One day last week I looked around me at the piles of newspapers, manila folders, books and binders scattered over the floor in my bedroom/study and took a deep breath. I’ve been sleeping, working and eating in this room for the past few months.
My brain is a lockdown-induced jumble of broken resolutions.
The freedom of working from home has turned me into a combination of jellyfish and goldfish – lacking in backbone and unable to retain a plan for more than three seconds. I can’t put it off any longer. I need order in my life.
Kids, I’m going to IKEA. If I’m not back by midnight, send out a search party.
As soon as my feet touch the hallowed ground, I feel the familiar consumerist coma descend upon me. So much stuff. So shiny and new. How did I ever think I could live without this thing? And that thing? I’m like Red Riding Hood picking flowers and putting them in my basket.
Going deeper and deeper into the woods, sucked inexorably into the fate of all who enter here: an afternoon of drill bits and screws that all look the same but aren’t; of inexplicably leftover parts; of cardboard boxes that simply won’t be bent into a shape that fits the recycle bin.
Because that’s the charm and the curse of the IKEA experience.
As soon as you start down the yellow brick road that leads you to the checkout, all you see is your new, streamlined, ultra-organised Scandi-life. Not the painful search for item number 754398721 in aisle 500 row 78, nor the last minute panic when you realise you should’ve picked up a trolley about a kilometre back.
By the time you’ve done your fourth lap of the level two carpark in search of your stolen Honda and remember you parked it on level one, the gloss is already starting to come off. You locate the car and start folding down seats and changing the interior configuration of your ‘versatile’ model, only to realise you should have invested in a roof rack.
Back in the store, the minimalist in you was struggling so hard to burst out that you end up driving home with a car stuffed full of new furniture for which room will have to be found in your already overcrowded living space.
Furniture that won’t assemble itself.
Oh yes, you forgot that tiny detail. Those flat packs should have been a giveaway, but in your IKEA-addled brain, it didn’t register until it was too late. So now you’ve driven into your garage and realised that those heavy boxes aren’t going to walk themselves up two flights of stairs.
An hour later, your flat packs are upstairs and unpacked and you’re ready for a cup of tea and a good lie down. Don’t even think about it. Now’s the time of reckoning, the moment you pay for your twin sins of greed and Swedish aspiration.
Three hours later, you’re down to your underwear.
You’re in a lather of sweat, clothing, tools and inexplicably leftover parts scattered about you. And there in all its glory, is the Elvarli 3-section side unit. A contender for the most simple of all IKEA creations to put together. Possibly with a slight slant and a couple of scratches, but a thing of great beauty.
You lean back to admire your handiwork, spreading your hands out on the carpet behind you. But wait? What’s that stinging sensation in the palm of your right hand? Why, it’s a burst blister, red and raw. The screwdriver stigmata!
And you look upon what you have made and behold, it is very good.
Your job here is done.