The Velveteen Couch

Have you ever heard of that de-cluttering principle where, for each new thing you bring into your house, you’re supposed to get rid of something that’s more or less its equal?

Well, yesterday, we put up our Christmas tree and threw away our couch. Since the tree’s only a temporary resident of our house, that means we can import some really, really big things and still be ahead in the de-cluttering game.

Throwing away that couch has put me in the most marvelous mood. It’s older than our children (the couch, not the mood), and once lived a cushy life in my father-in-law’s office at a fancy law firm in San Francisco. Alas, that was the pinnacle of the couch’s existence. It’s been a downward spiral since then.

Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the couch (which also began its life a beautiful plush brown object) fell from pride of place when it was disgarded by its original owner. As often happens, with a change in scene and the passage of time, the couch gradually lost all its plushness. Where once its chief function was to cushion the tailored suit bottoms of corporate clients, the couch was forced to toil (for years and years) as a climbing apparatus for three young and wild children. In fact, so skilled have those children become at launching themselves over and off the couch that just the other day someone was able to demonstrate that it is entirely possible, while holding a guitar in one hand, to leap almost across the living room from the arm of the couch and still sing the lyrics to that great rap anthem, Chicken Noodle Soup Wit’ a Soda on the Side. The poor couch.

I hadn’t realized until the couch left the house how much anxiety I felt on its behalf every time someone would visit us. A friend would walk in the door, and I’d hold my breath, hoping they’d sit on the nice armchairs I’d put seductively by the fireplace. And if they did ignore my mental pleas, and sit on the couch, I’d pray to a higher power that they wouldn’t have the bad luck to sit on the spot where the boys, after a particularly vigorous display of musical and gymnastic prowess, managed to liberate a nest of sharp springs from whatever ordinarily keeps those springs from poking you or your guests in the bottom. More than one person has sat in that spot and winced and then made some excuse to get up and do something else before re-entering the living room and sitting gratefully in an arm chair.

With the couch gone (to couch heaven, of course), our living room looks large, spare, and clean. We have beautiful random plank hardwood floors and, because one of the rap gods/couch leapers is allergic to dust mites, there aren’t any rugs on them. I can only surmise that it will be a matter of moments before my boys discover that the floor is the ideal surface on which to play hockey.

But I haven’t been finding that possibility all that worrying. I suppose that’s because I’ve been having so much fun deciding what object might best replace that couch. No, it won’t be another couch. (Why would I do that to another innocent piece of furniture?) We’ve been thinking for quite some time that we’d like to buy some kind of television, something larger than our laptop computer screens on which to watch dvds. Something large and thin, but portable enough to take out and put on a table for viewing, but then put out of sight when we’re done. We don’t want to actually watch television itself (the kind you get from the networks and through cable). We just want to put in a dvd and not have to tilt the screen back and forth until everyone can see the Beverly Hillbillies. Everything I’ve looked at seems so slick and lovely and hd tv ready (whatever that means) that I can’t tell what the difference is among all these beautiful televisions.

I’m guessing though that someone among you has recently made such a purchase and will have wise things to say about what might be the best of all televisions for a family like ours. Yes, I’m soliciting your advice here! I’ll take it too. And then we’ll have to hold our breath and hope that no one decides the television could double as a piece of sports gear in a pinch.

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22 thoughts on “The Velveteen Couch

  1. I am convinced that bad couches are just as bad for one’s soul as bad art (that’s some take from the Picture of Dorian Gray -I sort of butchered it) – Sam and I are in a similar situation (albeit, without the children) where our old couch makes us ache and our television is so old that it sporadically shuts down for a rest and yet, and yet – with stores full of couches, and a million different tvs, we find it easier to stay home on our bad couch and watch basketball until the tv needs a nap, and then we take one, too, than actually go out there and shop –

  2. I do envy your getting rid of the couch. We have the most uncomfortable, hideous looking chair — nearly as large as a loveseat — which I would love to send to chair heaven.

  3. You always make me laugh bloglily. I have no TV advice for you, however. We’ve got a small, ugly thing for the movie watching and it does okay. I’m the kind of person who would keep an old couch around for about 10 years too long. Actually — I really, really need to get a new one one of these years 🙂

  4. I got maudlin two years ago when we bought our first couch. “Oh no!” I thought. “I’m turning into an old married! I’m settling down!” Never mind that I had been married for five years at the time. I think it would be more refreshing to get rid of a couch rather than buy one.

    Your old sofa sounds like quite a character. I especially like its use as a stage for a budding rap star! I do have good memories of my mum’s old couch that my brother and I used to make into a fort and a raft.

    I wish I could advise you on TVs but I don’t know much about them except that our one is going progessively on the blink. I do know that boys like big screens, though. What is it about that?!

  5. Courtney, Now I’m feeling sort of sad about getting rid of our old couch. I wish Kristin and her subaru had somehow managed to come across it. But I do believe in couch heaven, and ours is in that happier place.

    Oh Nancy, I’m sorry. It sounds perfect for jumping on, but I don’t imagine that’s how you spend your evenings.

    Well Dorothy, we did own that couch for almost 18 years, which was about 11 years too long.

    Hi Rooma, Why thank you. But no TV advice???! Yikes. We might have to buy a new couch after all.

    Archie–It took me a moment to see what you were thinking about but man when it sunk in it made me very nervous. Don’t you dare say anything about this idea you have, okay?

