For starters, it’s not because we don’t have money to buy furniture. At least, those of us who are still working these days and not just collecting Monopoly bills from Uncle J. Powell’s Magic Money Machine (the Fed) because our jobs got swallowed up by the Covid monster.
It’s not because we don’t enjoy using furniture. I love it, actually. There’s nothing better than going over to a friend’s house and quietly judging their marital relationship while seated in a plush leather loveseat or sofa on the other side of the room.
It’s not because we don’t know how to shop for furniture. These days, it’s easier than ever. You can furnish your whole house with just a few clicks on Amazon. Obviously, there’s IKEA, painted in that dark blue and yellow you can see from five miles down the highway. Even in small towns, there are usually a dozen furniture stores always having amazing inventory sales. Half the time you open your mailbox you’ll find glossy flyers spilling out, blaring about the Fourth of July/Black Friday/Christmas/Going out of Business sales coming up around the corner. We know all about the furniture world. We know it exists, how wonderful and comfortable it is, how we should get a protection plan for an additional $14.99, and how if we open a store credit card TODAY we can immediately get 15% off our purchase.
And it’s not because we don’t like furniture or have some sort of agenda against it. When I see a nice plush, fabric sofa, my brain goes “I like sofa. Sofa good.” Whether we’re talking the ornate Louis XIV silk museum pieces, or whatever wacky designs Tim Burton uses in his movies, we’re pretty open-minded about all different sorts of furniture styles. I’m somewhat of a minimalist myself, which certainly doesn’t mean “cheapskate” or “tightwad.” I like simplicity. Practicality. I want furniture that just shuts up and does its job.
Look, we all get it. You have a place where you live, you’re supposed to fill it with fabric and leather and other stuff. We understand the unwritten social rule. Here’s the deal though, at least for me until recently: We don’t care.
Guys are by nature Anti-Furniturian. Probably, like so many other guy behaviors, it has to do with our caveman roots. Who has time to lug an 80-pound chaise lounge out of a cave when you’re being chased by a saber-toothed tiger? For hundreds of thousands of years, mankind was all about the hunter-gatherer life. We moved from place to place looking for food, not hot deals on matching bedroom packages.
Now, I don’t pretend to speak for all guys. But I do know that for many years, as in for most of my adult life, I went without furniture beyond what was absolutely necessary: A bed, a desk, and a chair. I was an Anti-Furniturian without even realizing it. It’s only been very recently that I’ve started dabbling in the furniture dimension, slowly getting pieces for my apartment. It’s been tortuous, to say the least. Yesterday I agonized for hours over what reading lamp to buy until finally, my brow beading with sweat, I pulled the trigger on a black touch lamp with a white shade. Did I make the right life decision? Only time will tell.
So having just gone through this recent metamorphosis/conversion, I decided to reflect on my former Anti-Furniturian past. What prevented me from buying furniture before? Why is it every guy friend I’ve ever had either has little to no furniture in their apartments, or if they have any, it literally looks like something they pulled off a curb in Tijuana? Why will a guy spend $2000 on a gaming computer that lights up like a disco ball if they blow up a Nazi, but won’t even spend as little as $199 (plus free shipping) for a bare bones sofa so they can at least pass for someone who’s partially civilized? And why is it every girl I’ve ever known has had a fully furnished apartment/house that looks like the “after” photo from a home makeover reality show?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. God knows the mindset of an Anti-Furniturian is rife with contradictions and self-righteous justifications. But I had my own reasons.
Firstly, I moved around a lot. I hate moving. Having lots of furniture makes moving suck even more than it already does. So by having as little as possible, I’m guaranteeing that I’ll be less-stressed in the future when I inevitably move again. I know we’re all hunkered down in our homes right now because of the rona, but it feels like these days people move around a lot more than they did in the past. The days where you’d “settle down” in one town forever to work and raise a family are pretty much gone. Everyone’s restless. It’s not unusual to pick up and move across the country for a new job. Even with today’s technology, video conferences, and such, I don’t see that trend changing. Who wants to live in one area forever? Things could be so much better in that cul-de-sac, or that street, or that neighborhood, or that other school district, or that place by the new Starbucks. It could always be better somewhere else. But you know what doesn’t make it easier to get to that other, better place? Having furniture! Who wants an oak dresser or recliner weighing them down and killing their wanderlust vibe? Not me. Plus, it’s expensive to move. So not buying furniture, and then not having to pay for it to be moved is a double savings.
