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Lunch at IKEA

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

I have been in a terrible mood all week, and when the mean reds set in and everything in life feels out-of-my-control, I clean.  I scrub and organize the house within an inch of its life with the other inhabitants clinging to my leg and screaming, “don’t give away my thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings.”  And at some point, in the process of cleaning and organizing, I generally decide that while I can’t control my body and produce a person, I can control the way my bathroom looks and I get a new $5 shower curtain with a Swedish name and all feels right in the world much in the same way that a chocolate bar can make things feel right even if your body knows that it was cheated out of the calories it actually wanted and needed in exchange for this tasty item.

Substitute room redecoration is like empty calories.

I knew on Monday after I gutted the closet in the second bedroom and purged it of bouncey seats and baby bjorns that I needed to go to IKEA to get a storage bin that would allow the kids to help themselves to their toys.  It was the thought that kept me going all week as I went through the baby items–that on Thursday, I would go to IKEA and envelope myself in the warmth and safety that comes in the form of clean-lined furniture and cheap textiles.

Cali and N agreed to go with me (Lindsay was supposed to be there too, but last minute changes meant her items would not fit in my car and so she is going on a different day and I am tweaking to go again too just so we can covet kitchens together–our favourite IKEA activity) and we met in the cafe.  It is nice to have a set of friends who agree with you that IKEA is our Tiffany’s, a place to go that has the power to instantly calm.  I have 1000 memories tied to trips to IKEA, and calls to my father begging him to drive down to Virginia and save our asses when the stuff we’ve bought doesn’t fit in the car, and putting together furniture.  It feels like nothing can go wrong in IKEA with the exception that anything you buy will be missing a few necessary screws.  Everything is organized, with signs, and clear boundaries, and when life feels chaotic and scary and the choices to big to wrap my mind around, it is a place to go where everything makes sense.  Where the world is colour-coordinated.  And in the face of expensive losses of dreams, everything comes with a tiny price tag.  Where else can you redo an entire closet for $40?

Before we headed to fill my actual needs, we walked through the upper level of mock rooms, critiquing the set-up of furniture and paint colours.  There is something so hopeful about seeing those rooms, as if you too could live that free of clutter and disorganization.  You too could have a place for everything tangible and the thought bleeds off the side of reality into making you believe that you could also have a place for everything intangible.  A neat doling out of your love and emotional energy and happiness.  Wherever you placed your feelings would be where they belonged.

I could tuck my thoughts on family neatly into a drawer where it would rest, nestled inside a box and untangled from all the other items beside it.

I place a lot of stock in the power of IKEA.

Everything I needed was in textiles or the warehouse room.  It is best to visit IKEA with others who appreciate IKEA, who can move through the textiles with a mental map in place.  We didn’t consult the signs in the warehouse, marching directly to the aisle of Trofasts.  And after I paid (a mark of true friends–Cali and N didn’t buy anything.  They just came with me to ensure that I didn’t end up curled in a ball, rocking back and forth, muttering in Swedish) and the twins and I kissed our friends goodbye and went out to the car to fit our items into the trunk and live happily ever after.

And that’s when I had the quintessential IKEA experience that I have almost every trip (at least the ones where I do not bring along Lindsay or Josh who have highly-honed spatial relations skills).  I let the twins in the backseat and went to put my Trofast in the trunk.  It was freakin’ heavy and I grunted and strained to slide it from the cart into the trunk, gasping at the Wolvog to please-for-the-love-of-G-d-hang-over-the-backseat-and-pick-up-the-beach-toy-basket-and-move-it-out-of-the-way-because-my-heart-is-going-to-explode-from-lack-of-oxygen.  I finally got it wedged into the trunk and tried to close the top and–of course–it didn’t fit.  I say “of course” because this has been my experience every damn trip and I never seem to remember it.  My thinking went: “I have obviously gotten a Trofast home before, therefore, it must fit in the car somehow.”

I tried several more times to get it to fit, the twins a complete lack of help because they have muscles as sturdy as a Kleenex tissue.  People walked by me in the parking lot, watching me struggle and stand with my hands over my face and no one offered to help.  And it wasn’t them–I mean, I don’t know how often I’ve paused at IKEA to help someone get something into their trunk and everyone struggles at IKEA–it was just the idea that two minutes upon leaving the safety and orderliness of IKEA, that I was back to feeling as if a situation was out of my control.  That I could shove and push as much as I wanted, but it wasn’t going to do any good because there were additional factors that the dream item had to contend with.  Sometimes you can’t make a Trofast fit no matter how you twist and prop it.

I already warned you that I make IKEA work hard to bring me emotional catharsis.

In the end, I took the Trofast out of the trunk and somehow hauled it to the side door and slid it across the backseat, an ordeal that took about 10 minutes of gasping while the twins cheered me on.  I closed the door and slipped into the driver’s seat, admitting that I no longer held that IKEA joie de vivre energy to spur me through a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  We drove home, a route we never take that Google Maps promised me was faster than my usual route.  And for once, it was.

