Assembling Ikea - A Boss, Myself and a Date

Honestly. I don’t know that there is anything funny that comes out of assembling a piece of Ikea furniture.

The first time I ever put a piece of Ikea furniture together was years ago at a law firm where I worked. I was somewhere in my stupid-old 20’s. It was a small firm.  A very, very small firm. My title? Jack-of-all-Trades. Apparently.

I had one boss.  She was one of those bosses that as you pick up on the click, click, click of her heels walking briskly down the hall toward you, you cringe, put your head down, and avoid all eye contact. Not that that works. You still get yelled at. But it’s just the way your mind has been conditioned to cope with the powerlessness that you feel because you know you won’t be catching anything close to a Win in the next few minutes. Regardless of her meanness, she was fair, endearing, and came off as well-meaning. Most times.  Besides, I couldn’t help but waffle between excuses for her: Insecurities. Menopause. Stress. The frustration that came out of her not being able to quite tame her hair as she wanted – except for the talent she had for sculpting it to look like a football helmet on the top of her head. She did her best.

I know. I know. Stockholm Syndrome, you say.

Yeah. Well. It was. Sorta. But that’s another story.

One Monday morning I came into work and walked into the conference room where I startlingly discovered all kinds of pieces and parts and chunks of plastics, metals and woods strewed beneath, around, and on top of the conference room table.  Various tools were scattered among them. Yiikes! It looked like the conference room had been vandalized – like Tim the Tool Man graffiti’d it or confetti’d it or his big fat tool box just crapped all over that scene. Well, no sooner did my shock wear off, than my boss click-click-clicked her way in. From the look on her face, I was positive her insecurities were madly thrashing about in her head from her obvious fail over the weekend.  She immediately pointed her finger at me threatening: “You need to put this together by the end of the day, or else… ”

So by virtue of naivety, I took that (empty) threat as “…you’ll be fired.” In the past I had always met her empty-threated deadlines so I still had no reason not to believe that the consequence would be anything but the worst of the worst that was now, once again, tossing through my head.

So as my insides shook with anxiety, I gathered the pieces and parts and chunks of plastics, metals and woods to get ready for my attempts to build a cabinet for one postage machine to stand upon.

Then I don’t know what happened next.  It was all a fog.  All I remember was thinking WTH (I thought politely back then)?!! Then everything went blank until I remember cooking dinner, bathing a baby, having sex and then crying into my pillow until the moon set down beneath the other side of my bedroom window frame.

I got it done, I guess. I didn’t get fired. What I did know for sure, though, was that due to my obvious PTID (Post Traumatic Ikea Disorder), I vowed never to build another piece of Ikea furniture again.  Ever.

Cut to –


20 years later. Give or take a couple. Once again single. Now kid less. Starting over. After spending most of my new-place budget on a couch, a table and a fancy refrigerator, I had only enough remaining to afford a used coffee table and entertainment center. I thought.

E-bay. Craig’s List. Thrift stores. Target. Nothing.

Ikea?! Aah! No! But yes, I checked them out too.

Regardless, there wasn’t one coffee table or one entertainment center, used or otherwise, that could be afforded within my budget.

While perusing the coffee tables at Ikea (being my last stop), I found  two rolling black boxes that were within my budget and could work out perfectly. Makeshift furniture. One to hold the cable box and speakers for tv and music. One to hold two glasses of wine and a snack for some future We or a double-fisted-booze night.

Immediately the remnants of PTID kicked in.

I entertained:

Hiring someone?  Not in the budget.

Guilting a kid into doing it? Never good results.

Bartering? I do come with girl parts. Nope. Better not.

I finally faced that fact that I couldn’t do anything but build those things myself. Besides, after I got gifts of tools, tool boxes, tape measures and a couple rolls of duct tape for my most recent birthday, I had to brag that I built those things by myself.  So I sucked it up and started building. Wow! Only 10 steps. Instructions with pictures. Not many pieces. I dove in and with every piece and part and chunk of plastic, metal and wood I put together, I fell more and more in love with screwing (winky face) and hammering – building that thing. In one and half hours flat, I completed that box on rollers. Without one mistake! I built the next one. One hour flat. Without one mistake!  They looked beautiful.  That day I overcame all remnants of PTID.  Or so I thought.

Cut to –


Just last week I decided to purchase a dresser for extra essentials. I mean it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer put up with a bunch of clothes tumbling out of my small dresser as I search for just one thing to wear.

This time I go straight to Ikea and purchase that dresser. Memories of falling in love with my tools still hold steadfast – So bring out the Guys (tools) and let’s make me feel like an Awesome Bitch!

