5 Tips for Surviving IKEA

I realise that this would have been more useful to publish before the bank holiday weekend, because that's such a popular time to descend on the big blue and yellow boxes across the country, but I've spent the long weekend sanding, and filling, and painting, and tiling, and frankly by the evenings I've been so tired I was useless for anything. Last week though, I needed to rent a van to collect a sofa I won on eBay from North London, but since I didn’t need to arrive at Finsbury Park until 5pm, I thought I would combine it with a trip to IKEA.

hjalmaren towel rail

hjalmaren towel rail

Varmluft lampshade

Varmluft lampshade

I've planned the kitchen layout based on IKEAs cabinets, because they’re good quality for the price and they have such a wide selection of sizes. So the plan was to finalise the kitchen, buy the units, and pick up a few smaller items (laundry baskets, fabric, small kitchen and cleaning items etc.) that IKEA excels at.

While I was there I saw a couple with their little boy; the little boy was sat in the trolley seat, and wailed his way all the way through the Showroom (the bit with the mocked up rooms). He calmed down as they came out the end, but then they turning into the Market Hall, and he started off again as if to say “What fresh Hell is this?! I thought it was over!” That little boy embodied how a lot of people feel about IKEA, and it can be kind of overwhelming, but there are a few ways you can make it as painless as possible.

Ludde sheepskin

Ludde sheepskin

Aglot storage bag on castors

Aglot storage bag on castors

1. Know What You Don’t Need

The easiest way to avoid overwhelm is to know what you don’t even need to look at. I knew that I didn’t need anything from the living room, dining room or home office areas in the Showroom. Similarly in the Market Hall I knew there was nothing I needed from the kitchen equipment or garden areas (I have plenty of the former, and none of the latter). Just acknowledging that meant that I’d cut out half the shop before I’d stepped in the door. 

Note here the word is “need.” No doubt you can probably find plenty things in IKEA you might want, but then you’ll be there for hours and spend hundreds.

Bekvan step stool

Bekvan step stool

Frack mirror

Frack mirror

2. Plan Ahead

IKEA has a facility on their website which allows you to save any of their products to a shopping list. I’ve been keeping lists by room name, and whenever I saw an item I liked I’d add it to the list.

So far, so normal. The clever bit is that you can select a list and your preferred store and the website will not only tell you availability, and where to find it in the self service warehouse. Then you can print it out to take with you.

I also used their kitchen planner plugin. I found it quite frustrating to use; the unit blocks didn’t always go where I wanted them, and I understand it works better on Windows than iOS. But it did give me a little head start when I sat down with the in-store Kitchen Experts.

Aglot mesh basket

Aglot mesh basket

Krakris duvet set

Krakris duvet set

3. Go Alone

The IKEA principal is go with your family and spend the whole day there. Personally I think it’s a whole lot less stressful if you fly solo. 1) because it means you’re not held up by other peoples aims for the trip (which will multiple the time spent in store) and 2) to ensure you don’t feel bad taking your time making decisions. Failing to recognise that is a recipe for a blazing row over a colander. IKEA hasn’t got the reputation as the place relationships go to die for nothing.

Lisel fabric - these crabs are huge! And so awesome!

Lisel fabric - these crabs are huge! And so awesome!

Raskog trolley

Raskog trolley

 4. Don’t Shop Hungry

You don’t have to eat in their restaurant (although I did enjoy my poached salmon and vegetables with hollandaise) but you should definitely plan to eat before you start. Have a snack or two in your bag, and bottle of water too. You’re going to be on your feet and making choices for a few hours, and you can’t do either without some fuel. Trying this hungry or dehydrated is only going to make it harder. 

5. Have a Plan for Where Everything is Going to Go

If you’re buying a lot of stuff (like a kitchen for example!) think where you’re going to put it when you get home. I say this from hard experience; I didn’t plan this and now my very patient parents’ sitting room is filled with flatpack.

But having said all this I would add a bonus tip:

6. Do You Even Need To Go In the First Place?!!

IKEA do home delivery, you know, if you’re buying a lot of furniture my best recommendation is don’t leave the sofa and pay them to bring it to your door!