Down the IKEA Rabbit Hole

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Miles run today: 3

Unnecessary items purchased at IKEA: 4

Scary moments we were sure we were lost in IKEA forever: 12

“I’m just telling you right now that I don’t approve of this kind of furniture,” my husband said as we approached IKEA yesterday for the very first time. 

“Got it.”

“Really. I’m not interested in expensive things we feel pressured to buy.”

“OK. I completely understand.”

I didn’t mention that IKEA is known for being low-cost or that I wasn’t looking to purchase any furniture. We had dropped the kids off with my mom a couple of hours earlier and were making the drive back home. We now had wide swaths of free time at our disposal. We could wander around the side of the road for hours. Or peruse convenience store shelves without hurrying back to the car. The free time was problematic. Had there been a time when we did stuff and had free time? I couldn’t remember. Back when we may have had free time, I wore black a lot and went out for coffee to talk about Big Things. But what those things were, I’m not really sure.

Now, heading towards IKEA, I was looking for An Adventure. And come on, people: IKEA has an entire boulevard named after it. A boulevard!

We followed large groups upstairs, a route we were directed to follow without question. There were yellow bags and carts at the start of the route, but my husband walked past them with his nose in the air. “Ha. They think they can make us buy something,” he said. Two seconds later: “Oooh. Yes. We need a vase like this. Seventy-nine cents? What? I thought this place was expensive. Think about all the flowers we could put in a vase like this.”

IKEA is like a grown-up, pre-fab Disney World of home stores. There are bright lights and circuitous pathways and maps and things for sale everywhere. Everywhere.

And they have all these nifty things that I am sure would make my life better. I wasn’t even sure I needed a pasta serving scoopy thingie. But I became convinced. It was so shiny, and just the right length, and I’m positive I had been thinking I needed one for the past 15 years.

We became mesmerized by a giant canvas world map that had lots of countries that didn’t exist when we were learning geography back in high school. Azerbaijan! Turkmenistan! Slovenia! 

We picked up 100 tea lights for our dining room table and carried them all over the massive second floor, though every twist and turn, past every corner that did not contain a bathroom, which was what my husband was seeking… desperately. The route through the upstairs became daunting. With every new vase, every granite countertop, every metal chair, my husband became increasingly concerned.

“Are you sure we haven’t already been here?”

“Well, there’s new stuff,” I said, dubiously. “I mean, we haven’t seen outdoor chairs before. Or desks and filing cabinets.”

“But we haven’t gone upstairs or downstairs. How big is this place? Is there an exit? Can you imagine if I had to drop you off at the front door to run in for one little thing? I’d never see you again! I would have to… skip dinner.”

Skipping dinner is my husband’s worst nightmare.

I was becoming certain that I should throw away everything in our house and start from scratch only with items from IKEA. Our chipped plates? Replace them with white plates from IKEA that come in packages of four for roughly 33 cents each, or something equally ridiculous. I now needed a water pitcher and large packages of Swedish faux Tupperware and even mangy-looking faux Tempur-Pedic pillows. It would be so easy to haul it all out to my car and send all of our current items to Goodwill so Mackelmore and his friends could pop some more tags.

As we emerged into the cafe area after what felt like an entire day of following twisty paths, my husband dashed for the restroom as I pondered a birdie-patterned plastic tray. I knew I could use a birdie plastic tray like nobody’s business.

We wandered some more, through aisles piled high with self-serve furniture, whatever that was. At the checkout, my husband wandered off again, and I discovered Lingonberry Preserves. I had been waiting my entire life for Lingonberry Preserves. Lingonberries have not even been invented where I live, and they are probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

So I bought two jars, along with the tea lights and pasta scoopy thingie. My husband raised his eyebrow at me, but I’m sure he’ll soon discover that lingonberries are the thing he has been missing his entire life. 

Our adventure did two things: it made me realize that there was a time when we used to spend time together, just wandering, and that we have probably managed to stay financially solvent because our children have prevented us from visiting IKEA. Thanks, kids. 

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24 thoughts on “Down the IKEA Rabbit Hole

  1. Amy Mak says:

    That is funny! I like the lessons learned…I’ve never been to an IKEA but now I feel like I’ve been missing. I keep hearing about the free Swedish meatballs…?

