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I prescribe IKEA

IKEA should be prescribed to everyone going through a divorce. It offers unexpected light relief in the midst of a legal, emotional and administrative quagmire thanks to many, many farcical moments beyond just the store visit (Allen keys ready, we all know the initial trip is just the start), the scales tipping in favour of joy rather than more stress.

First of all, it’s an achievement just to get there. A decision made and enacted. An arrival via a gloomy subterranean car park could signal portents of doom (what am I doing here, turn back) but the entrance is too glaringly obvious to miss and a beacon of primary coloured light. Keep going, well done.

IKEA is its own universe. It feels like an airport, your destination unknown, and has a curious way of discombobulating you with its myriad choices and winding aisles. It makes you feel like a Lilliputian lost on tour in foreign climes (or Gulliver navigating around Brobdingnag depending on how you see it).

The trick is to ask for help. Yes you could try and work out for yourself whether to pick things up as you go around the ‘rooms’ or take a chance and wait for the self-serve area at the end. But the ‘hej’ on the staff t-shirts is surely subliminal messaging to make you think engaging with another human to check is not only ok but actually to be encouraged.

As a woman, it’s weirdly emancipating to find yourself in a large warehouse space full of heavy, unwieldy boxes that you can’t really manage but have to, not only because it’s what you came here for but because you’re in flow, part of the trajectory towards the checkouts and exit. There’s no turning back now. Keep going, well done.

Of course there’s impish delight to be taken in throwing a few last minute unnecessary necessities into the mix, mainly based around chocolate and caramel and deciding between different volumes of giant robust carrier bag. You’re going to be carrying a lot on your own from now on, whether you want to or not, so tool up for the situation.

Right, you’ve made it out of the store with your massively unwieldy and heavily laden trolley (yes, you can push, jump and glide like a child – these things are allowed now) without becoming part of an interiors installation or a gibbering wreck in aisle 10. Keep going, well done. Just try and remember where you parked the car.

Ah, the car. Didn’t think about that. Ok, regroup. The box will fit in somehow and yes, you can cheer when it does. Who cares if anybody is looking at you like you’re mad. This is your rite of passage into a new normal and you’re entitled to a moment of glee for successfully acquiring a piece of flatpack furniture that will change your life (actually it will).

Get home, extract the giant box with about as much dignity (in fact less) as you got it into the car. Discover muscles you never knew you had en route down the garden path and then dump it in the hallway. The small, tactile, pretty items are the priority, an immediate visual reward for your petrol-guzzling excursion. Storage unit construction can wait.

But not forever. So fuel up first, set aside some time and approach the build with a positive mindset. Don’t be put off by the instructions implying this item must be built by two people. Wield that hammer with confidence and pink painted nails and get creative with problem solving. Keep going, well done.

Notes to self and others. It’s ok to growl when you encounter resistance. Use your own body weight for impact when you need to. Gently kick pieces into place when soft force is required. Don’t get too cocky. If you hear something crack, step away and try again. The last two screws will spin endlessly and go nowhere until they find purchase. Keep going, well done.

But eventually you are done, and you can take a step back and admire your solo handiwork with pride and ignore all the accompanying chaos around it. Tear open those matching storage boxes and marvel at just how ordered your life is going to be now that you have an IKEA Kallax unit in it. It’s all a façade of course but really, who cares. You did it. Well done.


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