Just a few short years ago I knew nothing about IKEA. I mean, sure, I’d heard of the store, but I’d never been to one. I’d never looked at a catalog or been to the website. Why would I? I was too busy wondering if anyone would ever buy my tiny, falling apart house to worry about buying a cute bookshelf that would take two days to assemble.
[Side note: When I was in college, I worked for one of my professors, grading papers and making copies and mocking his taste in music. As you do. Anyway, I remember him telling me a story about what he and his wife called, “The Divorce Couch.” Apparently they bought a sectional early in their marriage that required some assembly, and the thing was just about the death of them and their relationship. I think of this every time we buy something requiring assembly and I am sure my previously laidback, handy husband has LOST HIS DAMN MIND.]
I began hearing about IKEA a few years back, when it was announced that a store would be coming to Kansas City. People who are much more IN THE KNOW than me began rejoicing and, likely, planning to redecorate their homes. I, on the other hand, shrugged and said, “Okay. Cool.”
Later, when the store opened and thousands FLOCKED to its doors, I thought, “Wow. That’s a bit much for a furniture store.” But whatever, to each her own and all that. I heard stories from friends and family about how packed the store was and how huge the store was, but how amazing and, you know, TOTALLY WORTH IT, the store was.
Okayyyyyy. As Jen Hatmaker says, just whatever, man.
It should be noted, again, that I was not in a good house place at this point. I was either trying to sell my house or trying to find the money to fix my house, but at no point was I interested in or able to decorate my house with all the pretty things from the fancy new store.
Over the last year, though, IKEA has become less a tourist attraction and more of a “this is where we get All The Things” place for a lot of my friends. More and more frequently, when I’d comment on something at a friend’s house, she would inform me that she got it at IKEA. For a dollar.
Really? That place?
[Raise your hand if you caught the vague Arrested Development reference there, and we’ll be friends for life.]
After putting our house on the market three different times over the past five years, it finally sold this spring. Three times, actually, because our first two buyers backed out. (Have I even told you guys that story? Because it was NUTS.) And after what felt like an eternity and also the blink of an eye, we are finally settling into our new house. Boxes are unpacked, things are assigned to places, and I’m beginning to decorate.
Which leads me – and this very long post, you’re so welcome – to IKEA. Here are a few tips I picked up on my first two trips to the giant furniture store from Sweden. They may or may not be helpful.
- If you can, take a pre-trip before the real trip. Before dragging my husband through two stories of self-assembled furniture, I convinced my brother to go with me. And Adrienne. She was along for the ride, too.
- Which brings me to my second tip. If you take a rambunctious toddler along, don’t let her adoring uncle say things like, “Adrienne, do you want to get out of your stroller?” Just don’t.
- Whether you have small people with you or not, you’re going to want to wear comfortable shoes. Not your church shoes, like I did on my second trip to the store. Because that will leave you feeling…um…less than churchy, ifyouknowwhatImean.
- And while we’re talking about basic logistics, you might consider taking along a snack. Again, this tip is valid with or without kids. Because while I’m sure Adrienne was ready to eat lunch by the time we left the store that first trip, I was STARVING and ready to eat the plastic food in the toy section. So, eat a healthy breakfast. With lots of protein. Or carb load. Whatever works for you. Just don’t get hungry deep in the bowels of the store. There is only one way to get out and it is complicated and lengthy and SO HARD WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. Or so I’ve heard.
- Speaking of that…when you walk in the store, get a map. Yes, there are large maps located around the store, but you are going to want to have one on hand. Because you will feel lost. And overwhelmed. At least once. You might even find yourself saying things like, “Are we ever going to get out of here? Do we have to LIVE HERE now?!”
- FYI, at the Kansas City store, the top level is a showroom, so you can see ALL THE THINGS. And the lower level is where you find all the gadgets and dishes and rugs and frames, as well as where you get your stuff out of the warehouse and check out. And buy cinnamon rolls.
- Yeah, those cinnamon rolls. Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do. But if you have recently begun any kind of diet, FOR THE LOVE, do not inhale as you walk through the checkout line. You will get one whiff of those rolls and lose all semblance of self-control. I mean, you might. If you’re like me. At all.
- Speaking of being like me…don’t. At least when it comes to keeping track of your cell phone in a giant store. Never in all my years of having a cell phone have I ever lost mine. (I realize the years of owning a bag phone in college don’t count. Because seriously. But all those other years? Never lost a single one.) But I take one little trip to IKEA and suddenly I’m that panicked person speed walking through the aisles with crazy eyes, thinking about all my pictures from Africa that live on my phone, that I haven’t saved on my laptop, that aren’t in the Cloud, that I WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN… Fortunately, I ran into the very employee who had been given my phone by a kind customer, and she took me to Lost and Found. (Which was in the employee section of the store, which seemed magical. Like, maybe I want to work at IKEA.) The point here is this: If you are taking pictures of furniture and price tags and things called “utility carts” that you decide you must have even if you don’t really have a place to put one, keep the phone in your hand, man. Don’t set it down by the curtain rods and walk away. (Also, SAVE YOUR PICTURES TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN YOUR PHONE. Come on!)
