begin? What benefits do you think they’ll notice?

A great place to start, without needing to get rid of your furniture, is to implement a “let’s sit on the floor” rule during living-room time. Instead of playing games around the table, play them on the ground. Throw an impromptu carpet-picnic for dinner — or, better yet, eat outside on the ground. This opens the dialogue between you and your kids. Something like, “Did you know most people all over the world don’t sit at a table to eat? Or have couches? What does it feel like to use your body in a different way? Are you uncomfortable? Our bodies have become shaped by our chairs, and that’s not as good for us as bodies that can get down and up comfortably!” Then try getting up and down a few times as a group to see what it’s like for each of you! Meeting your family on an entirely new level, in a different context, not only immediately changes the loads to your body, it changes the loads to your mind. Things really do look different from the ground!

*******

Katy, thank you for giving us a window into your family’s life. This definitely gives me a lot to chew on, especially as I think about what kind of house and space we might want as a family in the future.

Friends, what do you think? Would you ever get rid of your furniture? Does Katy’s lifestyle inspire any ideas for your own family?

PS — If you’re interested to learn more about why movement is so important for good health, check out Katy’s Paleo Parenting video course. Also, if you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out the first installment of Parenting Against the Grain: my interview with the Harteau family about being modern nomads.

Images: Katy Bowman

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1 MJ June 4, 2014 at 10:56 am

Just for some perspective I thought this was interesting:
http://www.mykoreanhusband.com/imagine

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2 Zoe Saint-Paul June 5, 2014 at 10:50 am

I can imagine missing certain kinds of furniture if I liked in a different country. I don’t know that I’d ever prefer sleeping on a floor, for instance, because I’ve done it in the past and didn’t sleep well.

However, I think what makes the difference is the mind-set. The Bowman’s choice is intentional and for a greater purpose so they don’t experience going without pieces of furniture as a deprivation. Not to speak for Katy, but I’m guessing she might say the Koreans are benefiting from their furniture-less living without perhaps even realizing it.

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3 Katy Bowman June 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

Also, there’s a difference between sleeping on the floor for a night (think: sore back after camping) and slowly transitioning the body. You’d be sore after the first few times you work out, but that’s because your body is adapting, adding muscle, mobilizing blood and connective tissue. Floor loads (pressure created by your weight on the ground are all part of the natural experience of the human. Now we go to a massage therapist to push on us in a controlled way, but interacting with the ground does the same type of thing. In this way it’s not really my mindset that makes it more comfortable (although it helps to know where the discomfort is coming from) but my level of conditioning. I’ve been doing it, in stages, over time. Read this for a better physiological description: http://www.katysays.com/your-pillow-is-an-orthotic/

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4 Zoe Saint-Paul June 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm

The gradual process of adapting makes sense. Though I’m not sure how it explains that with each passing month of sleeping with my daughters in their much harder mattress, I had more and more hip pain and body soreness. But I think that may have been because there wasn’t enough room for me to get my knees up high enough, which is how I’ve slept, like, forever.

When I mention “mindset” above, I’m referring to how actively CHOOSING something for greater reasons makes the difference. So, if I loved eating McDonalds and found myself in northern Ethiopia for a lengthy period of time, I might really miss my McDonald’s fix. But if I’ve chosen not to eat McDonald’s because I greatly value my health — even if I loved the taste of those fries — I won’t experience the loss as a deprivation. In other words, choosing to go without furniture (even if you liked your comfy sofa) is different than being “forced” to do without it.

Maybe that’s complicating the whole thing, but it makes sense to this tired brain! :-)

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5 Josh June 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

Having slept on a few kid mattresses, I can easily say that they are probably the worst thing for an adult to sleep on; sparsely spaced springs, not enough room, and what little support there is is overwhelmed by anything more than 50lb. Try laying a couple blankets on the floor next time as an experiment.

