Furniture-Free #AHS13

Hi. My name is Katy and I live in an (almost) furniture free house. My house isn’t entirely furniture free, but I have, over time, eliminated those pieces that are most over-used and promote the most over-frequented modern human body position — the passive sit and slouch. I also have “adapted” our plumbing to make toilet squatting the norm. And we have monkey bars that we can move all over the house.

We’ve made these home modifications because the regular use of a single position and/or passive body positioning — that is a body position that does not use active muscular force to support it — causes adaptations in the body that are not improvements. In the long term, these adaptations lead to alterations in the expression of your genetic code that can lead to disease. The stiffening of arterial walls in areas where joint position is chronically fixed and/or altered (like the geometry created by supported sitting with a flexed spine) is just one example. “Furniture-free” also provides a more natural use of a child’s body, which also facilitates a more robust physical development which sets up a body for less disease in the future.

For natural-living lovahs, food seems to be the greatest focus. Movement, for some reason, has become secondary. In the same way that a single whole-food meal doesn’t constitute a healthy diet,  a daily bout of exercise does not constitute a healthy movement plan. You are what you eat. You are also “what you move.”

The elimination of furniture is a step closer to all day natural movement. It’s an easy step because it does not require more time to live without furniture. It is also a difficult step because it is hard to wrap our modern minds around the fact that furniture, while completely normal is entirely unnatural and does us more harm than good.

To show you that this arrangement isn’t super-freaky (at least to me), I’m giving you a tour of my house.

Does this mean I don’t love furniture. Nope. I love furniture as much as I love ice cream. Which is why I don’t keep either in the house. If the couch was there, you can bet that I’d choose the path of least effort more often than not.

I will be speaking on our human need for constantly varying body positions, and loads created through this variation throughout the day, at the Ancestral Health Symposium this August. I’m also writing the book on this, so watch for it if you’re interested in the natural frequency of natural movement and how it all relates to the shape (figuratively) and the shape (literally) you are in.

I don’t know if that last sentence was grammatically correct, but you get what I mean.

I hope.

And now, welcome to my humble abode.

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This pretty much sums up the energy of our home. “You ARRRRRRGGHH welcome any time!” <—- Pirate joke.

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For more on the various body positions used all over the world and why it is important to use them, read this (click).

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42 Comments

  1. Alyssa says:

    LOVE the monkeybars and rings! That is such a brilliant idea! Thanks for showing us around your home (:

  2. leah says:

    Awesome! Thank you! And my house is MUCH worse! I wouldn’t even consider that “messy” it just has proof of life! Although I do probably have comparable amounts of raw milk concoctions in the fridge!

  3. feistycuffs says:

    Thanks – that’s so interesting! I love lolling on the floor, with cushions, but there are times when I just really want to flop on the couch – actually, my favourite couch position is lying on it, as I don’t find sitting for long periods *that* comfortable, unless I can put my heels up on the seat. Something to do with the backs of my thighs and my hips getting uncomfortable. I’d love to try something like that…maybe one day!

    Anyway, keep up the good work – you are such an inspiration!

  4. Nye says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been contemplating how to survive with less furniture. A couple questions:

    Are you mainly using that kitchen computer as a standing desk?

    You said you sleep without pillows. Does that mean you trained yourself to be a back sleeper, or do you sleep in other positions?

    How do you use the squat toilets? Is all of your weight on your feet, or are your knees just elevated while sitting on the toilet seat? Thanks so much!

    • Katy says:

      We mainly use the counter as a standing desk. It’s a little short for the Huz (at 6’0″) so he’ll often perch on a high stool. He also has a standing station (currently in a closet while the toddlers can pull it over.) I sleep without pillows, which too training. I sleep in every position, even on hard floor. Bodies have been doing this for all time (until recently) but, it takes awhile to develop the tissue yields to do so without pain. I’m working on a post (a section of the book, really) that helps lay down the progression. For squat toilets, again, it’s a progression. Starting with both the feet and tush resting (less ROM and strength needed) then you can go on from there (i.e. full weight on feet). Any progression is beneficial — it’s not like it is only beneficial when you get to “doing it right.” <— Not sure there is such a thing.

  5. CathyN says:

    Yeah, the monkey bars and rings are really fun. I am sending this to my daughter, ’cause grandson MUST have monkey bars and rings.

    Also love the big property you have. How’s the garden doing?

  6. jayne says:

    Thanks so much! You’ve inspired me to look at my life in a whole new way.
    My house is sometimes neater, sometimes waay messier. Its just life!

  7. Sonia Nordenson says:

    Yep, that last sentence was grammatically correct. And your house rocks. I think your furniture-free lifestyle needs to be showcased on national TV. Make that worldwide.

