I’m convinced that Jesus left the family carpentry business because he saw that the future of furniture was Ikea. I was unacquainted with the world of Ikea before I moved to California. I possessed vague awareness that people sojourned from Indianola or Ankeny to Minnesota in order to purchase home goods from some Swedish mega-store, but assumed it was just a rest stop on the way to the Megamall for folks who don’t like Cabela's.
I’ve been to Ikea seven times so I’m now a veteran with the wounds to prove it although the wounds are more emotional than physical.
Ikea is a mammoth department store/warehouse that must be designed by people who torture small animals. One has to wind his or her way around like a rat in a maze through all the displays in the multi-story store megaplex. If you came to pick up a bathmat, you have to mosey past the dressers, lamps and cafeteria. Because of the crowds and winding corridors one can only reach a maximum walking speed of a slow stroll, usually you will be stuck in the gear where you can just shuffle your feet. Invariably one or more of your fellow shoppers will be so self-absorbed in their shopping experience that they will suddenly slam on the brakes and stop right in front of you or turn their cart right into you. They drive shopping carts like they drive cars around here, but that is a future blog article.
The cafeteria is worth a visit. They must have inspired Costco’s $1.50 hotdog/soda business plan. Breakfast is cheap and I liked the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. Lingonberries are a mildly tart cherry-like fruit that my friend from Sweden has never heard of. She also says that Swedes don’t eat pancakes for breakfast, they are served more like a bread served with lunch or dinner.
Ikea furniture is stuff that you have to assemble on your own. It comes in large flat boxes, most of which can fit into the trunk of the car if you put down the back seat. I think this is the whole reason for Ikea. People who don’t have friends with pickup trucks have to get furniture they can fit into their cars and the best way is to get something in a flat box that you assemble at home. That’s where they get you.
Tips for Assembling Ikea Furniture:
The furniture comes with an instruction manual designed with all pictures and no words. If you are a word person, and not a visual person, this can feel a bit silly. Here are the words that you should know before you assemble the furniture.
1. The most important thing is to separate all the little nuts, bolts, fasteners and 200 other hardware pieces into their own little piles before you do anything else. Do not try to eyeball it and grab from the plastic bag what the picture shows. It’s a trap. Too many pieces look exactly alike and you grab the wrong item and not notice the mistake because it fits into the hole or slot. However, you will need this item later and the piece that looks just like it will not fit where you need it later in the project.
2. Assume that any project with drawers in it will take 35 minutes per drawer.
3. Do not panic because you have leftover pieces. Somehow they always give you what you need to assemble your project with a little extra. Maybe you missed a screw or wooden peg here or there, but often Ikea just puts extra little pieces in the bag to screw with your mind. They are never anything that you can use in another project and after you complete six or seven projects, you’ll have a nice little pile of miscellaneous parts that you can’t bear to throw out.
4. You will fall in love with the hex-screwdriver and screw-like fasteners that hold the boards together. They really are cool and the genius behind Ikea’s empire.
Even if your furniture isn’t the highest quality--in 100 years, the Antique Roadshow program will never gush about your bookshelf--there is a certain satisfaction in looking at your completed Ikea project and giving yourself more credit than you deserve for building furniture.
After you spend five hours putting together a dresser you’re tempted to think, “I did that--I’m a carpenter, just like Jesus.” And you will also know why Jesus chose to spend his time doing other things.