What is She Saying When She Says IKEA?

My wife dropped a suggestion at dinner.

It landed just south of the salad and lay there ticking like a time bomb while I considered the implications.

“Let’s go to IKEA tomorrow,” she said.

I had to think about that.

What was she really saying and why IKEA?

To understand the why, one must first understand the what?

What is IKEA?

IKEA is to retail what Volvo is to cars – both Swedish and terribly strange.

The company specialize in inexpensive household furnishings; all made from three basic ingredients: particle board, Tupperware and meatballs.   These materials are then fashioned into a bewildering array of products that satisfy every possible human desire.

But what makes IKEA truly delightful is its odd product names.

Let’s explore them.

IKEA Naming Guide:

Warning!!!  Even linguists who can speak bar-code have been injured while attempting to pronounce IKEA product names. Never attempt this without proper training by a certified instructor.

Product Category Product Name
Upholstered furniture, coffee tables and doorknobs Swedish place names that even Swedes cannot pronounce
Beds, wardrobes and hall furniture Words not allowed in scrabble
Dining tables and chairs Finnish ghost towns
Bookcases and office aids Forgotten occupations
Bathroom articles Scandinavian bogs and tidal flats
Kitchen appliances Swedish tongue twisters
Desks Hotentot evil spirits
Curtains Sri Lankan women’s names
Garden furniture Volvo part numbers
Carpets Words discovered in Danish pastry
Lighting Chemical compounds
Bed-linens, covers, pillows and cushions Errors found on 3rd grade spelling tests

The IKEA Store Experience.

IKEA stores are designed in a “one-way” layout.

Think of walking through a McDonald’s play-land built for adults. The purpose is to trap you for the better part of an afternoon. Having wasted so much time there, you feel compelled to buy something.

An unaccompanied adult in good health can sprint through an IKEA store in less than two hours. I estimated our adventure would take at least eight hours because all she said she wanted was a reading lamp.

What I should have asked at dinner was, “Why IKEA?”

To understand her answer, there are a few things you must know:

  • IKEA furniture is incredibly cheap.
  • It is where college kids go to outfit their dorm rooms.
  • It is the next stop for young lovers after signing their first lease.
  • It is the place where young families go to furnish a house on a negative budget.

In short, IKEA is where adult life begins.

So why would a grandmother want to go there?

At the very first display, she drew my attention to a one room apartment furnished entirely in particle board and Tupperware.

“Isn’t that CUTE!!” she cried.

It is then I knew what she was doing.

She wasn’t interested in my opinion on modular couches or kitchen utensils named after fish. She hadn’t gone to IKEA to shop at all.

She went there to dream.

What she was really saying when she said IKEA, was “Come with me for a day and let’s do what we used to do when we were young and life was open to every promise.  Let’s dream together again.”

Author: Almost Iowa


78 thoughts on “What is She Saying When She Says IKEA?”

  1. This post was entirely hilarious until I came to the end and I said “Awwwww.” Loved it.

  2. Maybe she went there to dream, but I’ve always suspected it’s a religious shrine where people worship St. Ikea. Not to mention meatballs and particle board.

  3. I went to IKEA once and I got lost. In fact, I think I am still in the IKEA store basement. Can someone help me before I start speaking Swedish?

  4. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂. I enjoyed the humor in your writing 😂😂😂😂🤓. My first and last visit to IKEA, I was 8 months pregnant and my beloved husband is forever thankful. It stuck to my memory like a horror movie and I refuse to go back.

    1. This joy or horror of IKEA is driven by where one is in the cycle of life. It is like “will this be our FUTURE” or “OMG, is THIS our future”

  5. Oh, this is so true. We used to live near an IKEA and when we were broke, that was a date night strolling through there – then we had a family and it wasn’t fun with young children (because it too long) and then we’d lose dad. We had a purpose to get a loft bed for kids room…get in / get out.

    If we ever had a little time on our hands…I wouldn’t mind strolling through there again.

    I love IKEA. Or the days where I had time to stroll and look and dream about our family. Our lack of time, that is a luxury we can’t afford. My 13 year old son would DIE (he would have you believe that literally) and my 11 year old daughter would want everything and never leave.

    1. I could think of no worse punishment for a 13 yr old boy than to take him to IKEA. Just the threat can motivate. Parents need all the tools they can get.

      1. YES…but, he would win. He simply wouldn’t get out of the car (and he’s bigger than I – so he can’t be forced)

  6. Well, I’ve been to an IKEA once, and that was enough to figure out that what they call Swedish and what my grandparents called Swedish were pretty much different. However: I have Grandma’s recipe for Swedish meatballs, and learned to make them in her kitchen. If you ever want the recipe, let me know. Her recipe doesn’t call for particle board.

    1. IKEA is what happened after Sweden quit being Swedish. I noticed that about Denmark too, with their Danish Modern. It is like they decided that instead of being Danish, they were going to be something else but had not quite settled on what that something else was going to be.

      After trying their meatballs, my wife tried to assure me that they did not contain particle board.

      “Really?” I asked.

  7. Aww. That’s really so sweet of you to recognize the IKEA metaphor! I’ve never been to one – I know – What planet do I live on? But my daughter swears by them, and I’ve helped assemble many particle-board and meatloaf bunkbeds (etc.) I hope the day was dreamy. 😀

    1. You must go to IKEA. Like WalMart, it is an icon of our age. A friend of mine once described it as “sustainable conspicuous consumption”. It is the sort of phase that makes you head hurt – but then so does IKEA.

  8. Oh something weird happened. I used to be following you and just found my status was no longer set to that. So if it looks like I just started following you, that’s why. That must be why I no longer received your posts. Hmmm. Odd.

