Ikea

I apologize for the silence – dear readers. My life has been in boxes lately. I have just ‘up and left to a one bedroom bachelor pad in Rockford.

Now that I think of it, there weren’t many boxes involved. I kind of just stuffed everything in the trunk of my car. But I wanted to avoid the morbidity of saying my life has been in the trunk of a car – I can afford to exaggerate.

All settled in now. And by that, I mean specifically that I have an Internet connection. It was kind of an ordeal. For three days, I writhed in data-less darkness, waiting for the hand of my new ISP to feed me. It was a dark time, folks. For a second, I think I almost bought a book.

But the IV line is back, and I can already feel the antibodies kicking in. To celebrate my new screaming 5 Mb/s connection, I’ve decided to put together a little IKEA Assembly Survival Guide. The majority of my nights since the big move has been spent in instruction manuals, tiny screws, and instruction sets published by what must be the Antichrist himself. By the time my fifth piece of furniture came together (and I had to nap from the lack of blood in my brain… that happens when I scream for longer than a few minutes), I think I had the process figured out.

1. Don’t try to get too much done at once

IKEA furniture is like alcohol – hard alcohol. Really, that’s still an understatement. IKEA furniture should be treated like strong medication. You should never expect to handle putting together more than one or two in a sitting. If you try, you will only fail. Trying to put together more than two pieces of IKEA furniture in a single night may not land you in the ER (heck – it might… I’ve never tried it), but it will ensure your failure.

This is because putting IKEA furniture together is not like most activities. It does not get easier as you practice, like bike-riding, bowling, or talking to girls. IKEA assembly is intended to confuse you. It will train you, challenge you, then make you doubt everything you’ve done, only to repeat all of the above until you are dead. Most people have the fortitude for about five of these cycles, which is usually covered in the assembly of three medium sized furniture pieces. Go no further.

2. Avoid real tools

Opening the envelope-sized box that houses your new futon only to see what looks like to be the inside of C3PO, you may be tempted to grab a box of your trusty tools. I urge you to resist this. In doing this, you are already making too many assumptions about the hell you are about to wade through. By taking up your own tools, you have already decided that the job ahead can be done in the easiest way possible. And thus begins the building of your expectations, the ridicule of your intuition, and the heart attack of doubt that washes over you.

You need to step into this like Charlie into Wonka’s factory, only with much less optimism. Be a tourist in freakville. Take up your fetal allen wrench and ball-point pen hammer, and prepare yourself to do something very perverse. The only way to stop the viscous cycle of entrapment is to expect to be miserable. Think about it – what can exploit your positive attitude if you’ve already murdered it?

3. Proofread the instructions

Most think that the typical IKEA instruction manual is meant to inform you. This is a fatal mistake. Most people don’t realize the IKEA instruction manual isn’t written from the deductive perspective of, say, someone who has already assembled the item. We cannot treat the instruction manual like a set of instructions. If we read into it with our own contemporary interpretation, we will be left disappointing with it’s fallibility.

If we are to gain anything from the included instruction manual, we are to treat it like an allegory. The instruction manuals are written in ancient poetry. None of the text or diagrams are meant to be taken literally. Without an appreciation for the artful freedom of the instruction manual, it is of no use to you.

That being said, I’d like to highlight that it is really of no use to you - yet. Before you begin building your altar to the gods of chaos, be sure to spend a few hours with the manual, liberally applying your own corrections. The manual is likely a first draft, even a scrawl or a first pitch. Building as you read is probably the worst mistake you can make.

4. If you start to feel confident - don't

Lastly, resist the urge to feel confident. The second you think to yourself ‘Ah yes – I am getting this now”, put down your tools and stop. This is either (a) dehydration setting in or (b) an omen that you are about to do something completely wrong. In either case, be sure to step back, rehydrate – maybe apply more gauze to your bleeding knuckles while you are up – but before you get your head back down in the grain, make sure that none of this makes any sense to you. As long as you have lost yourself while building, you can be sure that will find yourself again when you are done.

Conclusion

So there are my rules of safe IKEA assembly. If you have any IKEA stories, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Until my next post, I’ll be here in my new bachelor pad eating noodles.