As mentioned by Mr. no-name in Fight Club, some people suffer from IKEA nesting syndrome. This is a state of being where you can't see some furniture in a IKEA catalog without figuring that it WILL make your life better. It seldomly does...

I am a sufferer

I am really glad that the condition I suffer from has been individuated and given a name.
I thought that I was the only one that, upon seeing an IKEA catalog, immediately started desiring just about everything. I have three possible explanations:

  1. It is the names: rarely mega-corporate entities take the trouble to give an individual and slightly goofy name to every single thing that they sell. This is very cute. So you are not buying a little black wooden stool: it is your very own Trondö that you are taking home, to live forever in the company of Skroppje the can-opener and Bærte the light brown rug.
    You are actually building a little family! A family of strange, silent Swedish objects, of course, but it is better than nothing.
  2. It is the demo rooms: they look perfect. Everything matches with everything - hardly surprising, since the rooms are built buy skilled interior designers using stuff that comes from the same collection.
    But the problem is that my house will never look like that, and my wallpaper will never match with the pans; never will the shape of the spoons complement quite so perfectly the subtle curve of the fridge door.
    Yet, by buying IKEA stuff, I can dream that things will come together and that some of that titanic pale-wood-and-glass unity of concept, harmony in diversity and stuff will rub off and improve my sorry housemaking skills.
    Some times I would like to just grab one of the nice red shirt wearing young cuties that IKEA employs, and say
    "I want the room, not just the object, the whole room, and if it is possible a Swedish landscape outside the window. Pristine snowfields, or spring with cows - I must insist on the cows. Here is my credit card, abuse it, but make my house look so !"
    Of course I can't do it, because at IKEA everybody is sane, including the customer.
  3. It is the Sweden thing: I am Italian. Let's talk stereotypes; we are a mess, we are noisy, we cook pasta and eat it with very red sauces, we have unruly curly dark hair that goes in all directions.
    They are Swedes; they are quiet, organized, they eat very ordered potato-based dishes in elegant yet simple stoneware, they have blond hair that hardly requires being combed.
    Surely I can't be blamed for hoping that, by buying slick particle board, aluminum and glass objects, some of that cool, composed North European style will enter my system.

My condition has not been very visible in the last years, because first I did not have my own house, then I moved to temporary accomodations in remote places, and now I am in Mexico and Mexico has no IKEA.
But in the near future I will be moving back to Italy. And then the syndrome will explode. I will bleach my hair. From now on, call me Olaf; I will be the tall blond guy with the SAAB.


Therapy? and why? I am perfectly happy like this. Every morning I say "Hi, Griko how was your night? What about you Kjetta? Still holding all my Herp dishes securely inside, with the Wate set of glasses (8 pcs.)?".
I have only one complaint: they don't make computers.

While I am charmed by baffo's silent Swedish family, and the image of him sitting, late in the evening, watching TV with little Trondö snuggled up on one side, Bærte on his lap, wee Skroppje peeking around the corner, I feel compelled to warn the uninitiated that the IKEA family, like any family, can reduce you to a sodden mess of tears.

Oh Effektiv, wonder desk, stretching out smooth and veneered all around me, well I remember how you came in to my life. Before we ever met, I had stroked your close cousin in the showroom. I sat on Joel in front of her gently rounded curves and envisioned her safely ensconced in my home, glowing efficiently in the far corner. I had to have you. No more nasty old student desk for me, oh no! I'm grown up now, I'm an entrepreneur, I can have a grown-up desk of my very own.

Even then, though, I had an inkling of the heartache that was to come. I looked on in trepidation as a friendly young woman jotted down a ream of numbers that corresponded to your diverse parts. So many choices. Laquer or veneer? T-leg or straight? L-shape? Extension? Filing cabinet? Yes? Two drawers or three?

Ah, my dear, I could see then how complicated you truly are! How will she fit into my life? I wondered. Will she fill my empty corner? Will I regret I ever met her?

I remember too the bright afternoon when you arrived in my apartment at last, hauled up by dapper deliverymen and dumped unceremoniously on my floor. You were housed in a bewildering array of boxes of all shapes and sizes. Oh modular one! Each piece of you came with hieroglyphics, with commentary in seven languages - or none - but there was no guiding vision, no sense of your whole. I was adrift in a sea of details; you overwhelmed me with your parts, your pieces, your screws and legs and bars and extensions.

Still, I was alone, and you lay waiting for me. What could I do but start unpacking, lay out your parts, begin to build you? I felt somewhat competent then - nay, even masterful! - as I began to mold you in the image in my head.

Soon my knuckles were scraped, my back sore, my triceps achey from turning, turning, turning your screws. Unable to adequately decipher the divine precepts that guide your construction, I despaired. Some pieces just didn't fit, no matter how hard I hammered, clanged, bashed. As the evening light waned, I took you apart once, then again, and started all over again. I sobbed in anger and frustration. Would you never be mine?

