Deconstructing IKEA

screwdriver-iconOut of the blue, my wife suggested, “Let’s go to The Cities today.”

I am always leery when she proposes driving to the Twin Cities – because it usually involves shopping.

“Why?” I asked.

“No reason,” she said.

It is only then she added, “And let’s take the pickup.”

“If there is no reason,” I questioned, “why the truck?  The car gets better mileage?”

“We are taking the truck,” she said in her way that ends all discussion.

An hour and a half later, when the skyline of Minneapolis struggled out of the urban haze, the other shoe dropped.

“Let’s stop at IKEA!” she cried, “after all, we have the truck.”

So most of yesterday was devoted to assembling a pickup load of flat pack furniture.

The remainder of the day was spent swearing at the cats for batting odd bits of IKEA hardware down the heat registers.

The task proved what I have always suspected about myself. I can hose up even the simplest of things and IKEA instructions are about as simple as you can get. In fact, they are so simple, you might call them sketchy because that is what their instructions are: drawings.

I suppose when you sell furniture all over the world, the cost of writing instructions in thirty languages becomes excessive – and handing out twenty-nine sets of instructions to people who can only read one… Well, that seems ridiculous – so IKEA uses sketches to illustrate each step.

Which means you mutter to yourself while squinting at anemic scribbles.

“Is this the part they are referring too?”

“Do I have it oriented the same as they show?”

But IKEA products compensates for that.  They are all held together by an intricate thicket of steel pegs and half-moon clamps. This way at some point in the future, you can collapse your entire household into a single flat pack box and toss it into the trunk of a Volvo.

And therein lies the genius. What is easy to dis-assemble, is easy to re-assemble – in other words, you can constantly and effortlessly fix your repeated mistakes.

Which is what I did yesterday when I was not squinting at illustrations or shrieking at cats.

My wife wanted a hide-a-mess desk.  So we bought her a gleaming white one. The thing is, everything from IKEA is made from the same gleaming white press board panels. It is like putting together a two thousand piece jigsaw puzzle of the clear sky.

But I did it… most of it anyway.

I managed to assemble both the base and top but required assistance placing them together.  I knew I needed help because the illustration showed two people gently lifting one piece onto the other.

If you know anything about IKEA, you know they are a progressive and inclusive company – which is why the illustration depicted a woman lifting the armoire section and a man helping her.  Since I put it together, I recruited my wife as the helper.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Why don’t these &^%$# pegs line up?”

Her: “If you are going to swear I am not going to help you.”

Me: “If I can’t swear I am not going to put your desk together.”

Her:  Gazing at the instructions on the floor. “We are doing it wrong..”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Her: “The woman is doing most of the work and the guy is helping her.”

Me: “You’re kidding?”

Her: “Just try it…”


Her: “Admit it, it worked.”


Her: “You are too proud to admit it, aren’t you?”


Her…  leaving the room in triumph.

Me: Sigh…

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