    • annewoodman says:

      Are you telling me we missed free Swedish meatballs? Well, now we’re going to have to go back, Amy! I think we were too dazed to recognize the scent of free food. ; )

  2. Bernie Brown says:

    Great blog, Anne. You have completely captured the IKEA experience and then some. Thank you. The first time I went there, I felt exactly like you did. I think I even panicked a couple of times wondering if I would be there forever. But now we are IKEA trained. For us, it has become a day trip to Charlotte. There’s one in our immediate future because Ken has found a shelf unit he likes. After years of arranging his papers in neat piles on the floor, he now promises to put them on this shelf unit if can just go to IKEA. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      If you and IKEA can train Ken not to stack neat piles of paper, you need to come over to my house and help me reorganize. I always have at least one pile of paper that defies filing. Keep me posted. ; )

  3. This made me laugh because it’s so true. It’s a bit of a standing joke that everyone buys tealights when they go to IKEA, I bet you didn’t even know that, and you got suckered right in! And the way they design the store so that you pretty much have to see everything is genius, you daren’t retrace your steps, you have to just keep going forward. There’s a store that I don’t think you have in the states called Lakeland, and it’s just full of all those type of kitchen gadgets that you never knew existed before, but suddenly seem essential when you see them!

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, Vanessa, if only I had talked to you before we went! We were like moths to flame (!) with the tea lights. We were sheep, Vanessa. Sheep. Lakeland might be my undoing. Very glad we don’t have it here.

  4. Holly says:

    The photo cracks me up!! You know that I haven’t experienced IKEA and now I feel I must go immediately. Thanks a lot.

    I’m sure you’ll use the pasta scoop all the time!

  5. David Gentry says:

    As an IKEA veteran (one timer), I can assure you that every word in this blog post is true. And best of all, this post is funny. Knowing Daryl (a little), I can understand that skipping dinner is his worst nightmare, but as with many truisms I did not know it.

    • annewoodman says:

      You’ve been to IKEA? You’ve been holding out on me! You could have given me IKEA pointers and prepared me for the experience. Ah, the things we don’t know about those we love…

  6. Carla Helms says:

    As I read this, I felt like you were writing what was in my head when Jay and I visited in a similar situation, sans children. I bought the birdie tray, for better or for worse.

    My parents went recently and had a similar sentiment about getting to the exit – they mused about what would happen if there was a fire… would you be forced to look at shower curtains and bath rugs as you ran from the raging flames?

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! So you went down the rabbit hole and got drawn in by the birdie tray, huh?

      I’m with your parents… I bet there’s a rule about perusing as you head in an orderly manner for the fire escape! You’re funny.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    We’ve bought a few items at Ikea, but somehow we’ve missed the tea lights! How is this possible? But, oh yes, for those of us of a certain age, there is that feeling of having entered the commercial version of the Hotel California!

    Before you know it, the children will be grown, and that wandering time will return. And then it might be time to redecorate the entire house again…. 😉

    • jmmcdowell says:

      And I forgot—we have used pasta scoops for years and years. You will wonder how you managed without it! 🙂

      • annewoodman says:

        Sorry about the duplicate comment–WordPress seemed to delete it as I sent it. Sigh.

        I have used a fork for years to serve pasta because my old, mangy plastic version broke in the early years of our marriage. I just never replaced it.

    • annewoodman says:

      Hotel California… good visual, JM! Oh, dear. So not ready for the kids to be grown. I’m hoping I still have two good knees and hips to be able to wander. ; )

  8. Oh, I do so hate how IKEA controls your path and makes you walk past every damn thing they sell. This in not the way men like to shop; they want the thing they want and then they want to GO!

    Your husband does seen cut from a different cloth, however. Maybe it’s a British thing.

    • annewoodman says:

      I don’t mind browsing, but I HATE being controlled. It’s an aversion to authority…

      My husband was definitely getting cranky with the scheming twists and turns. I don’t know if it’s male or American or simply human to distrust being led. Maybe I’m in touch with my inner male side?

  9. LOL! I can totally see this as it happens.

  10. Melissa says:

    Oh, I got a good giggle with this one….I can see the distress on your husband’s face – gasp! Miss a meal? Yikes!

    IKEA is a great place to learn restraint…because we can all use little birdy trays like nobody’s business.

    • annewoodman says:

      I am so glad you’re a kindred spirit, Melissa. Birdie trays are one of life’s little unexpected pleasures.

      Hope all is good for you this summer. I miss your blog!

  11. vanster101 says:

    Why did we miss the amazing trip to IKEA!!!
    It would be an awesome adventure, at least compared to a long road trip in the car….:)
    Good job! I love you!

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