Kelley J. Leigh

Loud World. Quiet Soul. Listen beyond the noise.

Craigslist Couch Fail





“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection



I should have known. The picture on Craigslist was a little too blurry and dark.

The heavily pregnant wife met me at the door. She pushed back her long hair, set her hand on her lower back, and led me past three young grade school boys and a dog playing in dirt and swings beyond the smudged patio doors. They had just moved in, she explained. It was going to be a girl this time. We walked past her husband’s newly framed Army medals hanging on the wall and found the couch in a room full of unpacked boxes and bags. The claw feet were in a separate bag, so I couldn’t sit on the couch and test it out. Only a year old, it had cost over 3,000 dollars she said, and it should look brand new but the movers just wrecked it when they pulled it out of storage. She sniffed and rolled her eyes like it happened yesterday. I touched the leather and craned to see around the back. I removed the pillows and a couple crayons peeked out from between and I thought I saw a juice box stain. I have spent much time vacuuming and cleaning similar terrain beneath cushions. This couch was not one year old. The scrapes were not from movers. I am a seasoned mom of four boys. I know.

She looked so weary; the baby had clearly dropped and was due any day. She was tired, desperate to be rid of the sofa which clearly would not fit in her new house full of small children. She was willing to use any means to get rid of it; any means except an admission of the buried truth.

I recognized something of myself in her.

I experienced a long free-falling icy slide at mid-life. To that point I had built a life around the management of circumstances and emotions. I maintained a facade and kept up appearances. Before my husband bravely demanded a change in our marriage, before so many other cracking and transforming things of life that came crashing in besides him, I used to regularly hide and cry in the bathroom. I used to isolate until I could pull myself together. I masterfully concealed my anger and suppressed my depression. I lived that way, in crowds of unsuspecting family and church friends, hiding in plain sight with broken things stuffed away in the deep creases of my private world.

Given the crayons and lies, I got the feeling there were hidden things stuffed deep inside the young Craigslist mom as well; things only God could see.

Sharp Things

I decided to take the risk and buy the couch. My oldest son and the military husband strained to load the monstrous piece of furniture into the back of our pick-up. As we drove away, I had serious second thoughts.

At home in my living room, I pulled off the cushions and reached down in the folds with a well-practiced caution. I know this drill. Sometimes sharp objects lurk below. My fingers prodded with learned discretion from forks and scissors in years past.

I gingerly retrieved an unopened new pack of soccer pencils, chewed lollipop sticks, a Lego brick, candy wrappers, and a small stack of tags for new toddler clothes. Honestly, the more junk I found, the more irritated and angry I felt.

Somewhere in the midst of so many found objects, anger wore away to sadness. I felt sad for her prison of hiding. Because, I get it. The way of vulnerability — of moving toward and being honest about the mess — it’s scary business. Having pulled my own crap out into the open, I know. In that place, you could say I found Jesus standing beside me with a gentle smile and a garbage bag. As a result, I’m a changed woman with less tendency to hide in the bathroom. I’ve learned it’s ok to speak the truth of broken things hidden away. In fact, that’s a wide path to freedom. But I remember when I chose my prison instead. I do.

So, I gently scrubbed the remnants of something that looked like spilled milk, and I wished the same freedom for her. I wish I could tell her I’ve seen her concealed debris but I’d still choose it anyway. And I hope her new baby girl is thriving.

craigslist couch


My husband fixed the sagging springs on the left side. I buffed the leather seats and arms, and covered a bunch of big old throw pillows with new fabric. The couch doesn’t really match the style of the rest of my house, but it is everybody’s first choice seat in the living room. The big comfortable well-worn sofa invites you to put your feet up, settle in, and talk at length. I like to think it’s a personal reminder, smack dab in the middle of where we live every day … to create space for the vulnerable face-to-face embrace of hidden messes.



Free Couch | Flickr image by Ashley Vowinickel 


4 Replies

  1. Whitney Davidson

    I had no idea that you were talking about the couch in your living room! This was a lovely post :) and for the record, I would have never known the couch wasn’t new when you bought it.

    1. Whitney! Yes! ‘So awesome you didn’t know it was THAT couch.
      And, thanks a whole big bunch for leaving a comment here. oxox ~K

  2. Wendy Oliver

    K~ I so appreciate your journey into “hidden messes”! The PRISON that we live in… To KEEP things hidden!
    Your willingness to walk the emotions,painful reminders,and forgiveness I believe God ordained for you in the “couch dilemma”! Love your honesty!! For in the middle of the word “honesty”….. Is the word “one”… Which is YOU.. The person being SET FREE in that process!! You go girl!!

    1. W. ‘Love the idea of “ONE” being at the middle of honesty. Thanks so much for this sweet response. I appreciate you! ~K

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