    1. I have had that happen too. Dan Antonio just informed me that my comments were going into his spam folder. I guess the great gods of WordPress are not impressed by my comments. 🙂

  9. I’m sure you know I was talking about IKEA when I said I’d only been once and it was sensory overload. I want talking about your blog. Ha although it is good sensory stimulation. Just clarifying. Oh and I’m wondering how you are faring with all the storms on the news. I have a cousin and family who live on a huge farm in Odebolt. I plan to check on them today. Hope all is well with all of you.

  10. So, I’ve only been once and it was a sensory overload. I came out with nothing purchased. Only a mind whose brain cells had been expanded. I haven’t checked in on you in a while. I’m happy to see you’re still churning out the humor and “life” as it really is. I’ll come by more often.

  11. Wow, you’re a lucky guy to have a wife with such a good (and hopeful) imagination.
    IKEA for me is like a giant maze where somebody keeps moving the cheese, or never left any there in the first place–and that brings me back to graduate-school days. NOT fond memories… 😉

  12. You have a knack of writing a very funny post, and then at the last possible minute, slipping in a bit of pathos. (If that’s the word I want, I’m still chuckling over your descriptions of IKEA names.) But hey, an afternoon spent in a Swedish maze constructed of plywood, tupperware and meatballs is worth it if you get to recapture just a bit of the excitement of starting out…)

    1. Pathos means pity or sadness, it is the ancient Greek word for having been dragged through IKEA when you could have spent the afternoon in a bar. Eros means love. It is the ancient Greek word for the only reason one would allow one’s self to be dragged through IKEA rather than spending the afternoon in a Twin Cities neighborhood bar. There are several good ones. O’Gara’s is my favorite.

    1. It depends on whether you eat the meatballs with your fingers or a fork. Meatball juice helps hold the joints together – but it can fool you into not clamping things down right with fatal consequences.

      Having cats around means you have to spend a great deal of time fishing little parts out of the heat registers.

    1. That doesn’t work for me. When she goes by herself there is no one there to talk her out of things – not that I can actually talk her out of anything, but when I am there she talks herself out of things.

  13. If you and yours can make a trip to Ikea and capture even for a moment those feeling we felt so many years ago – get going. You made me think about our first washer and dryer from Sears and walking in there to pay with cash that we had saved each week until we had enough to buy them. Those memories are priceless. Have lunch while you’re there and really celebrate. 🙂

    1. Those moments are priceless. I remember sleeping on the floor in my first apartment because I couldn’t afford a bed. If it were not for my old bones, I would do that all over again.

  14. Agree, it’s one of your best “softie” posts! IKEA bookcases on a budget are the best! Getting lost in the maze of rooms very irritating when looking for only one thing. Don’t really get that end feeling of “let’s dream together again.” I should try the meatballs next time for a better experience (laughing). 🎼 Christine

  15. I sit at my pine IKEA desk (obviously a shortage in particle board in the late 90’s), lit by a mini Magnarp lamp. Behind me is a two tier butcher board microwave stand. In the other room sits a particle board desk, heavy as stink – ditto the 5 drawer dresser in the bedroom. We almost left them at the curb when we moved. I pine (no pun intended) for the big red comfy couch, Ektorp, that we DID have to leave behind – no room in the new living room, and not enough room for two people and two cats.

    The great thing about all of these pieces is that they were castoffs – in other words, no assembly required.

    Psst. Minnesota Prairie Roots is right – you should have a syndicated column. This is a sweet and funny piece.

    1. Oh my goodness, Maggie, you have drank deep from the DRYCK BUBBEL PÄRON (IKEA doesn’t sell Kool Aid). 🙂 But that’s okay, its beats shopping at WalMart and IKEA stuff is not only beautifully designed but it lasts for a surprisingly long time.

      1. The lion’s share of the cast-offs came from a friend who likes to quip that she has a Master’s Degree in IKEA. She dragged me along to the store once. I bought a shower squeegee.

  16. There you go again with that signature surprise ending that I so love in your writing. You really need a syndicated column.

    That all said, perhaps a trip to IKEA is in order. I’ve never been there. And the husband is on vacation next week.

    1. You would enjoy IKEA. Plan for a long day and definitely plan on visiting the cafeteria. Their furniture is aimed at the young urban market – but don’t worry you will still enjoy it. The most fun is walking through the tiny apartment living designs.

    1. I used to be a Honda guy too. I drove a 1995 Honda Civic DX hatchback that allowed me to slide sheets of plywood and sheet rock in the back. I can’t even do that with my pickup truck.

      Don’t feel bad, few people can reliably fix a Volvo. Few people can reliably put together IKEA furniture too.

  17. Haha! I love your comparison list. I’ve never been in an IKEA store but have encountered many bits of IKEA furniture (‘bits’ being the operative word. Bits and not enough screws, bits and no screwdriver or other tool). Never spotted any meatballs… thankfully!

  18. meatballs? I have to admit, I have NEVER shopped in an Ikea before. Now I know why….I dislike meatballs.

  19. Very perceptive! Obviously achieved by years of covert study and attention to detail. Well done, fellow husband!

  20. I have no idea where the nearest IKEA is. I think something like 6 hours away. Now, of course, I really want to go to one because the idea of particle board, Tupperware and meatballs is so darn intriguing!

    1. You nailed that one, Dan.

      What’s worse is that they place their stores in the asphalt deserts of suburbia and it is hard to find a good bar to pass the time in. IKEA in Minneapolis is located across from the Mall of America – a unique hell of its very own.

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