    Also, thanks for reminding me to keep it all out so I’ll use it.

  8. Susan H says:

    Thank you so much, Katy, for your generosity and inspiration! Is anyone more willing to share than you? I’m so grateful for all you’ve brought into my life about alignment, health, lifestyle, and kindness. And now you’ve even invited me to your home. Which I needed because I couldn’t imagine how I could live without heavy furniture (not sure why, just remove furniture, right?). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  9. Kim H says:

    Thanks for sharing! (Yes, my place is messier and one goal besides “getting rid of sitting furniture” is to declutter…) Love the monkey bars and rings, and the SUP/yoga IndoBoard – still waiting to indulge myself on that one!

  10. Debbie says:

    I opened this email as I sat slouched in my bar stool height chair at my waist high desk (both designed to make me sit less). Before I finished the first paragraph, I was off my chair and on my half-dome. Thank you for the reminder.

    Do I dare sell my office chairs to force me to remember?

  11. Pamela says:

    Thank you so much for this tour! your house is beautiful and obviously a perfect fit for your family. One question: what is that oblong board along the wall in the living room? looks like it might be a big indo board? thanks! you are a huge inspiration to me!

  12. feldyjan says:

    yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes ………

    I know that at times of recovery from injury, pain, etc it’s fine to do whatever you need to do to get the support you need to be comfortable — to aid recovery — (& I have been there so do know of what I speak) — but I **cringe** when I hear healthy people taking about their favorite chairs with their favorite back supports …….Hard to not ‘evangelize’ — but we **must** be able to self-support, otherwise we’re on that downward path ……

    We have a bannister-high shelf that we use to ‘stand’ – hubby with laptop, me with iPad (right now I’m at desktop & sitting – but I’ve made my chair into a stool in that I never lean back & also created a concave surface – a little higher so I have plenty of opportunity to move my pelvis around …… ‘clocking’ right now)

    While spending hours watching Wimbledon on my iPad recently, I also enjoyed standing on a roller, alternating with a high stool & occasionally also sitting on a regular stool.

    and yeah — we have one bar & scheming on more – both the hubby & I long for those youthful days of bar swinging (before hopping ….).

    Thank you as always …….

  13. My question is: What about rocking your babies to sleep? I do not rock them to sleep all the time or only that way (I realize they need to go to sleep on their on), but I often rock while nursing my babies. And I find it is important for me to feel comfortable while nursing in order to be relaxed and patient with it. (as those babies can be pretty demanding!) I have never been able to get very comfortable nursing the babies on the floor, other than in bed. We have a king-sized futon mattress on the floor as our bed and I feel very comfortable having the babies there with me, but in order to get them into their crib once they are sleepy. . . well, it is much easier to do from an elevated position like an easy chair or rocking chair. I HAVE been known to get up with nursing/almost asleep baby still latched on and transfer said child to the crib, but it is difficult and not my first choice. So what are your thoughts on this matter?

  14. misterworms says:

    Katy, I am so glad you are doing an AHS presentation. I feel like you are the missing link in the whole scene as far as movement is concerned. As far as I can tell, you’re the only one who has illustrated how the physics of our *everyday* movement affects our biology, chemistry and long term health. There has been a lot of hullabaloo about pushing cars uphill, flipping giant tires and such which is all great if that’s what you’re into but I feel like the information here is much more practical and relevant. This has also been a great source for learning about getting kids off to a good start.

    Personally, I always thought that movement and what people call exercise should be integrated into a day’s work and not an isolated episode where we go “work out” so these types of posts really resonate with me. And especially this one as we prepare to furnish our home. I’m thinking less is more. And less is less to buy, clean and maintain :)

  15. Carmelle says:

    Great post. Your info is awesome and I just keep loving your posts more and more. Thank you!

  16. zoe says:

    I was only recently thinking about what a good idea a raised, backless wide bench would be to sit on at the table so as to give the option of squatting or sitting cross legged whilst eating.

  17. daniela says:

    thanks katy – helps give ideas for sure… :)

  18. Lisa says:

    Somehow, I just knew you would be a MAC girl! and yes, my house is also that messy, and I have just a husband and a college student at home for the summer, the oldest baby is on his own. (Your friend’s silk wall hanging/blanket is a work of art!)

