Out with the Old, in with the New ― Ode to a Chair
“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
― Mary Heaton Vorse, American journalist
We’d been through a lot together, my old leather office chair and I. For a quarter of a century, I relied on her support, on those welcoming arms of hers, nearly every day. Together, we wrestled through mounds of manuscripts, pages of prose. Without fail she had my back, and covered my rear. On those frequent days when I didn’t feel inspired to write, she would beckon, “C’mon, we can do this.”
During one of our many moves ― and we’d been through 10 homes together ― I lost a key bolt that fastened her seat to her swivel. Knowing I could not go on without her, I took forensic lengths to find the long-discontinued part and had her expertly repaired. We took care of each other that way. We were as close as human and furniture could be.
Until, alas, the time came for us to part.
Though my chair and I were great together in many ways, we were not a good physical fit. The chair was meant for someone taller. If I wanted my feet to touch the ground, I had to perch on the seat’s edge. If I sat back, my feet dangled so I looked like Goldilocks in Papa Bear’s chair.
Twenty-five years ago, ergonomic design was not what it is today.
Meanwhile, and here comes the heartbreaking part, at an office down the street, where I had a second job, I met a more comfortable chair. Though we were not nearly as bonded as my home office chair and I, the other chair was everything my thickly cushioned, brown, traditional home chair was not: sleek, white, modern, proportioned to fit me and comfortable. I could sit in this chair for hours and not feel as if I needed an oil can to stand up.
When that office closed last week, I called dibs on the chair. I brought it home, which felt like betrayal. I moved the old chair out into the hall, where she couldn’t see me try the new chair behind my desk. I sat. I swiveled. The chair felt just right. Plus, and I know this sounds shallow, the new chair updated the whole space.
Irrationally (and you know I know better), I clung to the old chair for a few days before I could bring myself to rehome her. Then it was time. I posted the chair on The Buy Nothing Project, a Facebook Group page where community members list items they are giving away or needing:
#Gift: This great old servant is looking for a new home. All leather, gently used. Seven books and hundreds of articles written from this seat. May the force be with you. Available for porch pickup.
Within a few hours, a dozen interested parties responded. Many seemed worthy. (A woman wanted it for her son trying to finish college online. Another wanted it for her husband who was writing a book.) I held a drawing.
When the winner came to claim her chair, I met her out front. I wanted to see the chair off and make sure she was in good hands. The recipient was a mother of two and the manager of a small business, who liked to write children’s stories, she said. She hoped to be published someday. I gratefully noted that she was taller than I. Her husband had co-opted her desk chair after Covid drove his administrative job into their home, she said. “I thought if I got him this chair, I could get mine back.”
I considered this. Then, as if reading my mind, she added, “or maybe I will use this one myself.”
“That’s a lovely idea,” I said. (I barely knew this woman, yet I wanted this asset to convey writer to writer.) I gave the chair a wistful pat and sent them both off.
I tell you all this to show you that I am not immune to getting attached to stuff. I know that breaking up is hard to do. However, realizing when a furniture relationship has run its course, helps both you and your home evolve, and just might help others, too.
The season of giving is a time to re-evaluate what you have and what’s due for an upgrade. Here are some questions I worked through, and you might consider, too, when looking to let go:
Is it still working for you? Though my chair was not that comfortable, I made do because it was, well, my chair. I harkened back to an interview I had earlier this year with Chris Peterson, author of “Home Office Solutions,” who said, “Your chair is the most important part of your work environment. The right chair is particular to your anatomy.”
Does it lift your space or date it? Styles change. Bigger, heavy furniture has given way to lighter, sleeker pieces. While I am not going to replace all my older style furniture, I have found that swapping out a few traditional pieces for more modern ones can quickly refresh a room.
Do you have something better you can use? Once I had a new, more stylish, more comfortable chair, I could not justify hanging onto the old one.
Are you resisting for solely sentimental reasons? Stuff is just stuff. We get attached to the stories, and the history that we endow our belongings with. Be practical. Hang onto the stories, not the furniture.
Could someone else benefit from it? Although I know as well as anyone that letting go of items you love that have been part of your life can feel like an amputation, knowing that they have gone to a worthy home, where they will continue to be used and appreciated, takes the sting away.
May the force be with her.
Photo caption: Moving on ― Small moves, like trading out this traditional brown leather office chair for a more modern white and chrome one, can instantly refresh and update a space. But you have to be ready to let go. Photos courtesy Marni Jameson.