- I didn’t buy that utility cart, by the way, although I still want one. Or two. And that’s because I made a list of stuff we needed and tried really hard to stick to it. Really hard. Okay, fine, the green step stool wasn’t on the list but Adrienne really needed it in her bathroom and it was only seven dollars so it’s okay. I mean, I’m only human and baby needed a stool.
Now, a few serious tips.
First, don’t fall into what I call the Sam’s Club trap. Don’t assume that just because you’re at IKEA and it seems like a reasonable price that it IS the best price. I put a square cubby storage thing (WHAT ARE THEY CALLED??) on my list to buy, but found it for half the price at another store.
Second, be careful when you get your furniture in the warehouse. They have signs everywhere reminding you that some pieces come in more than one box, but nobody bothered to make a sign saying, “HEY DUMMY! Make sure the box you picked up is the box you want!” Because, apparently, sometimes boxes are put on the wrong shelves. And when you buy them and take them home and ask your husband to assemble them while you are gone and then come home and find him with a half-assembled bookshelf that is the wrong color and the wrong size…well, you end up with the wrong bookshelf, that’s what.
Last but not least, don’t get suckered by those 257-foot display homes. Real people cannot live in sweet, organized harmony with that much self-assembled, streamlined furniture in a tiny home. That is not real life.
The rest of this is real life. And real life works for me. What’s working for you?
Photo sources here, here and here.
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Oh, Mary, I just knew this Ikea post would be brilliant – I was laughing all along the way! You are just too funny! I remember when we got our first one a few years ago and I felt so many of the same things. We don’t go too often because it’s about an hour away, but that’s probably good. It’s close enough if we need it, and not close enough to buy all the things… Have a great week!
Yes, that sounds like a good distance. Our store is about 30-40 minutes from my house, so not a place I can just run to on a whim. Thank God. ;)
I have my non-church shoes. I don’t have a rambunctious toddler. My pictures are not all on my phone. I am ready. Thank you, Mary.
God be with you. And the Force, yes, may the Force be with you. Or a smidge of self-control, NOT THAT YOU WILL NEED IT BAHAHAHA!
I love IKEA and I even have a funny shout out to getting lost in this store in the book I’ve been working on, Mary, so your post comes in a very relevant and timely way! Thanks for hosting, my friend!
I can definitely imagine getting lost in this store. Mainly because I felt lost the entire time I was there the first time. :D
I have to admit that IKEA is not my favorite store. But, then again, I have a hard time in any store, really. Because I’m one of those people who wants everything but can’t have it. ;) I’d probably like it more if I had a $5,000 gift card or something.
Both my boys have beds, desks, and chairs from IKEA. After helping my hubby assemble those beds, I KNEW that I NEVER wanted to get beds from IKEA ever again!!!!!
Haha! Yes, I think I’d do better ANYWHERE with a $5,000 gift card! We bought four pieces of furniture this time around, and they were all fairly easy to assemble (judging by the lack of shouting and swearing I heard from my husband while he did it). We’d probably better avoid buying anything major for a while, so as not to press our luck!
Great post and great advice! IKEA has some great stuff, but we use it as a last resort when we can’t find used furniture with some character. After 20 years with the same IKEA bookcases, we bought real wood USA-made bookcases that should last the rest of our lives, and we’re very happy with that decision, but those 20 years are nothing to sneeze at–we work bookcases hard around here!
I suspect that IKEA is set up to be horrible for hungry people in order to motivate visits to their restaurant–where the prices are pretty good, but the selection of food is a little weird and I just…it seems too much like eating at the Costco snack bar.
True. I suspect very little is done by accident there. I did actually resist the restaurant and the cinnamon rolls…but just barely!
I’m laughing. Only been there once. And yes I’ve never lost my phone until the last two weeks at school no less. I know that frantic run, but laughing to lose it at that huge place.
It really was a phone miracle that I JUST HAPPENED to run into the very employee who had taken my phone to lost and found. So crazy!
holy cow — loved this post. IKEA is magical. I know my husband cannot even begin to understand my obsession, but bless his heart, once a year on my birthday, he goes with me and lets me stay as long as I want. He’s a keeper.
Oh, that’s a sweet – and smart! – birthday tradition!!