Some Things I Learned About Adulthood from BuzzFeed

Or, young people aren’t buying furniture anymore. Or they are. Later.

Photo: chip_p/Flickr

Just in time for summer or the end of spring cleaning or both, BuzzFeed has rolled out a new series about “adulting,” so far centered around the very specific “adult” act of buying new furniture. I’m sure that building a home means more than just buying a new couch, but what we have right here is a very in-depth exploration of what millennials are doing with their money.

Amidst the various musings about what it means to buy furniture and how said furniture positions you as an adult is this astute bit on how furniture is being marketed to young people who aren’t buying homes and don’t have the money to break free on their own.

Young People Are Struggling, So Furniture Stores Target ‘The Bank Of Mom And Dad’

Even though some millennials are buying homes and furnishing those homes with stuff that they also buy, a lot of other millennials are still living at home with their parents while they get on their feet. Living at home for longer means that young people are no longer creating new households. The industry that caters to those creating new households has felt the change in the wind and are now apparently marketing their stuff to “The Bank of Mom and Dad.”

“The bank of mom and dad is our current customer,” the CEO of West Elm parent company Williams-Sonoma told investors on a call in 2015. “Student debt is greater than all credit card debt and substantially greater than all car financing debt. So that has to get paid off. One third of all millennials who were buying a home were getting help from the bank of mom and dad.”

Finally, some real talk about how on earth these millennials who are buying homes are able to fill those homes with the tasteful mid-century modern sofas and credenzas. Parent money! Here be parent money. If the millennials this week are staying at home and living there for longer, delaying the traditional markers of adulthood like starting a family and buying a house, it absolutely makes sense to market a starter sofa to the parents who will be funding that endeavor at some point down the line.

What I’m picking up here is that the hardest thing to buy as an adult is a couch. People think a lot about couches. As someone who is writing this sitting in a room full of hand-me-down furniture plus a desk I dragged off the street a few weekends ago, I suppose that there’s some truth to this casual observation. The only people I know with actual, new, furniture, are married or in long-term relationships. They bought their $1,200 IKEA sectional because it was much easier to handle when two people were splitting the bill. They went to CB2 and bought a nice looking armchair because hey, when your share of a $1,000 armchair is just half, your world becomes a lot larger.

So. Even though the information in this poll of public opinion about what makes an adult points out the three most obvious things — paying your own rent, not living at home, having a full time — maybe the subtext is that we’re not actually adults until we’ve purchased a sofa for over $500. Am I missing something? Will I level up if I sit on a couch that costs money than the couch I’m currently sitting on, which is $100 split with my sister plus a cigarette and a beer for her friend who helped move it up our stairs?

Being an adult is clearly different from “adulting;” the former is a biological cateogry and the latter is a vertical on websites that cater to an audience in search of memes about what it’s like to pay your electric bill on time. We perform adulthood in many ways sometimes — a dinner party with cloth napkins and candles on a Tuesday, maybe — but despite that performance, we are still adults.

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