IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone



I might as well be up-front about it: I’m going through a break-up (er… divorce). It’s a struggle for many reasons, as you can either relate to or imagine. But aside from the immense emotional and financial turmoil, it’s the little, every-day adjustments that have caught me most off-guard. And from these small conquests I have learned the largest lessons about embracing this new phase of life. So here they are.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone. How some determination and focus helped me build IKEA furniture alone, to piece together a gorgeous, deliberately chosen home (and life). Inspired by The Everygirl's white and gold bedroom here.

The initial inspiration: IKEA’s white Malm dresser and a gold leaning mirror. [Source: The Everygirl]

1. Start where you are

…but with a crystal-clear goal in mind.

After the big move-out, my 1-bedroom Denver apartment was almost completely barren and in need of some serious home-design TLC. Armed with my credit card, some extra spending dough, and naive determination, I entered IKEA, bright-eyed and on a mission.

While I couldn’t get everything I wanted (or even needed), I decided to focus on pieces that truly inspire me and bring me joy (can you tell I’ve recently discovered the Kon Mari method?). It required laser-sharp focus to not frantically throw items into my cart just to fill the glaring voids in my apartment. Every piece will have a thoughtful purpose, I thought to myself.

IKEA Hemnes white leaning mirror

Shopping for the perfect white IKEA leaning mirror

A few hundred dollars and a lot of exhaustion later, I arrived home with many new pieces in tow—and many voids still left unfilled. This is the process of truly redesigning a life. Wait to spring for the right things when they appear; do not force the wrong things to stand in their place. This requires focus in two areas: 1.) patience to wait and say yes to the right thing, and 2.) discipline to say no to the wrong thing in the meantime.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone; How to build IKEA furniture alone and assemble a deliberate home design (and life)

Hauling my IKEA loot back to the apartment, and not looking too thrilled about it

2. Rely first on yourself.

You’ll always find a way.

So I had all the necessities in tow. Now I needed to get the IKEA boxes to my 3rd-floor apartment. With many friends out enjoying the magic of Denver’s rare 65-degree weekends in late January, I was committed to not employing any help in this feat. After hauling a massive leaning mirror and smaller items up the stairs, I was exhausted and perplexed at how I was going to get the dresser assembly box up the stairs, let alone how I was going to assemble it by myself.

Tired and delirious in a way only an IKEA-excursion-after-a-full-day-of-work can elicit, I decided to retire for the evening (I do believe pizza and wine were involved). And a few more evenings, at that.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone; How to build IKEA furniture by yourself and deliberately design your home (and life) to your liking.

Step 1: Get all the parts into my apartment bedroom. Step 2: Find space to build said furniture…

And then, after a few days of resting easy on the conundrum, I realized that, while I would not be able to carry the entire boxed dresser up the stairs by myself, I could, in fact, open the box up in the back of my car and bring up the parts separately.

And that’s what I did.

100 years later (more or less), I stood, hands on hips, looking down at all the dresser parts on the floor and all the possibility (and headaches) that lay before me.

IKEA white dresser assembly hardware

Is it necessary to have three bags of approximately 1 million IKEA hardware parts?

3. Run the mile you’re in.

I read this quote in an article about running recently, and it hit home. While the zoom-out button is superb for reminding yourself of how little your problems are, the zoom-in button is great for conquering your (fixable) problems in practical ways.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone. How to find the strength and determination to build IKEA furniture (and a deliberate, happy life) by yourself.

Breathe, then divide and conquer.

Instead of looking at these bags of Swedish crap on my floor (sorry, IKEA people), I looked at Step 1 and only Step 1 until Step 1 was completed. Then repeated that with Step 2. You never know how the eff you’re going to get to the zoomed-out finished product until, somehow, All the Steps have each been zoomed-in on.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone. How to find the strength and determination to build IKEA furniture (and a deliberate, happy life) by yourself.

Sometimes you don’t need to stop and retrace your steps; sometimes you accept mistakes and move on.

4. Determine which mistakes need fixing.

Halfway through the more difficult dresser-assembly steps, I realized that I’d mistaken one large piece for another, which had already been screwed in, locked in, and added to. At first my perfectionism and determination to “build this gosh-darned dresser alone” seduced me into thinking I should take it apart and start again. And at first I thought that was the lesson I needed to learn.

But after further, careful inspection, I realized this wasn’t a mistake worth rectifying. It was merely a superficial error (and yet not visible!) and would not threaten the integrity of the structure. And so I kept on building.

IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone. How to find the strength and determination to build IKEA furniture (and a deliberate, happy life) by yourself. Seen here: IKEA Hemnes 3-drawer dresser in white

Voila! The finished product in all its prideful glory.

5. Relish in the beauty of your hard work.

Three and a half hours (and a lot of snack breaks) later, the dresser was not a heap of randomness but a full-blown piece of furniture—and my first one, at that! The pride could not be wiped from my face for days. I sent before and after pictures to all my close loved ones (the people I know would over-dramaticize the scope of my accomplishment) and relished in my new, sleek, white dresser.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you build an IKEA dresser—and perhaps, might I presume, an authentic, happy life—alone.


6 thoughts on “IKEA and I: Assembling a Life Alone

  1. Margit says:

    When I moved into my first own apartment (I am still in) years ago after breaking up with my boyfriend I bought nearly everything at IKEA for my new home. I bought the same Hemnes dresser, just in red (painted it blue later, but now I would also buy it in white). And I also open up the huge package in my car to carry piece by piece into my apartment… how funny to read the story here again!

    Liked by 1 person

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