Monday, April 5, 2010

An Argument for Pre-Owned: A Sofa Saga

We moved. Not far, but we moved. We just got to a bigger apartment in our same complex. No moving trucks involved. We swore we would not bring our couch, which has nice memories but was becoming more and more hated as time went on. It wasn't a great purchase in the first place, and the fabric on the cushions was tearing, and it was never the right fit for us anyway. It was a learning experience.

So, we have been on the look-out for "the" perfect couch for months now, in preparation for the move. That old couch was NOT coming, no way, no how. (shamefully, that couch isn't very old at all, it should have lasted longer and I cringe to have it hauled away as landfill-filler...) The perfect couch is an elusive creature. I refuse to pay full retail for almost anything, so furniture stores really hurt me. But we wanted to avoid another cheap couch that wouldn't last. Plus, I have high standards for my sofa, as I spend a fair amount of time on it. (I'm enjoying it now with my laptop) I need to sit in it and be hugged by soft yet firm cushions. It has to have a high back to I can just lean my head back on it. I need to be able to fall onto it after a hard day. My couch is my comfort and my refuge, moreso than my bed, I think. My couch is for books and cat and coffee, for curling up, for stretching out, for spacing out, for vegging out. For living. Feet-up-on-it kind of living.

We did find it. We found it at a close-out store which satisfied my frugal (cheap??) side. It's fairly massive. It fits the two of us comfortably, with the cat wherever she chooses to plop. So far that's mostly on the generous back. It's cushiony curl-uppy and soft and made by a really great quality manufacturer. It's big and sturdy and will last a good long time, as a couch should. So what's the problem? Well...

I died a little inside when it arrived swathed in plastic. I understand, even if I don't like it. It's a dirty world and we don't want anything to get onto our couch before it has a chance for crumbs and cat hair (see previous blog. it's a dark brown couch. I won't see black cat hair). So, there's major footprint and trash and waste before it even got in the place. The second part I completely forgot about, not having purchased a "quality" couch in quite a long time, was alllll the massive amounts of "stuff" with which this thing was treated. Flame-retardant-stain-retardant-breathing-retardant stuff. Even as I sit here on Day 3 of sofa-happiness, I am surrounded by wafting tendrils of off-gassing lovliness.

I know about this off-gassing. Totally forgot about it. But now I recall how it hurts us and our children and the condors and all I can do is smell it and know that it affects us one and all. I look at my cat sleeping peacefully on it and wonder if maybe she shouldn't be breathing it in, right there so close to it with her little face and little lungs. I muse on the headache creeping around the corners of my brain, and know I should get up for some fresh non-off-gassy air. I KNOW we need to STOP treating furniture and carpets etc... but we won't. Not anytime soon. I realize that had we continued to look and really prowled through used furniture stores, we might have found a really great couch that finished its off-gassing already, and we would not have contributed to the new-purchase-manufacture cycle.

But I can't stay mad at my sofa. I lean my head back on it and it oh so softly yet firmly supports me. It will stop being stinky soon enough. I just have to promise to love it and keep it for a very long time. And next time, many years from now, maybe we will have learned that we shouldn't use all those chemicals, and my next sofa will not threaten me (and the planet) with cancer. I can hope. Otherwise, I'll looked for pre-owned. I'm hoping that's a few decades down the road. The best I can do now is make this one last and last... after all, it's not its fault. It's our fault. We need to protect ourselves from (GASP) stains and of course we have to make sure we don't catch on fire while sitting watching TV.

Apparently, destroying our habitat is worth the protection from our own clumsiness and stupidity...