Secondly, indecision. I can’t even begin to describe the complex decision matrix that forms in my head when I start thinking about furnishing my apartment. If I get that piece, will it “match” that other piece? What does it even mean when something “matches.” Is it by color, style, or “feel.” What if I get one piece of this set, but when I go to buy the rest later it’s been discontinued and I’m stuck with an orphan piece? What’s in style these days? Modern? Retro? What is bonded leather? Leather’s leather, right? Yeah, but faux leather looks the same, doesn’t it? Will people notice the difference? What if I get this set, then I buy a house, and I need to get a bigger one? I’ll just be buying a set that’ll end up in my future basement, so why bother even getting it at all?
You know that scene in Fight Club where the Narrator is pondering what sort of “sofa defines him as a person.” That’s basically what’s going on here. Going furniture shopping is like taking a journey into your own psyche.
Thirdly, the realization that most furniture sucks unless you spend a lot of money, and even then it’s probably a rip off. Having worked briefly in a furniture store, and made my fair share of deliveries, I can say with certainty that for the most part, whenever you buy furniture, you’re being totally screwed. Furniture these days is not furniture. Furniture only looks like furniture. Sure, it has the veneer of something you can sit in, lie on, put your feet on, or throw your jacket on when you come home from work. But furniture is fake news. It’s cheap. It’s compressed particle board. It’s something a factory spat out in 35 seconds. It’s something that might have shipped in a box that you have to assemble yourself. It’s a mirage made of wood, fabric, some metal, and maybe glass. It’s not that there is not good, quality furniture out there. Sure, everyone’s grandma has that one table built by Abraham Lincoln himself. It’s that the stuff produced for the masses is mostly overpriced junk. It’s junk! Even worse, it’s junk that they’ll try to get you to finance with a store card or line of credit. So you end up paying real interest and real money on make-believe furniture.
Fourthly, and this goes along with the “We don’t care” reasoning posted above, it just never fit into my budget. It just didn’t compute. Even though you can reasonably furnish a whole apartment with as little as $1500 (more or less), and even though I make a decent salary, have good side income from investments, and can certainly afford to adequately fill my whole abode with all the bells and whistles like a normal person should, every time I got paid or made money, I just never made that critical, pro-furniture leap. And I honestly don’t know why. It’s just not something I ever cared to put much energy into. I don’t have a wife or kids, so I don’t need to be “domesticated” in that sense. It’s less for me to clean. It’s less for me to think about. Every time I made money I’d think to myself, “Save, invest, or spend on stuff?” and almost always I went with the first two options, unless I needed to pay bills. Not having furniture didn’t inhibit my life in any way. It’s not so much about minimalism–I think minimalists are really just lazy–it’s that when it came down to it, I’d rather buy more Bitcoin, or stocks, or put my money in a savings account for use later. Spending money on furniture, as opposed to a car, clothes, kitchen stuff, and other things, feels like such a waste because I don’t really “need” it. A bed, yes. A chair, sure. A computer desk, why not (though I used a kitchen counter for years before getting one). Anything else just feels excessive. I recently got a TV for the first time in almost 15 years. A TV that sits atop an entertainment center (!), which is something I’ve never had before.
So, what prompted my big change? How did I finally turn away from my Anti-Furniturian past and see the light? I can’t point to a singular Road to Damascus moment. I just woke up one day and decided enough was enough. I’m tired of living this way. Though admittedly, it was a creeping sense of social pressure. I too feel the need to fit in by having sufficient quantities of faux leather, microfiber, and particle board in various states of compression, assembled in aesthetic shapes in my apartment. It’s society’s fault. It’s your fault. I blame you entirely. I hope you’re happy.
Furniture is an inconvenience. It’s a hassle to shop for, even online. But especially in person. Has anyone ever gone into one of those furniture stores and actually had a good time? I worked in one and hated myself every day. I can’t even imagine what my poor customers were going through walking in those doors.
Furniture sucks. I won’t say I’ll never backslide into my Anti-Furniturian ways ever again. But for now, bring on the particle board.