At last, as the clock struck midnight, I settled back on my heels and gazed at you in triumph. There you lay, like a platonic form, glowing in the lamplight, a fully realized desk at last. As I rose and dusted off my bruised knees, I turned, and found - could it be? - NOOOOOO! Another inexplicable piece of your puzzle, laying innocently off to the side, belonging somewhere, but where? Where could this enigmatic metal bar go?

Of course, we can laugh about all this now, Effecktiv and I, but that day, you were triumphant, and I, defeated. Cruelly, but oh so effectively, you had proven that your name was truer than I could have known. The joy you give me now can never truly erase the memory of my drenched pillow that night, but I must forgive you, dear Effektiv, as I do all my family in the end. For after all, they are my family, and though they can be trying in the extreme, they are the only family I have. Dear, vexatious bunch.

As we prepare for a move deeper into Midwestern suburbia, my dearest has started behaving rather oddly. Not that she was not a bit odd to begin with, as is undeniably the case seeing that she remains attached to me. However, I am seeing signs that I think ought to worry me.

Like most inhabitants of the civilised world, I have heard of IKEA. I heard of IKEA long before it made its ways to these here shores. My mother had access to one as early as 1979. I know enough to instantly tell that the MALM bedside table on craigslist is their lowest grade of particle board and probably belongs to a poor college student from Chicago because that's where the nearest store is located. My textbooks live on an ENETRI (discontinued) that I bought (on craigslist) from a slightly better-off grad student.

I have even been to an IKEA myself--two in fact since the one in Bolingbrook does not carry the same range of stuff that the one in Schaumburg carries (why do I know this?). I have even bought stuff directly from IKEA. The last bill, I think, ran to something like $1600. You could say that I have experienced a Swedish Furniture Encounter of the Third Kind, though putting it that way gives me uncomfortable visions of the ÅNES probing my ånus at night when I'm sleeping on it, to the tune of ABBA's "Money, Money, Money."

I have nothing against buying stuff from the richest men in the world, as long as it's not Bill Gates. An octagenarian Swedish furniture billionaire by the name of Ingvar Kamprad sounds fairly non-threatening and is as welcome to my hard-earned money as Carlos Slim is, and they both have a chunk of it. I will consume their products as long as these products satisfy my needs as a consumer. Which I suppose is how they came to be billionaires. Plus, none of them can take it with them anymore than I can. Anyway.

After being in a rental for four years, last month we got an accepted offer on a house. The following weekend my dearest started making noises about another trip to Chicagoland. (I fear the day they set up shop in Indy.) Word had spread that there were special one-day offers to be had. Of course you know that "word" spreads more easily when you go looking for it, which suggests that someone had been browsing the IKEA web site--purposefully even. I exercised the veto power of the Man Expected To Drive, not being about to put the kids in the car for six hours, no matter how many POÄNG we could buy (limit: two per customer while stock lasts) and how many PUTT-I-PANNA and KÖTTBULLAR with lingonberries they could eat.

Ten days ago we submitted the paperwork that could put us in debt for most of the rest of our lives, assuming that there is someone who will give us a wad of money today in return for cartloads of money tomorrow. The economic climate is good, the government subsidy that comes disguised as a "tax rebate" is sizeable, and the only way we'll get this loan is by having the federal government guarantee it. Socialism, American-style. Not half bad when you're on the receiving end of it. In fact it feels almost like we're in Sweden, just without the tax rate. Excuse me, I feel an umlaut coming on...

Today I found a sheet of paper lying on the NORDEN. My dearest has been making googly eyes at the room on the north end of the new house. It has a large window at each end and is plenty big. She shall have it, certainly, or she'll turn the rest of the house into a library. Now about the sheet of paper. It is very clearly a scale drawing of the room. There's a door and there are six-foot openings in each end where the windows are. But does it say "computer desk" or "bookcase" or even draw anything like that? Heck, nej!

I look at the scheme and realise that I am hopelessly outclassed. I will carry her books in the best romantic schoolboy fashion but what chance do I stand against a BILLY who will patiently and tirelessly hold hundreds of them for her for years to come? And there are BILLYs end to end. An orgy of BILLYs. And if she gets tired of BILLY, she has "5-6" (that's what it says on the paper) BENNOs lined up. Should those, too, fail to satisfy her, she has made provisions to take care of that EXPEDITiously.

I'm not saying that IKEA is all bad. As a cook, I'll admit to ogling the self-cleaning convection MUMSIG while I'm writing this. But this is not about me. It's about the mother of my kids. She is no longer mine. She has succumbed to the IKEA nesting instinct and is a woman in a trance. The 2008 catalogue has taken up residence in the bathroom. Before I know it, she will be in that new room of hers reading Anne Rice by the light of the KVART, sitting in the lap of OLLE or HARRY. I know because they've been circled with black marker on pages 86 and 88.

The writing is on the wall, gentlemen, and you'd do well to read this as a cautionary tale. I can see the blue-and-yellow solid beechwood juggernaut heading my way and I am as powerless as the monks of Lindisfarne circa 793 A.D. It doesn't look as though it will be going away anytime soon. I think I'll hide behind the PAX/KOMPLEMENT for the next five years and hope it doesn't spot me.

På svenska

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