one woman's quest to live the life she's imagined all while daring you to do the same

Five Life Lessons I Continue to Learn from Ikea

Each time I walk into an Ikea superstore it is clear that I’ve suffered from yet another episode of amnesia that has allowed me to forget the amount of cursing that transpired after my last trip.

Immediately when I walk through the door, I’m annoyed at the arrows on the floor and how we’re all being systematically cattle-herded through the maze that is their showroom. Yet, somehow I can’t help but grab a cart and, like cattle, follow the crowd anyway. Not to mention that I always grab the crazy cart that steers itself.

I don’t know if it’s the Price Is Right-style showrooms that gets me oo-ing and ahh-ing each time, or the bins full of knick-knacks marked under $10 that keep me from going off-course and beelining to the one item I actually came in for. Either way, I do just as they intend, which brings me to my first lesson:

I am not as independent as I believe myself to be. Even in my pursuit of mindfulness, I fall victim to product placement, mind-blowing deals, the need for excess, etc. as soon as I walk through the doors of Ikea, or any brick and mortar shop, for that matter. This is why I love online shopping, although with the “customers like you also bought…” messages the attempts are still there, but without the shiny object in front of me to touch and feel, I falter less.

For all the big “self serve” items, I now take pictures of the aisle and bin # rather than writing it all down like they used to make us do with that putt-putt sized pencil. I notice myself slow down even in the kid section to see all the cool shiny objects in their showroom (I don’t have kids.), which brings me to point number two:

I still compare myself to others. About mid-way through the showroom (where the kids stuff is), I find myself comparing us to other shoppers, judging the contents of their carts. I sense they have fallen into the same trap, and I feel sorry for them. I know they don’t need that crappy salad spinner. I know that plant will die in two weeks. I know that table will be missing parts and that it’s not worth driving back for. I want to tell them, but then again I feel it’s sort of an Ikea rights of passage to experience it themselves. Some of their carts are packed, “Is it college time? No. It’s April. I guess they’re moving. Yikes! Good luck with all that,” I think.

We make it through kitchen and bathroom fairly unscathed, we did grab some more kitchen towels (we don’t need) because they were too cheap to pass up, same for some tupperware (that we also don’t need), and lastly some mason jar thingys (that we especially don’t need), but with no price tag we figure, “you can never have enough.”

We get down to the showroom and begin scrolling through the pics to find our items requiring a larger uncooperative cart and some heavy awkward boxes that no one seems to want to help us with in the “self-serve” section.

It’s nearing closing, so the lines resemble that of Disney Land, which brings me to my next lesson:

I’m cheap. Time is money. By now we’ve spent over an hour in a store that we needed two things from. We have six extra items in our cart (that we don’t need) and we haven’t even made it through the ginormous line. The customers are beginning to resemble People of Walmart and I’m wondering how I’m playing into all of this chaos.

As we near the register, we see more clearly the hurricane-like distruction that has swept through the store. Items in the long line that, after much contemplation, don’t make the cut are strewn about like the aftermath of an ugly Christmas sale.

Our cashier, thankfully, is still holding it together, but in the elevator on the way down to the parking lot we hear stories of other cashiers losing it at closing time. Mis-marked sale items, disgruntled shoppers, and disfunctioning scanners are enough to make any Ikea checkout employee go batshit, rightfully so.

After wrestling the heavy awkward boxes into the car, we get on the road. The shopping amnesia has already set in and we’re so pleased with our steal of a purchase, we forget the time wasted that we will never be able to get back.

At home, we’re smart enough to only tackle two pieces of small furniture. A new kitchen island and kitchen rolly thingy (that was not on our list and we actually have no place for it at all, but nonetheless it snapped together easily and we’re still trying to find it a home.)

It’s passed midnight, but with all our experience we somehow think that with the two of us, this piece will just come together on it’s own.

I notice the intricacies of the drawings, all red flags I would have missed in my nativity years ago, which brings me to my next lesson:

I’m horribly naive still. At 2 am I stormed to bed in a huff after being defeated by the very last step in the kitchen island. I through my hammer down (that’s right I said hammer–apparently a new tool needed in Ikea building), after barking at Elisa several times in absolute frustration, and held back tears on my way to the room. Even she gave up within 10 minutes, unheard of, and both of us laid in bed grouchy until I mustered up the appropriate apologies to be held.

This morning I went at it fresh and finished the piece, nailing and screwing things I’m not sure were supposed to be nailed or screwed. And in the end, we have a beautiful kitchen island, with one short leg. So, clearly, it’s not sturdy–the very thing you would ask of even an ugly kitchen island.

Will I call and return the item that took me four hours to build? Hell no! And do it all over again? Bullshit. Instead, I will drive to the hardware store and waste more time buying pieces that did not come with my cheap furniture, which brings me to my last lesson:

I’ll never learn!

I leave you with this: The odds are stacked in favor of the house. Save yourself the dignity. Shop online and pay the shipping! You’ll be a better wo-man for it;)


Much Love,


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