The Mini Futon:
A Small Solution to a Major Issue
by Patrick Clark
With rising energy costs, more people are seriously considering downscaling their lifestyles and moving into a smaller space. This is partly what's fueling the minamalist movement and things like the "100 Things Challenge", which is a group of people paring down their belongings to the bare minimal. The Japanese Futon (often thought of as a 'mini futon') with it's compactness and versatility provides some of the solutions to living in a smaller space. It also allows the mobility easily relocate without renting a big moving truck.
A small Japanese room seems much bigger than it really is. The reason is it's lack of furniture. Without a couch, bed, tables and chairs, there's empty uncluttered space. Minimalism has several purposes. Besides making life easier and saving space, minimalism can be body friendly.
More thought and planning has to go into the design and arrangement. There is no room to waste on poorly designed furniture, which just about all couches are. This design process involves not just the architecture but the furniture. In this case, furniture can mean things like pillows, mats, and closets. Actually, that's what a Japanese bedroom consists of. Specifically: tatami mat, futon, sheets, quilt, pillows, closet.
High ceilings give the illusion of a large space. Sitting and sleeping on the floor makes the ceiling feel higher since you are further from it.
The main obstacles preventing people from this lifestyle are:
1) Getting up and down to the floor is difficult, uncomfortable.
Solution: Some people don't have the flexibility and health it takes--or just the inclination. For them the futon can be placed on a platform bed or a platform couch. You still get the benefits of the futon surface.
2) It's too much work.
Solution: The work can actually be fun because it encourages movement into our lifestyle. It really isn't much more work than making the average American bed. Some training in the somatic arts like The Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais is very helpful. Correct body mechanics makes all the difference in the world. Most of us need this training because we have not had the opportunity to move much in our lives. American furniture tries to put us in immobile positions with little movement in between. The reasoning is that bending down is hard on the back. The fact is, NOT bending is hard on the back. Bending, squatting, crawling, rolling, stretching as in yoga or dance or children's play, is freeing and rejuvenating. That's why people do it. This kind of movement can be built into our homes and lifestyles with a little rethinking of the underlying design principles.
3) The futon is way way too firm and hard. This is bad on the back.
Solution: Resistance in general is good and necessary for good health, including the back. Just like walking barefoot will strengthen and align the feet, exercise will tone muscles, a hard surface will create more length and circulation in the back. Our furniture and how we use it shapes our bodies. If a person has scoliosis or some other condition, some extra padding will be necessary. But allowing the least padding necessary to get a good night's sleep has many benefits. The hard surface can actually help heal from the conditions causing the discomfort. (See The Ergonomics of Sleep: Sweet Dreams on a Hard Surface)
4) There's a crack in the middle.
Solution: The Japanese Futon is made to fit one person. A couple sleeping together simply put them side by side. The crack is easily hidden with a simple blanket or mattress pad. You won't know the bed is in two pieces. Many American mattresses are made this way anyway, so each person can customize her or his side.
People are realizing that organic sleep is just as important as organic food. An organic mattress and bed frame can cost upwards of two grand for the low-end models. This makes the mini futon look like an even more attractive option.
Here is an excerpt from a great blog helping people simplify their lives.
Are you surrounded by clutter in every room in your home? Clutter is visually distracting and stressful — every item that you see demands your mind’S. attention, and no matter how short that attention is, and despite that it is subconscious, these little distractions add up. It’S. difficult to have peace and to focus amid this clutter. Add to this the wasted time and energy needed to look for things, to maintain things, and to clean things, and the more clutter you have, the more energy it will take to have it.
To read the rest, click here.
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