  19. NinaEtc says:

    Fascinating. I have truly benefitted from your exercises for squatting for my plantar faciitis. So one question and Im not trying to be argumentative. So I get that for a long time people’s bodies did act differently.- sat on floors more etc BUT those same people died much sooner then we do now so…even doing those things they still had pain, arthritis, joint breakdown, etc. so….how do you stop that breakdown of the body while choosing to live more naturally? Can you? Id be intersted in knowing, honestly because my ad’s kids all seemed to have inherited his joint/leg setups where at 76 hes had both knees replaced and has quite a bit of pain in his feet/ankles, etc. And, frm my studies, much development is pre-birth sometimes even highly determined by a mother’s nutrition, upbringing. My mother grew up during ww2 in germany, read she ate DIRT and not as a ” oh you silly kid eating dirt” kind of way. All of her girls have terrible teeth and other bone issues we have been told were from her malnutrition when she was young. How do you combat that?

    • Katy says:

      A couple of things — the notion that primitive people died way earlier than we did comes from lumping infant and child deaths into the statistical pool. There is better “how long did we used to live” research that excludes early mortality. This shows that, if one was robust enough to make it to 12 (or 14? I can’t remember) then the length of adult life was fairly equal to what it is now — 78-80ish. We certainly aren’t trying to live forever over here in Alignment World, but there are many people who are doing more than dealing with an age-related body breakdown. They are accelerating their body breakdown through their habits, and then medicating and/or seeking surgery. Medicine can keep up living our full lifes. The question is, what is the quality of your time. So many people — in their 30s and 40s — have bodies immobilized through pain, injury, and disease. Way ahead of a “natural” schedule. It is hard to combat early infant malnutrition. The key is to do the best you can at establishing natural body loading and eat lots of good quality food. Again, it’s not about living forever, but at recognizing that most situations can be drastically improved through habit modification! Thanks for your comment! -KAB

  20. Username* says:

    Brilliant! This minimalist way of furnishing the house also makes for easier cleaning right? Sounds like an all-round winner.

  21. michelle says:

    Thanks for showing us your home. When you mentioned earlier that you don’t have furniture I was wondering what your set up looked like.
    I grew up with a wooden climber in my living room which was awesome. Looking back we should have kept it!
    With my boys I have had success with an Ikea wobble board, a punching bag which is thrown around like a dummy, a wooden chin up bar, couches which are trampolines, and never sitting for long!

  22. Stef says:

    You rock. That is all.

  23. Rachel says:

    This is wonderful, and oh my home is just as, if not more messier than that. Thank you for not tidying up. I often sit on the floor when just hanging out, but this made me realize that I can sit on the floor to work too. As we redo/create my study I think I”m going to figure out a way to have multiple ways to work on my computer. A shelf for the laptop when I’m sitting on the floor, and when I want to stand.

  24. genevaben says:

    Katy, I lived in Japan for a period, and I noticed that a lot of old people (mostly women) were bent over. REALLY bent over. Not just a few, but a significant number of retired people.

    A feature of Japanese society as I experienced it was the absence of sit-on furniture. We ate at a low table seated on a cushion (very like in your house as your video shows), tho often with a hole under the table for the lower leg to hang into; there weren’t usually sofas in the houses I visited. And then the bed was on the floor and was folded away each morning.

    I have asked myself ever since, are much admired chair-less cultures as good for us as we chair-culture types make out? Why are these really commonly seen old women so bent over? And they are very bent over!

    My ideas were (i) the japanese Seiza sitting-on-your-heels position causes the back to round over time. (ii) this is related to nutritional deficiency, possibly from food privations around 1945. (iii) It is simply osteoporosis (iv) the japanese are prone to such postural change (v) there are good and bad ways of sitting without furniture (i.e. point i)

    I haven’t lived in other Asian countries, but I spent some time in Africa where life was less sedentary, and I have no memory of this being common. I have wondered ever since, what was the cause.

    I much enjoy your posts, and your human style. Thanks
    Ben

  25. momabeach says:

    This is so wonderful! You’ve inspired me :)

  26. Susie says:

    Can I ask what the height of your dining table is? The husband and I were literally just discussing chopping the legs off of our dining table, although our reason was just to make eating more of a kid-friendly experience. Our 2.5 year old is always up and down, in and out of laps, standing on the table, and our lives would be much easier, and meals much more peaceful, if half the time weren’t spent lifting him up and down. I’m sure he would appreciate a bit more autonomy as well. But we couldn’t figure out what height we should make it.

    Thanks!

  27. Wendy says:

    Wow, what a great post–thanks! Love seeing the squat-toilets. Wish I could attend the symposium, but the August date doesn’t work well for people who work in education. One of these days I will make it there.

