It’s fitting that IKEA stores are organised in a series of winding circles with no easy escape. It’s not unlike the circles of hell that the protagonist of Dante’s Inferno must wander before heading on to Purgatory and then Heaven.
But unlike the soul in Dante’s epic poem, you never get to Heaven. What awaits you once you’ve managed to locate and then purchase your Tuffing and Malfors is yet another circle of hell. This one is in your own home and the instrument of torture is an Allen key.
For those who have a life, Tuffing is an IKEA bunk bed. My husband and I recently made the mistake of buying one for our daughters.
To look at, you’d imagine it would take 45 minutes to assemble a Tuffing. An hour tops, if you stopped for a tea break.
But no, Tuffing – which is surely Swedish for “cruel and unusual punishment” – takes five hours to assemble. And a couple of days to recover from the physical and emotional trauma. And an opportunity to test the strength of your marriage.
But the worst part is that I knew this already. My husband and I have been here before. The last bed we bought for our daughter was from IKEA also.
At the time my husband developed what he refers to as his “IKEA stigmata” because there were so many screws on the sucker, he developed blisters on the palms of his hands that turned into weeping sores.
And just like stigmata, it was a bloody miracle the bed came together some hours later.
But buying IKEA furniture is like childbirth – after enough time passes you forget just how horrendous it is and then you go back and do it again.
And then once the contractions start – or in this case, you lay eyes of the bag of tiny screws – the full nightmare comes flooding back. But it’s too late the back out at that point.
The old bed has already been broken into pieces and hidden in the bottom of the communal rubbish bins so the body corporate doesn’t find out. Your lounge room floor is so full of cardboard and plastic wrapping – seriously IKEA what’s with all individually wrapped pieces, isn’t Greta Thunberg a fellow countrywoman? – and your children are bouncing around excitedly squealing “is it done yet, is it done yet?”
The kids keep up this level of enthusiasm and optimism for three hours. By that stage it’s way past their bed time (what were we thinking attempting to construct IKEA at night?), but there is nowhere for the kids to sleep so you pull together a make-shift bed on the couch.
As you kiss their sweet little faces goodnight, you are dumbstruck by the look in their eyes. Thanks to IKEA, it’s the first time in their young lives that they’ve realised mum and dad are a bit crap.
But it’s not our fault. It’s the instructions! Every time I look at the IKEA instructions, I feel like I have a three-year-old again. “Use your words!” I cry at the recycled paper. “Use your words!"
I know it’s a cost thing. I know they want to use pictures so that they can avoid translations expenses, but there has to be another way. I would happily forgo my $1 IKEA hotdog in exchange for an instruction manual that actually has instructions.
And just when you think you’re on the home stretch you realise that the critical structural piece you screwed in five steps ago is facing the wrong way so you have to unscrew the poles and supporting beams and do it all over again. But, as everyone knows, IKEA isn’t meant to be deconstructed (there’s no money in the reuse business model), and those little screwy things won’t come out.
You consider drilling your own holes or getting out the liquid nails and just sticking the damn thing together, but then remember that your precious darlings are going to be sleeping in it.
That’s when you introduce said precious darlings to a whole new language. And it’s not Swedish.
When you finally fall into bed you swear you’ll never buy IKEA again. You calculate the time, the cost of the physio appointment, the strain on your marriage and conclude that it’s just not worth it.
Until the next time.
Kasey Edwards is the author of The Chess Raven Chronicles under the pen name Violet Grace.