Holly Golightly: He’s all right! Aren’t you, cat? Poor cat! Poor slob! Poor slob without a name! The way I see it I haven’t got the right to give him one. We don’t belong to each other. We just took up one day by the river. I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It’s like Tiffany’s.


1 Heather { 03.13.10 at 8:42 pm }

I’ve never been to Ikea. I would love to go. I love shelves and bins.

2 TasIVFer { 03.13.10 at 8:50 pm }

Think what it would be like to feel as you do about Ikea but live on an island with no Ikea, so a trip is a once-every-couple years experience – and you have to figure out how to get your meager purchases home on a plane. Yes, my husband and I HAVE hidden a candelabra upside down between our feet with our jackets on top so the the baggage handlers wouldn’t squash something too big to fit in overhead luggage.

3 Lyn C { 03.13.10 at 9:17 pm }

I wish I had some insight or comfort to offer. All I can say is that your post resonated with me – the search for some small corner of the world to organize in self-defense, the sanctuary of IKEA, and the stress of actually bringing things home from Olympus. Best wishes for better days ahead.

4 Kristin { 03.13.10 at 10:20 pm }

You are such an incredible story teller.

And, I would go to Ikea with you anytime.

5 N { 03.13.10 at 10:26 pm }

I will join you at Ikea any time.

And remember, sometimes there are friends just inside who would help you with the heavy loads.

6 Rach { 03.13.10 at 10:31 pm }

Ikea is Mecca for me…..

7 LJ { 03.13.10 at 10:39 pm }

I wish I could have been there to help you get it all in the car! Oh darn, we’ll just *have* to go back again soon 🙂

8 T Lee { 03.13.10 at 10:47 pm }

Oh, I love Ikea. There’s something about all the signs and the singular path through the place that you can just blindly follow that gives you time to meantally sort (all whilst going, ‘Ooo, that tabe is $7?! Oh, I need two!)…

9 a { 03.13.10 at 11:12 pm }

I am not a fan of Ikea. I find it overwhelming. But, I get the same kind of feeling that you get from Ikea from Marshall’s/TJ Maxx sometimes. Generally, I don’t buy anything, but it is calming to seek a bargain.

Although there were long faces here today, as we sold some of my daughter’s paraphenalia to my husband’s sisters, there was no crying. There were some negotiations involving M&Ms. Most of the distress was solved by the fact that my girl’s favorite-of-the-moment cousin, “her baby,” came to visit. He’s only 5 months old, and letting her hold him for a few minutes made sure that there were no tantrums.

Good luck regaining that feeling.

10 luna { 03.14.10 at 1:59 am }

walking into the massive ikea here is completely intimidating because while I get excited to covet, I know there is only one way out and it takes forever. they make you walk through the entire football stadium sized store to get to the exit, so it is not practical for just picking up an item. then you have to park in like LA or something. so not fun.

11 Caro { 03.14.10 at 4:23 am }

I love Ikea (had to look up what a trofast is though)

12 S.I.F. { 03.14.10 at 6:17 am }

I swear, something is in the air or the stars are aligned wrong or something – I’ve been in a horrible mood, and I keep hearing about other women being in horrible moods this week too. It can’t be a coincidence!

And I desperately miss IKEA since moving to Alaska… desperately.

13 queenie { 03.14.10 at 7:49 am }

I’m sorry you are struggling right now, but glad you found at least a momentary panacea.

You’ve inspired me, by the way. I’ve never been to Ikea, because there was never one remotely close to anywhere I’ve lived. There is now one sort of close, but still a lengthy drive away. As I struggle with the limbo of not being quite sure about this damn job (thinking it’s not going to happen but utterly unable to move on until the final rejection letter arrives), I’ve been looking for the booby prize. I think I should hear this week. I’ve decided that I’ll throw myself into really decorating our house if it doesn’t work out. I talked to my DH this morning, and we’ve planned a preemptive pilgramage to Ikea for next weekend.

14 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 03.14.10 at 9:54 am }

I won’t take the time here to expound on my love for IKEA as a quick look around my house will show that every single room has some piece of furniture in it from IKEA– the nursery having only a few items (mostly books) that did NOT come from IKEA, but only will say that I wish we lived closer because I would go to IKEA with you anytime, day or night. And I have excellent spatial-relations skills, and am very helpful at times when it seems like nothing will fit (it almost always will fit) (and I mean that both literally and metaphysically).

15 Pundelina { 03.14.10 at 10:17 am }

Oh my golly the IKEA kitchens, and those fantastic-co-ordinated perfect-life-living-rooms! (I love the navy blue, white and pale blue lounge room my store had set up, oh to be able to live there.) And all the kazillion different types of stuff; cool, wonderful stuff. I lerv the place. Have blogged the same a while back, when all was woe a trip to IKEA patched up my soul. For a wee while anyway.

Hope your mean reds go back in the box as soon as possible.