    So grateful to have come across your brilliant work through Paleo circles. Heard you on a webcast and knew I had just been introduced to a wonderful resource. Really want (and need) to focus on alignment/movement now. I worry about neck and head issues from people looking at iPhones etc like I am doing now. :-) Have to confess I did just buy a new sectional for my home, but I don’t intend to get coffee tables etc. This way, the floor will still be open to practice Yoga or Pilates or whatever.

  28. Jill says:

    Thank you Thank you!!

  29. Jenifer says:

    When we moved from the US to NZ, we didn’t bring any furniture. We lived for 6 weeks without a bed (we ordered one), and were glad to have it because sleeping on the floor was COLD.

    But, after that, we just didn’t have any more furniture (there were some built in shelves and we had a dresser and a closet). it was great. We did everything on the floor and it was so easy to keep clean. :D

    Friends gave us a table and chairs and then also some lounge chairs. We have them in the house, but rarely use them! LOL we still prefer living on the floor.

    We’re considering moving into a new place, and with that, considering going furniture free again. No one uses the chairs, and we only use the table to pile things on, so. . . it would be a great opportunity to just let things go — and go back to our floor living.

    I’m keeping the bed, though. I love the bed (it’s organic and sustainable and what not).

  30. Andrea says:

    Great post, I will share it on facebook. :-)

    I threw my bed out and bought a futon and tatamis in 2010. The real japanese thin cotton futon without any padding. It’s quite hard but it feels great. Best bed I ever had. My nervous system is happy to get feedback from the ground. It finally knows where my body really is.

    In March I read this post from Mark Sisson
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/floor-living-do-you-spend-enough-time-on-the-ground/#axzz2ZOXLSim9

    and threw out every sitting/standing desk from my living room. So it’s standing in the kitchen (cooking) and floor living in the living room and bedroom. Now I use a “japanese” table with cushions to sit on the floor while staring at my computer. For reading books I sit on my balcony on a chair or on the floor indoors wherever I want.
    I also move my stuff around from time to time.
    I stare at my bookshelfs with a threatening look and tell them ultra hardcore macho Ido Portal style: “Move or die!”
    Just kidding. ;-)

    Also important: Decluttering my flat from time to time. Those Feng Shui poeple must be on to something. I feel a lot better after this “cleansing”.

    Thanks for showing us your house. It’s nice to see there are other “crazy” people like me. Especially if it is one of my favourite movement/alignment experts. :-)

    Monkey Bars and rings in the bedroom would be great. I have to figure out how to build a low cost construction. So maybe a trip to the hardware store is in order.

    I’m looking forward to your AHS presentation.

  31. Kristie says:

    First of all you are adorable!
    Secondly, my house is so much messier than yours even when it’s “clean.”
    Thanks for the tour!

  32. Terry says:

    Hey Katy,

    Happen to have a link or source for those neat square seats in the living room? Those look like dynamite for TV time.

  33. Matina says:

    You have inspired me to
    Step 1: move my furniture back to the walls so there is more floor room
    Step 2: get rid of 1 of my 2 couches in my living room
    Step 3: keep the couch in a less used spot (to the side of the tv) on sliders so if we want to crash on the couch and watch a movie we can but for every day use we will be more likely to choose sitting on the floor

    We are currently in step 1 and my family is already getting considerable more floor time. I miss the fung shui of my previous furniture configuration but I am happy to sacrifice that and find new fung shui designs for a healthier family! Thanks for the house tour- it was very helpful and thanks for keeping it real:)

  34. Megan K says:

    Yes! So inspirational. Just set out our dining table and chairs on the street! Eating/studying/playing on our coffee table instead. Next up, the sofa!
    As a working mom, I sometimes miss going to a yoga or dance class, but now our house is permanently ready for any dance party, any time of day.
    Can’t wait for the squatting potty progression in The Book. We’ve been using one for a month now. Game changer.

  35. apriljean says:

    I love the monkey bars! Do you have a plan for those? Or did you just make it up as you went? Super fun for a rainy fall/winter/spring in WA!

  36. Katie says:

    I love the indoor monkey bars! Do you have plans for those? I want to have my husband make them for my daughters’ birthdays. The dome play set in the back yard…let me guess, garage sale? If not, where did you get it? Waiting for your third article on Breaking Muscle about carriers, car seats, etc…mainly the carrier part!! Thanks for sharing!

  37. AB says:

    When we decided to FINALLY get rid of our awful couch (hooray!), I suggested to my husband that we not replace our couch… inspired by your video! I didn’t think he’d go for it, but he loved the idea right away. An advocate for creative play, he recently blogged about our transformation into couchless home and what that means to our family. We’re now all bolsters, physio balls and pillows. Thanks for the inspiration to go couchless! https://playfromscratch.com/ideas/requiem-for-a-couch/

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