Some time ago, I wrote about not having a nightstand on my side of the bed. This generated a reader letter full of inquiries and guesses about my weird lifestyle, like how I "must not wear a watch." I am still laughing about this. I often forget how contrarian my domestic arrangements are. One of these strange choices is to never have a coffee table.
I HATE COFFEE TABLES. There, I said it. I also hate lamps and glass furniture. I mean, I'm sure all your lamps are gorgeous, but for my own home, I want nothing to do with floor lamps or table lamps. We actually have a piece of glass furniture right now, the stand for the TV, and it starts visibly collecting dust as I'm in the process of dusting it. If I weren't such a tightwad, I would have replaced it already. My main criterion for furniture and decor is its functionality. If it annoys me, it's toast.
What is the deal with coffee tables? I've stubbed my toe many times in my life, and I'm pretty sure it's been on the leg of a coffee table every time. They just sit there, taking over the center of the living room, lying in wait for my poor vulnerable bare feet. They're like alligators. I've also bruised my shin on them, and when I was about four years old, I tripped and smacked my head on one. All of these were different tables, which is proof that either there is a conspiracy or they come from the devil.
The other problem with coffee tables is that they are clutter magnets. The only time they get cleaned off is if, like, the in-laws are coming over or something. The rest of the time, they're generally buried under various food containers, mail, books, action figures, craft supplies, nail polish, pet toys, and who knows what else. Whatever we're interacting with during screen time, there it lands and there it stays.
When I got my own apartment for the first time in, what, twelve years? I refused to have a coffee table. My living room was really small, and it's not like I was missing anything. When I upgraded my couch a year later, I got... an ottoman! This to me is luxury. There's always somewhere big and foofy to put my feet up. If I have a lot of people over, it can be pulled aside and used as an extra chair. Because it has a squishy soft top, the only thing I'm ever tempted to leave on it is, at most, a book.
After I got married again, I merged households with my husband, my stepdaughter, and their dog. We added a second couch with its own ottoman. Years later, it turns out to be one of the dog's favorite cozy spots. He will stare at you soulfully, with his snoot in your lap, until you invite him up and spread a blanket over him. He will stretch out on the ottoman, hugging your leg, and fall asleep and start twitching his feet. You should try it sometime on a damp, chilly night.
Okay, we can all agree on the delights of the ottoman as a home furnishing. Can't we have them and still have coffee tables? Well, sure, why the heck not. If you want one, you go right ahead. Knock yourself out. I hope that doesn't literally happen when your coffee table jumps out at you with mutiny on its mind.
Where do we put our coffee, though? I dunno. My husband and stepdaughter and I all hate coffee, and we certainly don't give it to the dog. A rat terrier on caffeine is, besides being veterinary malpractice, an extremely alarming prospect. We'd have to hang a safety net over our balcony so he didn't bounce out. Three of the four bipeds drink tea. We just drink it at the table, or stand up and carry our empty teacups into the kitchen.
What do we do with all the other stuff that tends to wind up strewn all over most coffee tables? Let's see. We read our news digitally, so we don't have physical newspapers or magazines. We eat at the dining table, so we don't have plates or bowls to leave out in the living room, and we don't really eat snack foods. If I paint my nails, I do it sitting on the bathroom floor, partly because I can sit on the floor (and intend to retain the ability) and partly because I've been known to spill. When we work on craft projects, we have to put them away between sessions, because neither of our pets are at all trustworthy around these things. I distinctly recall spending twenty minutes gathering knitting yarn that Spike: Puppy Version carried out the dog door and wound around every bush and shrub in our yard. One of my birds actually flew off with a crochet hook. Come to think of it, the main reason we avoid clutter in our home is because almost everywhere is Pet Zone.
You know a bit about my living situation now. I don't have a coffee table or a nightstand or a floor lamp or a coffee maker or a recliner or holiday decorations or a wall clock, all because of reasons. I do have a robotic mop and a robotic vacuum cleaner and a battery-powered scrubber for my bathtub, also because of reasons. My home is my castle, the place where I spend the majority of my time, and also the line item where we spend the majority of our money. Look around your own home and consider whether you have all the attractions you want, and whether anything is there simply due to tradition and entropy.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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