The true strength of a relationship isn't tested when circumstances are easy, but when they are dire. Over the weekend, my partner and I embarked on a journey that would test our mettle. Our ability to communicate, compromise, and show patience toward one another is what held us together through the trying ordeal, but one thing is for certain: Going to IKEA with your significant other ain't no joke.
Photo: rarye (Flickr)
Yes, my partner and I made a trip to IKEA this weekend and we're still together. In order to make this dream a reality, we laid the groundwork for our success before we even entered the store. Here's what helped our relationship survive.
Set Down Ground Rules
Going into IKEA without a plan is a recipe for disaster. So when it came time for a trip for a replacement light fixture and a new bookcase, I knew I had to set (and stick to) a budget of $300 that would let us purchase the two pieces of furniture we needed while allowing for a little flexibility for acquiring overlooked items and impulse purchases.
Of course, deciding what those extra items would be is its own challenge. We agreed to two rules that would make it easier to sort through the items we'd accumulate on our adrenaline-fuelled shopping spree.
Pick a No Fight Price
It's IKEA, and everything is cheap as hell It's almost inevitable that you'll grab a few one and two-dollar knick knacks as you make your way toward the checkout line. To account for this influx of inexpensive goods and to reduce unnecessary bickering, we picked a "no-fight price" -- anything below $10 could be added to the shopping bag without (much) discussion. Anything over that required agreement by both parties.
We knew we wouldn't get everything we added, and wasting time debating over every single item would only eat up time.
Have you ever had a moment of connection with a stranger? I'm not talking about a romantic or sexual connection (though those are nice too), but more of a quick smile as you pass on the street, or a one-off joke shared while waiting in the supermarket line, or some other brief, shared experience that made you feel that stranger was actually special and could have, in other circumstances, been a friend?
At Checkout, Mutual Agreement is Necessary
Just because something is in that polypropylene bag doesn't mean it hits the register, however. When it came time to cull the cart, we settled on using unanimous decisions to decide what stays. That cheap plastic bag holder? Unnecessary and a little ugly. A pair of wireless charging pads?
Their limited use case and outsized effect on our combined budget meant both had to go. Among the other culled items was a pair of felt boxes, a giant planter for a growing tree, and a privacy screen for a desk.
Prep for Success
Eat Breakfast, Leave Early
It's the most important meal of the day, and you'll need your energy for pushing carts, dodging children, jumping on beds, and holding in your tears during checkout. Hitting IKEA early also means you'll be at the head of the pack by the time the stragglers arrive to consume meatballs and buy bath mats.
Prep Your Home
We knew that assembling a bookcase and installing a new light fixture would require more than a screwdriver and some tape. We also knew that scrambling to find everything we needed to build our furniture would only add to our stress once we returned home.
Before we left, I grabbed my step ladder and all the tools I thought I'd need for the job, moved furniture out of the way, removed the bulbs from my ageing ceiling light and cleared out space for the mess of cardboard boxes I'd deal with when I opened everything. You'll be glad you made a landing pad when you arrive home.
Expect the Unexpected
While I already constructed my shopping list, I inflated my budget by a few bucks to accommodate for any unexpected circumstances. I'm glad I did. I'd incorrectly assumed the light would come with its own set of bulbs because I hadn't thought that far ahead (and assumed I'd be able to use my existing bulbs at home). What I wasn't counting on was the price of the bulbs. At $8 a pop, that $50 light fixture just turned into a $90 one, and meant the wiggle room in my budget just shrank quite a bit.
Luckily, the bookcase I wanted came with an unexpected $20 price drop, almost making up for the $40 "light bill" and restoring my financial flexibility enough to not feel bad for buying a giant plush shark pillow (mutually agreed upon, of course).
Photo by John Pastor. IKEA products have a wide variety of interesting names. Some are Swedish words, others are named after places, and some are just made-up names made from mixing other words. This dictionary lists them all.
How to Survive Inside
Make a Plan, Keep the Pace
IKEA is a store designed to take your money in exchange for various goods, but that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun while you're there. My partner suggested including some additional time for window-shopping, while I imposed time limits to keep everyone moving at a decent clip. While she spent a few minutes testing mattresses and comparing storage containers, I stared at light fixtures, kitchen utensils, and the assortment of available pots for my succulents.
Compared to the harried and bickering couples we observed rushing through every section that didn't cater to their particular interests, we were downright serene (and half asleep on a particularly comfy memory foam topper).
Don't Skip Lunch
Unless you're some department store speedrunner, you'll probably be there a little longer than you expected. My estimated two-hour trip ended up being a 3-hour experience, which is why I'm glad we stopped for lunch at the indoor cafeteria. Treat yourself to some Swedish meatballs and skip the cold dessert. You're better than that.
Go a Peasant, Leave a King
When you're all done with your excursion to the greatest store Sweden has to offer, you'll probably have a bunch of stuff in your cart. This isn't the time to get miserly and lug your haul onto the bus or into a ridesharing carpool. Get a cab, order an SUV from Uber and get as far away as possible from the emotional terror that is IKEA. Congratulations: your relationship is still intact.