Our marriage survived IKEA.
I say that half-jokingly, because . . . well. On my many turns around the cavernous store, I walked into many couples’ arguments. People who were overwhelmed, and tired, and not anywhere near excited at the idea of dragging heavy flat-pack boxes of modern furniture to their sedans.
No wonder they sell ice cream cones at the exit — we need something to make it all worth it.
I didn’t always feel this way. I, too, was young once. Walking through the showrooms, I imagined my life in this tidy world with its splashes of tasteful color. In this fantasy, I could prepare tea in my black-and-white kitchen, then read comfortably in a velvet armchair.
There were no toy pizza slices scattered like confetti. No half-eaten yogurt pouches jammed in a couch cushion. No dirty socks balled up in every room of the house.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that children are adorable little mess-makers. I do know this is a season of life that we’ll miss someday, but my anxiety is always compounded by a chaotic home . . . and walking through IKEA? The carefully-arranged bookshelves and perfectly-squared-up carpets were a balm to my soul.
Everything else was . . . not.
We went to the Woodbridge store ostensibly for cabinets, though I knew we’d be coming out with a load of other stuff, too. My parents watched the kids so we could make the trek ourselves. I knew there would be zero chance we could make decisions with our 4- and 2-year-old in tow.
On the rare moments my husband and I are shopping alone, we inevitably play a game: “What would the kids be doing right now?” In the lighting area, for example, we both winced at the idea that Ollie would be trying to unbox all the lightbulbs. Up in kitchens, Hadley would be climbing every bar stool in sight. They would be obsessed with the giant staircase leading down to the marketplace, and I would be in a dead sweat worrying about them.
Instead, Spence and I were in a dead sweat just walking around the massive building. We came with a shopping list. Doing his research the day before, Spence had a detailed plan for the cabinets he’s going to install in the newly-transformed basement. We’re creating a “project area” for the family: a place where the kids can craft, paint and draw without concern for the beige carpet, Spence can work on his stained glass, and I can . . . oversee all this. With coffee.
Up until a few weeks ago, the basement was still a random dumping ground for all the things we didn’t necessarily know what to do with, but felt we needed to keep. Spence has been really motivated to clean and donate anything we’re not using — including stuff we moved with us and haven’t touched in five years.
He’s spearheaded this project, taking it upon himself to clear everything out and get it ready to pass along. Whether it’s going to friends, family or Hooks & Hangers, Spence has been ruthless about cleaning so we can use this space for something other than storage. I totally agree — but lack his energy. I haven’t contributed much beyond researching paint colors.
I brought any strength I had to IKEA, though, and gave it my all. While Spence worked with a nice associate trying to track down all the bits and baubles we need for these cabinets, I wandered. And daydreamed. I snapped photos with my phone of armchairs and stools, rugs and planters, artwork and bowls. Tons of things we could then go find in the massive warehouse — practically a whole new house.
Thankfully, Spence caught me before I could do anything rash. After purchasing most everything online for years, taking me out to a physical store is dangerous. I have a mom van . . . and I’m ready to fill it.
Ultimately, though, I bought some fake plants. And snack bowls for the kids. We also left with a dozen “inspiration photos” for the clutter-free home we will (hopefully, maybe, someday) create.
In the meantime, we’re showcasing the kid art and LEGO houses — and that’s OK, too.
The time for a clean, modern space will come.
In the meantime, I’m getting another IKEA ice-cream cone.