To marry yours and Katy’s analogies, I think what Katy is getting at is that if you eat McDonalds every day for years, then switch to fresh organic vegetables, your body would complain because it wouldn’t be getting what it expected.
Of course, no one would reasonably argue that McDonalds is better for you, but the person who had just had a bad reaction to veggies might understandably be suspicious of the advice to stop eating McDonalds.

6 Amy June 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm

How do you nurse? Laying down? I seem to have trouble nursing out of a chair.

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7 Katy Bowman June 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I nurse in many varying positions (including positions I NEVER IMAGINED!) :) http://breakingmuscle.com/family-kids/beyond-babywearing-mechanical-nutrients-for-babies-and-parents

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8 Lauren June 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm

This is so great! I just love when people follow their intuition and strive to live better based on what they have learned or believe to be right, despite convention in the US. If it were up to my husband, we would have no furniture in our house, but only because he enjoys open, simple spaces. Now I’m thinking it makes a lot of sense!

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9 Zoe Saint-Paul June 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

I love that, too, Lauren. My husband loves simple, clean spaces as well (which is not what we have in our current house!) and this interview with Katy gets me thinking about our next place and how we might do with less in the furniture department to keep our environment less cluttered and foster more natural movement.

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10 Anna June 5, 2014 at 7:06 am

It sure looks fun for the kids – I bet they love playdates at your place. On the other hand, I don’t think an unfurnished home would feel very homelike to me, however healthy it is. Also, where do you keep your stuff – like dishes, clothes, toys, office supplies, etc.? Or are closed cupboards/wardrobes/etc. okay because they don’t affect our motions the way tables, chairs, and beds do?

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11 Katy Bowman June 5, 2014 at 10:59 am

We actually do have furniture and decor, just not stuff to sit on (and we do have a decorative bench now that can become seating for those less inclined).

I also agree that it’s taken some time to adjust what “feels like a home.” Tons of blankets and floor pillows, lots of beautiful art and bright colors makes a home to me, so I’ve been sure to splurge on that kind of stuff.

Here’s a tour of my last house… http://www.katysays.com/furniture-free-ahs13/

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12 Josh June 5, 2014 at 9:50 am

This is a really intriguing concept. But I will add that our little ones use our couches, chairs, beds and tables like playground equipment, adding more levels to their play-space. But as we age, I agree, those things start to become crutches rather than creative spaces.

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13 Marissa June 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Co-opting the traditions of other cultures to rationalize your niche habits is incredibly racist, colonizing behavior, and by doing so you are raising your children to become unwittingly racist because you decided that you didn’t want to sit on your culture’s furniture.

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14 A. Martin June 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

The dialogue that she’s opened up allows us to critically evaluate our culture’s practices and habits. Many things we do are not conducive to our health, but we carry on simply because of culturally developed habits. She’s not asking us to shed our American identities or cherry pick from the cultural supermarket, but she does advocate health and thoughtfulness. I cannot see how that can be classified as racist in any way.

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15 Katy Bowman June 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I see what you mean. To be clear, I create my mechanical environment for
physiological and mechanical purposes only. I am motivated by the cellular
benefits of these behaviours alone and rationalize my decisions based on
biomechanical input. My use of cultural comparisons is for illustrative
purposes only (to assist others in visualizing set-ups they might already be
familiar with when trying to fathom what it looks like) but I shall rethink
these terms in the future. Thank you.

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16 joy June 8, 2014 at 2:10 am

in reply, i am going to co-opt a middle eastern fable.
a man and his son were going down the road, the boy riding their donkey. as they passed a couple going the other way, they heard them saying, ‘how disrespectful! do you see that boy is riding while his esteemed father walks.’ so they stopped for the son to get off the donkey to allow his father on.

a way down the road they passed a few women who were heard to say, ‘what a disgrace he is. riding along comfortably while his poor boy has to walk!’ so what could they do but stop for the son to mount the donkey also.

which arrangement worked fine until they passed some laborers who said to each other, ‘they are both healthy but won’t even walk, making the donkey do the work for both of them instead. they’ll kill that poor animal!’ well, of course they both got down and started walking.

but what could they do when they passed a couple who were saying, ‘are they taking their donkey for a walk? why are they both walking and leaving their pack animal with no load?’

moral: you can’t please all of the people all of the time. and you can’t please angry people any of the time.

seriously, if you started using more vague or ‘inoffensive’ terms to describe your lifestyle, i can imagine some other angry person thinking, ‘how arrogant and ignorant she is. doesn’t she know that peoples all over the world have been living like this forever? this isn’t some new-fangled biomechanical thing that she came up with.’

