IKEA Survival Guide
When it comes to buying stylish furniture on the cheap, IKEA has become the number one destination. My wife is an interior designer and I know how expensive "real" furniture is from "fancy" stores.
So I know how awesome IKEA's prices are. But shopping at IKEA can be kind of a nightmare. It's a time suck that can test your patience and cause even the more experienced shoppers to shut down in despair. It happened to me this weekend and so I decided I wanted to be part of the solution.
I've put together some helpful tips to help you get in, get what you want, and get out without sucking away hours of your time.
Before you set foot in the store, go online or request a catalog so you can get an idea of what you're about to step into. It doesn't matter how many times you've shopped at IKEA, if you go in with the idea to "just look around," be prepared to waste a LOT of time doing just that.
You can prepare by singling out pieces you like, writing down the names of the models (which are always interesting), and getting a rough idea of what you're interested in buying. Oh and if you don't have a floorplan, get one. Even if it's a rough one, it helps.
2. Create a Prioritized Plan
This one is key and involves some heavy lifting. Once you've gotten an idea of what you like and don't like, sit down with a blank sheet of paper and decide what it is you're shopping for. IKEA is kind of like Bed, Bath & Beyond — there is always something you can buy there even if you don't need it.
So write down the different pieces you need to buy (notice I said need, not want) and put them in order. You may want 10 things but can only afford to buy three of four, so only include those three or four pieces. The most important goes at the top and then go from there.
This will help guide you once you get in there and are overwhelmed by all the Swedish je ne sais quoi that IKEA is oozing with. Without this piece of paper you might walk into IKEA and never come out...
3. Grab a Map
They give these out at the entrance for a reason. The store is built to dangle as many cool things as possible in front of you. The zig-zag design is meant to trap you in their maze of bright colors and funky names.
Don't let them beat you. Take a map and don't let it go.
4. Take a Break
If you have lots of pieces of furniture on your list, don't forget to take a break. Enjoy some Swedish snacks and a drink. Take a load off. Sit down and re-evaluate what you've seen and how much longer you can stand being in the store. I find that after two hours I start to lag a little bit.
5. Finish Up
Ready to buy what you like? Before you do, ask for help — especially if you're having problems deciding. The people that work at IKEA know their stuff and are usually really good at helping out. They can tell you how pieces fit together or where a specific piece can be found. And don't forget: You don't have to buy anything. Just because you drove out there and spent a couple hours in the store shouldn't make you feel like it's a wasted trip if you don't come out with five or six heavy boxes.
I came out with a light bulb and felt great.
Now head down to the basement and find your boxes. Good luck packing the car. You'll need a whole other survival guide to help you fit everything in your trunk.