Photo courtesy of Christian Koehn
On Saturday, J and I visited the Schaumberg Ikea.
With planning aforethought.
You see, J and I had need of a new shelving system in our basement, and Ikea had the build-your-own furniture to fit the bill.
The problem, however, is that Ikea can affect one's sense of proportion. It is the epicenter of nearly all home related couple fights that have ever been fought. (Indeed, the caves of Lascaux have several scenes of men and women unable to decide between Grundtvig and Florvalg side tables, as well as several images of men screaming in impotent rage at the assembly instructions. The problems with Ikea go back a long way). Happy couples step into the store, only to find themselves yelling at each other over DIY furniture. Suddenly, one's preference of Grundtvig over Florvalg brings up every incompatibility that has ever slightly annoyed either member of the couple, and magnifies it in a place that has no clear exit and will never, ever have in stock the piece of furniture you finally compromise on.
(I have a little Ikea bitterness, if you couldn't tell.)
Though J and I have visited Ikea on several occasions (this made our third in nine years), we have been able to avoid the Ikea fight, mostly because we both simply shut down and attempt to curl into a fetal position the moment it becomes clear that we are stuck in a place that thinks it's a good idea to wait to tell you something is out of stock and good luck ever finding it until it is too late for you to go back and find an alternative option.
That, and we can both agree that Swedish meatballs and lingonberry juice are delicious.
In any case, we decided to be more precise in our Ikea shopping this time around. No more wandering among the furniture, trying to decide the relative merits of Grundtvig shelving vs. Florvalg shelving when things are placed together in sets so that it is impossible to compare apples to apples (or shelves to shelves) so that you start thinking you've gone insane and you curl up on a Flardfull bed with a Smorboll duvet cover and cry and cry.
No, this time we downloaded the Ikea catalog a week early and decided ahead of time what we wanted to purchase, so that with laserlike focus and determination, we still ended up wandering around the store for an hour and a half. Surrounded by bickering couples.
I would consider this particular Ikea trip a success, however. Every item that we picked out actually happened to be in stock, which is a Swedish miracle. We found several storage items that will help us to organize LO's toys, J's garage (aka, his toys), our bathrooms, and our leftovers. LO enjoyed watching the glass elevator go up and down, and was better behaved than at least three other children in the store. We ate cheap meatballs.
And since our current ride is J's 1993 Volvo 240, I could feel the car shouting "landsman!" as we drove up to the iconic blue and yellow store. (I suspect the 240 was proud to be able to haul all our Swedish booty home.)
On the down side, the cost of all that cheap home improvement/decor adds up. Particularly when Ikea does something like charge you separately for the storage bin and for its lid. (Not to mention the markup on ratchet straps you have to buy at the last minute when you realize your new shelving unit is resting far closer to your toddler's head than you would prefer, even though Ikea theoretically designed all of its furniture to fit into the back of the very car you are driving.)
In any case, we came home laden with more than $300 worth of new stuff. I have told J that we must have said new stuff built, installed, organized, used, or otherwise put in place by the time he goes back to work on January 7. (Because that is the other end of Ikea's romance-killing schemes. You may be full of energy and ready to tackle your furniture building when you're full of meatballs and everything looks shiny and bright in the store. But the minute you get home, there are those shows you've DVR'd just calling your name and Ikea assembly instructions only work if you're mechanically inclined in the first place.)
So, since J and I have managed to get through a trip to Ikea with our marriage and our sanity intact, I'm hoping that we'll survive the assembly process, as well.
To be on the safe side, however, I'm not planning on going back there for another two or three years. In any marriage, it really behooves you to space out these romance-killing moments as much as possible.