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17 Da Ma June 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Having spent serious time in Japan, and been deeply involved in Middle Eastern culture here in the US, and having a degree in anthropology – you’re fine. It is absolutely reasonable to refer to how other cultures do things in this context. In a way, it explains and verifies what you’re doing. You’re not just making this up out of thin air, people have been living this way in other cultures for hundreds of years and benefiting from it.

This is not like putting on a Native American headdress and running around. It is neither racist nor colonizing behavior. Colonizers tend to want to make other cultures conform to their own, not the other way around.

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18 Da Ma June 10, 2014 at 1:24 pm

What an utter load.

Should we not eat sushi, pizza, or burritos, nor drink wine? Should we not learn martial arts? Etc., etc.?

I lived in Japan for several years, now I wouldn’t dream of wearing shoes in the house. Sometimes other cultures just get it right, and it’s worth learning from them (and absolutely reasonable to do so).

This is not racist behavior in the least – rather, it’s appreciative. These children are not learning to be “racist colonizers” but open to other cultures’ ways of doing things.

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19 Louise July 17, 2014 at 3:02 am

I have always loved saffron, and I have discovered morocco has great recipes using saffron, so now I cook morrocan food. Please explain how that’s racist.

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20 Cassandra Kelton August 4, 2014 at 8:40 am

“Niche habits?” It’s just natural to not have couches and chairs. Do you find couches out in the wild? How about dinette sets? Our bodies were created to live in the wild. The more civilized and modern we get the more our bodies and health suffer. I am flabbergasted that you could call this racist and colonizing.

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21 Michael Curran June 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Wow, Marissa, that comment was so unbelievably off-based and offensive, that I have to believe that you are just a computer troll whose name is not Marissa who likes to stir pots in comment sections; and not a real person who just told a biomechanist mother of 2 that her decisions to raise her kids without chairs amounts to training those children to be colonizing racists. If you are a real person, you’ll either want to map out at least a little bit of causal logic in your aspersion, or perhaps just sit down with yourself for a few minutes and meditate on who it is in your life that you are really angry at.

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22 Marissa June 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Hi, I’m not a troll–I was linked to this article and I found the comparison of a white family choosing not to use furniture to Japanese and Middle Eastern cultural practices (not to mention the tipi in the living room) in pretty poor taste.

Treating others as “noble savages” from whom we can freely cherry pick cultural practices to repackage as “furniture-free living” (see also: yoga as exercise for white people as opposed to a culturally-bound spiritual disciple) is patronizing at best, and I appreciate that Katy is open to reconsidering how she explains her family’s lifestyle choices to others. I don’t really appreciate this knee-jerk reaction, though, and I hope that you might perhaps just sit down with yourself for a few minutes and meditate on who it is in your life that you are really angry at.

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23 Cassandra Kelton August 4, 2014 at 8:54 am

I find it racist that you think people of differing skin colors should only adhere to the main practices of people with their same color. And that you can see a person only for the color of their skin rather than realize that we all have many races and cultures in our backgrounds. I am as white as a ghost with blue eyes and freckles and born and raised in Midwest USA and people in my family history were Native American, Irish, Dutch, German, French and I have current family members that are Mexican, African American, and Filipino. And the human species started out in one place. But if you saw me wearing moccasins or with a teepee in my house you would judge me because I’m “white?” I think you should dig deeper and open your mind.

