What I Learned from Crashing on my Brother's Couch for 4 Months

Devin Arrigo

Photo by Kalegin Michail on Unsplash

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Crashing on someone’s couch is the stereotypical way to move to a new city. And if you think about it, it totally makes sense. Make the move. Find a couch to crash on and buy yourself some time. Then, from there, figure out where you want to live. And more importantly who you want to live with.

But, with that said, ‘couch crashing’ oftentimes carries a stigma with it. Nomads, the jobless, or those just figuring it out are usually the ones crashing on couches. People who are lost and looking to get back on track. Or those who are just looking to make a change.

Whatever the reason, there are some very obvious benefits to sleeping on a couch — saving some $$$ and buying yourself some time. But, there are also some super legit life-skills that can be learned from such an experience. Here’s what I’ve learned so far while crashing on my older brother’s couch in San Diego for 4 months.

1. No Bullsh*t discipline approach

When you’re sleeping on someone’s couch, it’s pretty easy to feel like you’re in the way. There’s no way around it. You commandeered the main gathering space outside of the bedroom and made it your own. This makes it kind of difficult to stay out of the way. To not be a nuisance.

In turn, I’m forced to always keep what little things I have neat and tidy. I keep my blankets folded and put away. My clothes are always put away. I always take care of my dishes. WITHOUT QUESTIONS. I really don’t have a choice. I’m already inconveniencing my brother by taking over his couch. I’m not going to make it even worse by being a slob. This no questions asked discipline has even affected other areas of my life.

At work, I’m more attuned to doing things I don’t really want to do. Whereas usually, I would put things off until the next day, I now immediately tackle the challenge and move on. When I don’t want to workout, I do it anyway. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. I know I have to get it done so I get it done. I even started exclusively taking cold showers to tackle a hard challenge at the beginning and end of my day.

2. Return the favor (and then-some)

As I said before, when you take over someone’s couch, it’s hard to stay out of the way. To not, on some level, be a nuisance. But, with that said, I think there’s a super easy lesson to be learned here — ADD VALUE WHEREVER POSSIBLE. While I can’t stay out of the way all the time, I can help out and make the sacrifice they’re making more than worth it.

Clean up, even if it’s not your mess. Do the dishes. Offer to do laundry. Get the mail. Go out of your way to help! I’m crashing on my brother’s couch. I’m invading HIS space. The least I can do is help him out while he helps me out.

This is such a simple concept that extends beyond the couch. If someone is kind enough to help you out, make sure you pay it back, and then some. Return the favor. Always find a way to add value even if that value isn’t money. There’s always a way to return the favor or help someone else out. All in all, the goal is to be remembered as a positive presence rather than a negative one.

3. Your surroundings can’t change your problems

I graduated from college about two years ago and have been working full-time ever since. However, I don’t feel like I’m actually making a difference during my 40 hours a week. And I’m certainly not doing something I’m passionate about. When I first decided I was going to move to San Diego, I thought the move would give me some perspective on what I really wanted in my life.

Well, I was dead wrong. I still struggle to identify what I want to do with my life. While I know I want to have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere in the world, I haven’t discovered what that looks like.

This just goes to say, you can change your location or surroundings, but it won’t solve your problems. They're YOUR problems for a reason. Unless you answer the deep, thought-provoking questions, your problems will continue to follow you until properly dealt with. So, start by asking yourself the tough questions. Address the issues. Face them head-on! From there you can tackle them and move forward.

4. Perspective Matters

One really simple thing I learned is the importance of perspective.

“Put yourself in their shoes.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this at some point. Well, in no other spot in life did this phrase resonate with me more than while I was crashing on a couch. Without a door to close, a closet, or even a bed, I was able to see just how much I took these things for granted. My whole life I had my own room, with a bed, closet, nightstand, etc. When I started my long-term stay on the couch, I saw just how valuable these things were to me.

I’m the kind of person that loves to have things neat and tidy. Everything in my (old) rooms had a spot. This small shift in perspective (sleeping on a couch) allowed me to realize easy it is to overlook something when it becomes your norm.

I think this is a powerful lesson as it relates to empathy and compassion. It’s oftentimes difficult for me to find empathy for someone because I don’t know exactly what they’re going through. I don’t know all the details of the situation. But by taking a step back and applying this newly learned skill, I have a better ability to shift my perspective and try to step into their shoes. To really feel what they’re feeling. To go through what they’re going through. I’ve honestly seen this happening in my everyday life.

If someone cuts me off while I’m driving, my old response would be something like, “What the f*ck, you a**hole? What the f*ck are you doing??”

Now, after my perspective lesson, my response is more along the lines of, “Hmmm, I wonder if they’re running late for something? Maybe they have to get home to feed their kids?” I’m finding myself better able to put myself into others’ shoes. It’s such a powerful thing — being able to easily step into someone else’s shoes. By simply sleeping on a couch, I bettered my ability to do so.

All in all, living on a couch has been a great experience. Not only am I saving money and giving myself some time to figure out where I want to live, but it really is a life experience. It’s something I’m going to look back on when I’m older and be happy I had the courage to do it. And learning a few things along the way doesn’t hurt either.

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Marathon runner | Triathlete | Personal growth addict | Writing about creative ways to become a better human being. devin.arrigo1@gmail.com

Los Angeles, CA
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