Wednesday, September 22, 2010

IKEA season

IKEA is a magical place, where you can find almost any kind of furniture solution that you need for a reasonable price, while breathing the particle-board scented air, munching on Swedish meatballs and cinnamon buns and ultimately trying to fit extraordinarily long and heavy cardboard boxes filled with wood into your car.

My husband I have many, many pieces of IKEA furniture in our apartment. We just added a few more, as we ended up with some holes in our furniture floor plan after the move. Every time we go, we are reminded how awesome it is to have all the great choices, all the creative flourishes, all the macaroni and cheese you could want for $1.99. And they we realize how tiring it is to wind your way through the crowds of people and stuff, and how frustrating it is when they are out of the one thing you need to complete your shopping list, and how heavy these things are after you wedge them into the car, and when you have unload them at home and then spend three hours constructing an eight-drawer dresser.

Tips for getting the most out of IKEA:

  • Don't go on the weekend. Trust me, I've been there three times in the last week. The two times I went on a weekday, it was a breeze. On Sunday, it was a battle.
  • Go in pairs. You need someone to help maneuver the cart and all the oversized stuff. And someone to get the car while you wait with your giant boxes at the curb so you don't put your back out hauling them two blocks to the car.
  • Leave lots of time. Time can sort of stop when you are wandering around all the bedroom sets and kitchen floorplans. 
  • Eat a lot before, during and after to keep your strength up. I like to finish with a cinnamon bun on the way out. And don't forget to stay hydrated.
  • Make a list before you go of what you really need. Otherwise, when you get the Marketplace downstairs with all the 99 cent boxes and trash cans and whatnot, you'll be overwhelmed and end up buying tons of stuff you don't really need.
  • Try to limit your IKEA shopping trips to once a year. That's about how long it takes to forget the difficulties and start craving Swedish meatballs again.
Good luck, IKEA shoppers. It's worth it, but it helps to be prepared!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. You are so right, these are fabulous tips! Where would I be without IKEA? It got me through college, my first apartment and played a significant role in furnishing my first house as well! And I just keep coming back for more. Here are a few more secrets that I have found:

    - Their online shopping list feature (not to be confused with shopping cart) is fabulous; it tells you what's in stock in your local store, and what aisle/bin to find it in! You can print and take it with you.

    - As you exit the store there's a red-light, green-light style chart on display showing you the best & worst times to shop in that particular store. The info would be more useful earlier, but nevertheless it's there!

    Now I'm fantasizing about my next trip to the organizing mecca... :)


  2. Those are good tips! Here are the ones I'll add:
    - Have your stuff delivered. There is a fee but if you keep your trip to one per year, it is soooo worth it.
    - Possibly NYC-specific, we have free IKEA shuttles and a free ferry so you don't have to drive or park at all. I can actually ride my bike to my nearest IKEA!
    - If you're craving the meatballs, go! Give yourself the gift of a no-shopping IKEA trip. Go straight to the food court, dine and enjoy. We've gone on a couple date nights there, admired the furniture, strolled along the IKEA-manicured walkway with our 99 cent ice cream cones, and then gone back home. Aaaaaahhhhh.

  3. Thank you for the additional tips, Emily and Lena! I had no idea about the suggested times to visit a particular store. That would be great to know ahead of time. Also, I agree, a no-shopping IKEA trip can be a fun outing. You can't beat a 99 cent ice cream cone.