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24 Zoe Saint-Paul June 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm

I don’t normally allow rude or offensive comments here, but because Katy responded to Marissa, and kindly at that, I will let this one stand.

If you have something to say, please be polite, offer the benefit of the doubt, and ask questions when confused. Otherwise, your comment will be deleted to help ensure the conversation remains elevated and positive. Thank you.

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25 Marissa June 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I’m not sure how confronting someone on a problematic aspect to their lifestyle is “rude,” but I appreciate you keeping the comment up and I appreciate Katy’s response.

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26 Emma June 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm

There aren’t any “epigenetic effects of movement and position.” I don’t really know what you’re referencing.

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27 Emma June 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Ahem, sorry, “epigenetic factors.”

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28 Katy Bowman June 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I know what you meant! The term for the process of mechanically-induced genetic expression is mechanotransduction. You can read more by searching the term on googlescholar, but here’s a couple quickies: http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/7/811.full, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S153458070500482X.

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29 Emma M June 6, 2014 at 10:48 am

These aren’t examples of epigenetics. There is no evidence to support that these supposed “epigenetic factors” are heritable.

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30 Katy Bowman June 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I apologize if the wording in the article is awkward. Posture and movement
are not hereditary. The mechanical environment, created by position and
movement, is an environmental factor influencing genetic expression.

We might be using the term epigentic factor differently (I’m using the
latter, “nowadays” definition):

“first proposed by conrad hal waddington in 1942 to designate the study of
the processes by which the genotype gives rise to phenotypes through
programmed changes during development (104), “epigenetics” was
subsequently understood to be the heritable changes in gene expression
that are not due to any alteration in the DNA sequence (43). Nowadays,
epigenetics is more accurately defined as “the study of stable genetic
modifications that result in changes in gene expression and function
without a corresponding alteration in DNA sequence”
(http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/roadmap15update.asp).

Epigenetics encompasses all of the mechanisms involved in deploying the
genetic program for the many processes operating during the lifespan of a
cell. Although epigenetic modifications seem to be stable, they can be
modulated by many factors, including physiological and pathological
conditions and by the environment (42, 78, 110).”
http://jap.physiology.org/content/109/1/243

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31 Chandelle Schauer June 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Growing up and as a mom of three, two teens and a toddler, I have spent a considerable amount of my life on the floor simply because it feels right and is easier for board games and other activities. With that being said, I do enjoy relaxing on the sofa to watch a movie with my family. I also couldn’t imagine sleeping without my pillows at night. For me, a combination of both works great! Simplicity really is the key to happiness.

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32 Jennifer S. June 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

I love it when people can open up a completely new door for me and allow me the view of a lifestyle I’ve never imagined before! My family already thinks we’re weird for the more “granola” practices we’ve adopted, so if we were to pare down our furniture they’d just add it to the list of our “quirks”! I read this article with a smile on my face because I LOVE the idea!

I already have learned about squatting and not sitting on furniture in relation to pregnancy and *ahem* elimination, and my husband, girls and I run in Luna sandals and wear other minimalist footwear, so to me this is a logical next step.

I also had a response to Marissa’s comment: I personally view being racist as isolating a person or group from the whole and denigrating them or their behavior based on something one deems lower, offensive, or intolerable in some way. Based on this I have an opposite view from Marissa: incorporating long-held traditions or practices from multiple cultures which have survived the changes of generations seems wise, inclusive, and unifying to me. It shows people that we can learn from each other.