16 Trinity { 03.14.10 at 10:56 am }

I find Ikea to be the exact opposite: overwhelming in its busy-ness. Instead of seeing it as this harbinger of calm and order, I see it as the place I need to some warm up deep breathing and meditation before entering. In fact, I have become so annoyed there that I just hit control-alt-delete and get the hell out of there, despite my giant mesh bag full of yet unpurchased assorted items. 😉

17 Calliope { 03.14.10 at 12:46 pm }

I had THE BEST time with ya’ll. I’m just glad the meatballs didn’t attack.
& next time I will make sure we follow you to your car. xxxooo

18 Heather { 03.14.10 at 1:15 pm }

Sadly, we have no IKEA here, but that used to be our date spot when we first married. Seriously, it was a cheap dinner and free entertainment!
So sad about your emotional week…been that way for me too. UGH.

19 Hope in Briarrose { 03.14.10 at 1:19 pm }

I love Ikea!! My house has quite a few pieces from there.

20 HereWeGoAJen { 03.14.10 at 1:28 pm }

I love IKEA. It’s too far away for me to go often, so I use Target as my relaxation shopping. I love Target.

21 Mrs. Gamgee { 03.14.10 at 3:56 pm }

I was also thinking of Ikea as a metaphor for my life, after our trip there yesterday.

I plan and plan for the trip, what we are going to get, what will fit in our car, what we can afford to get this time. The thing is, it never ever goes according to plan. Like yesterday, the main thing I needed were a couple of Lack floating shelves. The one thing they didn’t have… Lack floating shelves (in the size and colour we needed). I did pick up a bunch of spice jars, which is great, and some lightbulbs, but no floating shelves.

Kinda like my life… married to a wonderful guy, good job, but still no baby to be found. I wonder if it’s on backorder? Or permanently sold out?

22 loribeth { 03.14.10 at 4:29 pm }

I adore IKEA. Especially at Chrsitmastime, when they have all the ornaments & gingersnap cookies that remind me of childhood Christmases at my Swedish grandmother’s.

My dh, however, has to be dragged into the place kicking & screaming. He loathes crowded parking lots & lineups at cash registers. And, since he is the driver in the family, that means we haven’t set foot in the place for years. *sigh*

I get that same kind of “all is right with the world” feeling in a bookstore, though. ; ) Especially in Chapters on a Saturday night, with a Starbucks tea latte in my hand, when the daytime crowds have started to subside.

23 Battynurse { 03.14.10 at 5:55 pm }

I love going to Ikea too. I can go in and see a room/house arrangement that I like and envision how I could maybe condense my life into that small of a space just so I could live in one of those long for places like Santa Barbara. I’m pretty sure the reality though is that I’m too much of a pack rat and I don’t think all the Ikea stuff in the world will make it doable for me to live in a 400 sq foot apartment no matter how appealing it sometimes sounds.

24 Kim { 03.14.10 at 6:44 pm }

Your Ikea is my Target. And I felt comfort reading your post about filling in the gaps with home organization and cleaning because that’s exactly what I do, even if I couldn’t put it to words before. I’m swallowed by artsy projects right now in an effort to clean out the cobwebs and the tears, and it feels just the tiniest bit better to not feel so alone with my projects.

And warm fuzzies for the Breakfast at Tiffany’s dialogue. ♥

25 Lavender Luz { 03.14.10 at 10:44 pm }

I have never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s OR been to IKEA.

But I’ve done my share of cramming things into a car, with no help from kids with tissue paper for biceps.

26 B { 03.15.10 at 3:23 am }

I know people who have a similar experience at tupperware parties. They truly believe that their pantry could look like the one in the magazine. (I think they are called Type A personalities?) It cost us a lot of money last time as my husband bought a lot of tupperware (decided not to fight him on that one) YET when we got it all home and unpacked, our pantry looked more or less the same. Still, a rock-n-serve is kinda handy.

I have the same packing issue with bad estimation on how much room emotional baggage takes and believing it can be squashed into a smaller space than it needs. (“Yes, I’ll come to the first b’day party” ……. and then have to leave in a hurry cause I’m losing it).

I hope you feel a little more in control with your lovely Trofasts


27 B { 03.15.10 at 3:27 am }

Oh and Lori….. Please go watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

28 Katie { 03.15.10 at 9:21 am }

IKEA is an escape for me. I could spend hours wandering around that store with no purpose. Their home arrangements (where they set up a super-small apartment and invite you to come in and see how amazing they’ve made it look) are my favorite. I see those and I believe I could live in a 350 sq. ft. home.

And I very much have the mean reds, too. I hope a different color takes its place very soon.

29 Flying Monkeys { 03.15.10 at 1:55 pm }

I have never been to an IKEA…or watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s. *GASP*

I do love looking at mock ups of what things should look like in houses, however they never look like that in mine. *shrug*

30 Bea { 03.19.10 at 7:37 am }

One day, I will also go with you, and I will leave Mr Bea at home because he sucks the Tiffany out of every trip, because it’s his least favourite place on earth.

I hope your closets are looking as neat and tidy as you wish your thoughts would be.


31 JuliaS { 03.22.10 at 12:58 pm }

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my favorite movies. I love that you know what the mean red’s are – too many of my friends look at me funny whenever I say that!

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