My son is a senior in college, living in a furnished apartment just off campus. While he's only had to move basics like clothes, electronics and kitchen items, his friends have scrounged for hand-me-down sofas, mattresses and lamps to fill their unfurnished places.
I have a feeling that once my son graduates and moves into his first adult apartment, he's not going to want the castoffs gathering spiderwebs in our basement. But furniture is expensive. Is it smart to spend a ton of money when he might be moving a lot, especially early in his career?
Some relatively new furniture companies have an interesting solution. Companies like Fernish and Feather allow you to pay a monthly fee to rent the furniture you need. You can rent it as long as you want, buy it if you fall in love with it, or swap it out when you get tired of it. When you're finished with it, it will be deep-cleaned and sent off to the next renter.
The furniture comes assembled and delivered. It's sleek and hip, from places like West Elm and Crate & Barrel.
Besides giving people a better option than buying new (or begging for giveaways), renting and reusing furniture this way keeps it from inevitably getting dumped at the curb when it no longer makes the cut.
According to a 2009 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), furniture accounts for 9.8 million tons (4.1%) of household waste and is the No. 1 least-recycled item in a home.
When it's not recycled, there's a good chance it ends up in a landfill.
"By using Fernish you're also saying goodbye to 'fast' furniture — cheaply made, self-assembled furniture that you're forced to throw away after a single use," says the Fernish website. "You may not own your place right now, but you should live like you do. And that's what we're here for."
Who does it and how it works
While older people might like the idea of owning stuff, many younger people don't seem to have the same need to accumulate things. Both companies told MindBodyGreen that millennials have been the most interested in the furniture subscription concept.
"The relationship people have with their stuff is changing, and you're seeing that in other areas too," says Jay Reno, founder and CEO of Feather. He mentions other popular subscription models in clothing (Rent the Runway), transportation (Lyft and Uber) and entertainment (Spotify and Netflix). "The customer who is coming to us realizes that when it comes to ownership of physical stuff — there could be a better solution."
After subscribing to the service, you choose individual items you want (or an entire room) and pay based on what you rent. Feather also offers an optional monthly membership fee that lowers furniture costs and comes with a few more perks.
Feather is available in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County, California. Fernish is active in Los Angeles and Seattle.
Both companies have furniture designed with sustainability in mind. The items are expected to be used over and over again.
As Fernish found Michael L. Barlow told MindBodyGreen, "Our goal is to never have low-quality products ever be put into landfill."