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33 Bree June 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

I love this idea!! I see nothing wrong with using tee peers , Hapsnese culture ir any other culture into your life. I’m half Irish, and I think if you integrated a patch if clovers I would say “hey she’s showing her kids about other cultures!! That’s so cool”!! And a Chinese friend did mention “Hey good for her!! She’s showing her kids different ways of living and other cultures! How fascinating”! Good for you Hun!!! Your choices I believe are incredible :)

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34 Bree June 6, 2014 at 1:02 am

ALSO- please excuse my typos LOL

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35 Monique June 6, 2014 at 7:40 am

We got rid of my son’s bed years ago and he sleeps in a hammock. He sleeps more soundly then ever and then it packs away during the day to leave him lots of room to play. :-)

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36 Janet June 6, 2014 at 7:59 am

I love this concept & we equally have our playroom furniture free. We also don’t use pillows, but here is where I struggle… Maybe it’s a socio-economic thing (middle-upper class having greater accessibility to this) … Housing & climate would not allow nighttime on the floor because of roaches. Our mattress are on the ground & even then there are times one may crawl up & awaken me from my sleep. I’ve found them in my hair even. Maybe the solution could be a hammock but I’m unsure if that could be work w the physiological intent. What would you recommend?

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37 Bruce Alan Wilson June 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Why don’t you call an exterminator?

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38 Monique June 6, 2014 at 8:39 am

I did a lot of research, and came up with the Brazilian hammock. It is a traditional style hammock that people have slept in forever. The whole idea that we need to sleep on a solid surface is a misconception. We put our babies in the slings all the time, and never worry about their backs.My son is 13, healthy, and strong. He has never had a sore back or any pain associated with sleeping. In fact, the worst nights sleep he has is when he is on a bed because he is not used to it anymore.
In the end, by the time I sold his bed on Craigslist, and bought a new Brazilian hammock, I made money!
My husband and I thought of sleeping in one also. The one we have is big enough for two people, but when one person moves, the whole thing moves. I don’t think we would get a very good night sleep together.

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39 Monique June 6, 2014 at 8:41 am

BTW this is a link to a photo of my son in his hammock. I am NOT in any way associated with hammock universe, they used my son’s photo because I entered a photo contest that they had last year.
http://www.hammockuniverse.com/collections/featured-products/products/brazilian-style-double-hammock

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40 Katy Bowman June 6, 2014 at 9:09 am

I think hammocks can be a good alternative to floor sleeping (truly meaning, used historically (meaning our genes would be more “aligned” with the practice). This is an interesting article for additional information: Tetley, M. (2000). Instinctive sleeping and resting postures: An anthropological and zoological approach to treatment of low back and joint pain. British Medical Journal, 321(7276), 1616-18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1616

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41 Lauren June 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

So after reading this we have gotten rid of our sofa and armchair! We still have 3 small children’s chairs for now those.
They were breaking and needed getting rid of and we were dreading the expense of buying new ones. Also the dust, toys and other general rubbish that ended up under them was a pain that we now don’t need to worry about. So far my girls are enjoying the space… Just waiting for the families reaction as we are already seen as weird.

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42 Michelle June 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

We have done this before. In all honesty, we did not enjoy it. Once we decided to get furniture back, it was such a relief to sit on a couch! And not eat hunched over a plate on the floor. I thought I was in heaven when we got our mattresses back. At first it was fun, but after a while, it was drudgery.

We have 2 playsets in our house, too! The kids love them. We have multiple slides, climbing walls, play houses, wall sized chalk boards, and so on. It’s great to have a creative open play room in the house for the kids.

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43 Amy June 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

“This means we walk most places, carry our kids and stuff in our arms (no strollers or carriers), don’t wear anything but minimal shoes, and have eliminated furniture — including chairs and couches.”
I had the mental picture of her walking around naked but for a pair of vibrams, and trying to poo a tiny armchair. This made me laugh, but that’s probably because I have the same sense of humor as a 12 year old. I only post this because I sense that Katy might giggle at that, too.