    Helen, I just asked my husband why boys like large screen televisions and he said: honey, you need to turn off your computer and go to sleep. I guess he’s not going to tell me. Goodnight! xo, BL

  6. OK, I have one TV advice, for a lightweight TV that you can take with you in whatever room, that has an image large enough (3×5 ft up to 6×10 ft) for a large party to see, and that can be stowed away in a shoebox or accommodated discreetly on a bookshelf.

    It is called a video-projector, and if you are not the watch-tv-all-day-long type of family, the longevity of the lamp will be enough for it to last almost as long as aforementioned couch.

  7. Dear Lily~

    Oh, your old brown couch saga is quite funny! The image of children launching themselves across the room from its arms is priceless.

    Regarding TVs, Roland and I have a great one, perfect for viewing movies (which is why we bought it). The 32 inch Sharp Aquos flat screen. The picture resolution is fantastic, and when not in use you can cover it with the decorative cloth of your choice, which is what I do during parties or when I have guests. Even without a cover it’s an attractive, kind of futuristic looking appliance. That’s my recommendation, at any rate. Good luck in your search!

    ~Love and Blessings,
    Selene~

  8. Such a wonderful story from you, dear Bloglily. We finally got rid of the couch that had not only been ours for too long, but my parent’s for too long before that. In fact, when we threw it away, it was almost 30 years old….. boy was it ready for couch heaven. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s tantamount to cruelty to keep them suffering under the feet of small children beyond their natural spring life.

  9. Mandarine, That’s something I hadn’t thought about and will most certainly put on the list of things to look at. I suppose you project on to any white wall, or a screen, right? That sounds like a lot of fun, especially in the summer, when you can take it outside and show movies in the back yard, on the big brick wall where the boys play handball.

    Selene, That tv is very stylish. attractive, futuristic? How fun.

    Dear litlove, That’s a very long life for a couch, even by our standards!

    Sue, Lovely television, nice link (there’s a video demonstration of that tv, which is a nice thing to be able to look at). Thank you! (PS: I think you & selene would like each other very much.)

  10. I am excited for you, I’d love to get a new televison! All I can really suggest is using the internet for research and getting actual users responses on different sets.

  11. I love your couch post, and relate completely to your celebration of empty space – something I don’t have (every space is FULL!) and long for. But I am truly worried to hear that big children also use couches as trampolines. I was hoping my lot would grow out of the trampolining soon, so that we could toss out our tatty one and buy a lovely sophisticated grown-up couch. Looks like that’s still many years into our future.

  12. When I was a grad student, I got a hideous couch from two old ladies who lived down the block. It was the ugliest thing ever and looked like it might have survived (using the term loosely) an entire grade school of rambunctious children using it for various non-couch things. One entire end of it fell off before I finally put it to rest at the curb.

  13. We’ve got a combination TV and DVD player, which we keep in the 2nd best bedroom upstairs, only to be used for DVDs and various public television shows, and when I practice my secret vice: watching America’s Next Top Model.

  14. I have no tv advice. I know nothing about electronics except that they can be very useful, otherwise how would I comment on and get to read wonderful blogs like this?

    We had a couch like this, only it was an oatmeal colored cotton/linen blend fabric rather than velveteen. I t did not serve as a launching pad for young rock stars. It was a play ground and prizefighting ring for numerous kittens, who found it was advantageous to get down in the slot behind the cushions and play “fingers” but not a good idea to sleep there because you could get sat upon.

    This furniture, which had a matching love seat, graced our living rooms for many years. It was purchased in 1972. When we finally got new leather couches in 2002, we gave the couch to a person who was begging for it and the love seat to our son and his wife. When they parted ways and we had a big garage sale in 2005 to clear out the detritus, someone paid us $20 for the loveseat. I’m sure it is still going strong somewhere.

    All this proves is that if you are going to buy furniture, buy GOOD furniture. It will last forever. Don’t buy white furniture.

    Incidentally, if your sons are allergic to dust mites, a fabric couch is a really bad idea, almost worse than rugs and carpets. If you do decide to get something to replace it, look at leather as a covering. The dust does not sink down into your furniture and become an integral part of it; it stays on the surface where you can wipe it off and get rid of it.

  15. Ditto the comment re leather couches. As you know, we have two rambunctious (and dirty) dogs. I went round and round trying to decide between slipcovers and leather. Not wanting to wash slipcovers every week, I chose leather. Our couch looks great and stays pretty (well, it would, if I wiped it down a little more often). And, I think the couch will get better looking as it ages and gets more worn.

    I have no comment re tv, as we are still in the last millenium on that one.

  16. Hi Debby, What a great piece of advice. I’ll take either pretty or pretty clean and if I can get both it’s a major bonus.

    Ms. HMH, You’re quite right, buy something really good and it’ll last foreever. Trouble is, what if the good thing you bought is really, really, really ugly? Yikes.

    Dear Lucette, I’m going out on a limb here, but i’m going to guess that you are not the only articulate, smart, culinary and literary genius who has that particular vice.

    Hobs, The image of the whole end falling off when you finally dragged that couch to the curb is very funny. (As is the thought of the transaction between you and the two old ladies.)

    Oh dear Charlotte, It’s true: they don’t ever really grow up. And then I’m guessing one day they do and you wonder how in the heck that happened.

    Hello Carl — I’m excited too. Come January, we’re going to be watching Lucette’s favorite show, I am certain.

  17. Pingback: Good News and Bad News « BlogLily

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