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44 Carmen Lashley June 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Here it is in the open, our first child was born 10 months after we got married. Because of the lack of jobs we could not settle in anyone place, so we lived in 6 places during 2 years, the few pieces of furniture we owned either fell off the truck when my husband’s sister and boyfriend were helping us move as they were in a hurry. When we finally sort of settled in South Texas, we had no furniture just our bed, a bed for our daughter that I purchased for 20 dollars (it was a struggle to gather that much money!) and a beat up crib as child #2 came right away as well, my children had the entire house we rented to play, toys were put away in cardboard boxes, I had an old beach chair where I sat during the night to watch my kids play (we did not own a TV for the first 4 years of our marriage) if my children refused to go to sleep, I would sit with them and watch them play until they collapsed, what I am trying to say is that I thoroughly enjoyed them. I almost forgot to share that we had an awful freeze and all 4 of us slept on the floor snug in front of an old built in wall heater for 5 days, I would cook in a hurry in the cold kitchen and bring my family food and yes, eat in the floor. This was not a choice we made, it is called poverty, it is ludicrous to consider this a trend and praise this woman. When things got better for us, after I went to work the sweet baby sitter a woman in her 50s with no education suggested we get furniture and knick knacks, as my children needed to learn to respect things in other people’s homes. Once, we were invited to a home for a party and my daughter broke a precious little ballerina ceramic piece that was dear to the hostess, I realized I needed to educate my children to have manners, behave well in public, especially in other people’s homes, I am glad I no longer live in a third world country and take pride in acquiring good manners and that I brought up my kids well (they are 34 and 32 now). They are both running marathons and picked up fitness on their own. Been there done that, and changed for the better.

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45 Zoe Saint-Paul June 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

It sounds like many other factors played into those challenging years for you, and not having furniture you wanted was one of them. Not sure if you’ve read all the comments in this thread, but I mentioned above that I think it’s very different to intentionally go without certain pieces of furniture because it’s part of a lifestyle you are choosing for health reasons (like Katy), versus being deprived of furniture you want because of poverty or living in another part of the world, etc.

I don’t think the furniture you have or don’t have accounts for bad manners. In fact, I know it doesn’t.

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46 Crystal - Prenatal Coach June 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm

I would love to know Katy’s thoughts on shoes!!! The shoe industry is saying I need to buy my 2 year old shoes with more “support” since she’s still wearing soft leather soles and that doesn’t sit right with me. I also have no idea what is ideal at this age and going forward. I would think keeping her as barefoot as possible would be ideal?

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47 Wendy June 7, 2014 at 8:09 am

Your swing set up under the monkey bars is dangerous. A set up like that killed a local child and the design has since been banned. I wanted to point out a real safety hazard you may not be aware of.
http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-48938187/

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48 Katy B. June 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Thanks, Wendy. It’s easy enough to move the accessories to their own home (i.e. off the bars), thanks for sharing!

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49 Andrea June 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Cool!

We began eliminating furniture for so many reasons, not the least of which is that I detest having to move around furniture to clean the floors, and I just like open spaces.

My husband and I often discussing removing our two remaining sitting pieces–a love seat and an arm chair. I hope we agree on this soon!

Your reasons for doing this are different than ours, but I’m glad to know there are others out there who are interested in eliminating furniture from the home.

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50 VMS June 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I slept on the floor for several months because i didn’t have a bed and I hope to never ever do that again. It was awful, especially when I got sick at one point.

I do love the indoor monkey bars. I wish we had the space for that. My toddler would be in heaven!

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51 Lynn Nadeau June 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I support emphasis on physical exercise, play, and development, and on simplicity generally. And do remember that there are those of us who are physically constrained. This grandmother, with Parkinsons’ and a weak back, needs a chair to be able to sit without pain, and I love to sit with the kids and read to them, play games with them, eat with them, etc. Having a raised bed allows me to get in and out of bed without struggle or strain. I think one can meet diverse needs and still encourage physical ergonomics and development.

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52 Wendy June 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I do a lot of sewing and it’s much easier to use my machine at a desk. We also have a lot of books which we prefer to keep on book shelves. But we all sleep on thin futon mattresses on the floor and often eat on the floor. We do a lot of sitting on the floor. I think this is really cool.

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53 Wendy June 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I’m interested in her thoughts on bicycles?

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54 joy June 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm

a quick search of her blog and i found this: http://www.katysays.com/side-effects/

also, cycling causes lowered bone density: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24326929

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55 Wendy June 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Thank you, Joy. I appreciate it!

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56 Bruce Alan Wilson June 9, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Have you no middle-aged or elderly relatives that come to visit? If Grandma or Great-Uncle Harry get down on the floor, they might have trouble getting up.

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57 Zoe Saint-Paul June 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I don’t think she mentions it in this interview, but I seem to recall that Katy keeps a little seating around for visitors who may need it.

And I’m also guessing that this is one reason Katy and her husband have chosen furniture-free living — so that when they’re grandparents themselves, they won’t have any trouble getting down or up from the floor!

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58 K Durham June 26, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I would like to point out that not all of us have limitations (physical or otherwise) that are bound up solely with lifestyle and individual behavior. I was hit by a car and sustained damage to multiple ligaments and cartilage in my knee- a condition that I am told will worsen during the course of my life. Movements such as quatting, sitting cross legged for long periods of time, or getting up from the floor prove to be a challenge now, to say nothing of how they will feel when I am elderly or even middle aged.

Look, I think it’s great that Katy and her husband have the luxury to make the abovementioned changes to their lives. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that neither one of them has to spend the 8+ hours a day navigating a real world choked with pernicious “sitting devices” and strewn about with unnatural furniture, as many of us do when we hold down jobs. Working from home isn’t an option for us, in the same way that living with furniture isn’t an option for them. I think it’s just swell that Katy and her family can sidestep the crippling effects of “junk movement”, insofar as they have the time and the capacity to walk everywhere they go. I’m going to go out on a biomechanically compatible limb here, and surmise that Katy and her family likely live in an environment in which it is neither dangerous nor unduly difficult to do so. Again, those of us crippled by poorly paid jobs out in the real world, or homes not situated in good neighborhoods (within a few miles of everything we could possibly need) don’t always have that choice. Perhaps if Katy could get up off her low floor cushions, she could see that.

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59 Cassandra Kelton August 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

She stated in the beginning of her interview that she and her husband spent years working towards being able to work from home…

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60 Jennifer June 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I have a question… what do you do about those who are older and dont move so well, bad knees back etc… IE we intentionally lack a lot of furniture but have a table and chairs that really only get used when my inlaws are over because they’re older and just cannot get on the floor like we do… and if they did, they’d never get up!

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61 Zoe Saint-Paul June 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

My comment right above yours might answer your question, Jennifer!

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62 Landon Satterfield June 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

I have a question!

How does eating hunched over on the floor work for you guys?
I can’t work or sort things out on the floor hunched over without having back and neck and shoulder pain. I sit at a desk at work and tend to crane my neck forward naturally. I know that this isn’t good for posture, but I tend to do it. Can leaning forward over the floor also negatively affect posture?

I love unique things, so I’m considering this. Haha

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63 Cassandra Kelton August 4, 2014 at 10:03 am

I can’t speak for Katy and her family but when I eat on the floor I don’t do any hunching over. You can either grab a bite and eat it while sitting straight or squatting or if you are eating something that requires a fork or spoon hold it close to you – bring the food to your face instead of your face to your food. Yes hunching over, even while on the floor is bad for posture.

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64 Alison June 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for this article! I was surprised how provocative I found it. Upon reflection, I realize it was because of a subtle desire to defend my own furniture-filled life style. But once I saw and got over that, I have become really intrigued with Katy’s work and her informed choices. And, I am having new visions for my living room…!

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65 Zoe Saint-Paul June 13, 2014 at 11:19 am

Alison, it takes a confident yet humble person to be able to examine and admit her own reactions to something and allow herself to be challenged. I like you :-)

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66 Alexandra June 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Finally, someone else who does this! We homeschool, and I got rid of furniture for space to move and create, and easier cleaning. We pulled out all the carpet and did floor paint which is great for kid dirt and spills. Our beds are futons on homemade platforms. I took out the kitchen and customized it as well. I really love living this way…very freeing.

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67 Lauren Sydney June 19, 2014 at 1:34 am

As a thoughtful parent, bodyworker & a student of anthropology (specifically that which relates to the cultural practices of mothering/parenting and their physiological effects) I love love love the work of Katy Bowman. As a lower income mother who has raised her child from infancy to age 11 with minimal finances, I have to agree that this article is socioeconomically, and by extension, racially/ethnically problematic. I don’t own much furniture because I can’t afford it. It was a fine day when I could splurge for a futon that doubles as guest bed and couch. Thanks, tax credit! And I am privileged. My poverty is a result of circumstances in my own life, not intergenerational. As those circumstances improve, I still choose simplicity in many ways, and prize movement, but I recognize that not all of us are consumers with choices, even if we happen to be smart people who can make good choices, some times we just make do. One last point – race is a cultural category that describes colors and some ethnic behaviors & is HIGHLY subjective while ethnicity refers to a social group to which one belongs. It *can* be racist to assume privilege (choices) for others because you have them, it *can* be ethnically appropriative to say that “other” cultures do this, so I do it too, because I like it. I think what Katy is saying is that she does those things because they make scientific sense, feel good & mimic patterns of behavior from a time when NONE of us used furniture, because we hadn’t invented the stuff as humans. But then again, I am not Katy, so I reveal my own assumptions with my comment!

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68 Chris Nolan.ca June 22, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Thank you for sharing your home and viewpoints. I’ve been gaining a better understanding of movement over the last couple of years, and this is very much in line with that. I’ll be reading more on your blog I’m sure.

Now to figure out a way to responsibly dispose of the sofas…

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69 Annika June 28, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Really enjoyed this article! We are not a furniture free household but I can see the benefits & it’s very appealing! !! Inspired by this article to start phasing in more furniture free spaces in our household :)

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70 Amanda July 13, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I wonder if Katy has thoughts on clothing that makes us more comfortable, like bras and shoes. Should those be abandoned along with the furniture?

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71 Andrea August 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I sure hope so. I abandoned bras long ago. I still wear shoes to protect my feet, but there’s a movement against shoes also. I support them doing whatever works for them.

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72 Amanda July 13, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Also, how does Katy do her writing (typing) without a desk?

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73 Manda July 14, 2014 at 12:43 am

This is so interesting to me, especially after I read every word including the comments. My husband and I are working on getting rid of any possessions we don’t NEED, we don’t like how things end up in or under our couch, and he really dislikes clutter. We also care about fitness.

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74 Kellie August 2, 2014 at 1:53 am

I think this is genius. You are doing what I had wished that I could have done. Good luck, & I hope this takes off with people who are so thoughtful as you are.

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75 Andy August 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I am a single father of two teenagers & we have spent a lot of time camping over the last two years. My children no longer care for pillows and bed sheets, they prefer sleeping bags. We have no TV and they do not miss it but we do have internet. The best sleeps we have are usually in a tent, with little in the way of padding underneath, so this concept in my view is perfectly sensible.

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76 Dr. J August 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

I believe in voluntary simplicity. I’m sure I’ve eaten more meals sitting on the floor that in a chair. The martial arts have also played a large role in my life and I imagine it all relates. I do have furniture that I rarely use as I want to accommodate others who need it.

I am also a pilot, and when I think of the Wright brothers, they were lying down when they made those early flights. I wish I could lie down now in commercial airliners, lol!

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77 Gina August 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Wow. I was a little surprised to see a lot of the comments take a turn into discussions of culture and racism, rather than the intention of a furniture-free life as being more healthy. But I guess as a homebirther, homeschooler, and continuum-concept follower, I’ve long since abandoned concern about being accepted by the mainstream. lol. Now, as a bodyworker (and one that primarily works on a futon on the floor) I LOVE this article! It confirms a lot of theories of mine, and I feel more inspired to enlighten my clients to the possibility that their aches and pains are not just about ‘stress’, and ‘getting old’, and that they need better chairs… Thank you for this!!

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