In the middle of my entry floor sits one 53″ x 21″ x 4″ sized box hiding all the pieces and parts and chunks of plastic, metals and woods. I watch it – for 10 minutes, at least – contemplating my strategy even before taking one glance at the instructions.

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a beep from my phone. It’s an incoming e-mail from an OkCupid guy who I have a 2nd lunch date with the very next day. I had already bragged to him in an earlier e-mail that I would be building this piece of furniture like it was no problem. “I love the feeling of accomplishment,” I wrote.

DATE: How’s the building going? Did the factory in China include all the parts?

ME: Now you’ve scared me….they all better be there.  I never expected they wouldn’t.

DATE: Enjoy the building!

Frantically, I tear open the box and dump and drag all the pieces and parts and chunks of plastics, metals and woods onto the floor. CRAP! It seems like thousands of pieces this time, maybe millions! My insides start shaking like I was that 20-something-year-old back in that conference room. “Keep calm,” I tell myself. Out of fear of finding even one piece missing while I’m creating my masterpiece, I begin counting each piece and part and chunk of plastics and metals, cross them off the list, and separate them into individual baggies. This takes two hours. One more hour to unclench my jaw.

The next morning I awake racked with girl-pride.

Build that piece of furniture before that lunch date.

Build that piece of furniture before that lunch date.

Build that piece of furniture before that lunch date.

Flipping through the instruction booklet, I notice the instructions are pictures of parts, and circles, and tools, and tools going into parts, and fingers pointing to tools going into parts, and little Swedish snowmen-like characters on every 3rd page, their biggest body part being a big old smart-ass grin on their face. “See? Any idiot can do this!” that grin is saying. “See? All this is chaos!” my scowl is saying.

Breathe. One step at a time.

Step 1 doesn’t seem complicated at first. I lay out two woods, carefully positioning them according to what I think the instructions are showing me. To decipher this, though, I find that I have to keep switching sides of the brain. I can feel it.

Switch right brain.

Switch left brain.

Now right. Now keep right.

Now left. No, stay left…I said stay left…STAY ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE BRAIN!

Okay, now right.

I swear it takes me 45 minutes to position and screw in 6 screws into these two pieces of wood just because of all that switching back and forth between those two hemispheres of my brain.

Step 2 tells me I screwed up Step 1. I have to do Step 1 all over again. Ugh! I must’ve switched brain hemispheres too many times. Or not enough.

So I think that flipping through the 29 pages and 32 steps will alleviate my now slightly heightened anxiety. But it makes it worse, momentarily. I’ll never finish by noon. What am I going to tell this date? My Girl vs. Boy pride – Crushed!

Regardless, I still have 2 hours left before the date, I quickly put away all that nonsense going on in my mind and forge ahead. I get to Step 10. Without mistakes! A semi-accomplishment! “A good start,” I convince myself. I shower up, slip on a dress, and walk down the street to the restaurant where we had agreed to meet.

My date earlier warned me that he would be dressed casually – in shorts. Yes! I get to see his legs (winky face)!!!  He shows up in nice freshly pressed, possibly starched, “crispy” I wanna say, white tray-plaided shorts and a dress shirt. I comment he looks nice – “dressy “caj”,” I say. He states that’s as “caj” as he gets. Yiikes! I wonder what he would think of my casual? – cut off sweats, no bra, and some flashdance top from the 1980’s. We’re seated and dive right into talking and ordering and talking and eating and talking and talking and talking. It’s a good comfortable date. Until we get to:

DATE: Did you finish building your dresser last night?

ME: I finished sorting and counting the pieces last night. Thank you for warning me about possibly missing pieces – they were all there, thank God. I started building this morning.

DATE: Did you finish it?

ME: No. It’s going very slowly…but I’m doing it.

DATE: I can help.

ME: No. That’s okay.  I like the feeling of accomplishment.

DATE: Yes, I know, but I can help.  I’m good at these things.

ME: No.

DATE: No, really.  I’d like to help.  I’m really good at this.  But if you want to do it yourself that’s okay too, of course. But I’m really good at this. I can help.

ME: No.

DATE: Really, I don’t mind helping.

ME: No.

We drop it for the time being and talk about other things.

It comes up again.

DATE: Are you sure you don’t want me to help?  I can. I am really good at this.

ME: No.

But then I pause and think that I suck at asking or accepting help. Maybe I should suck it up and take him up on it? I ponder this for a few seconds as my date chatters away, and then I convince myself to give it a shot and accept his offer.

I half-expect to see shock on his face when I accept – like I’ve often seen on people’s faces when they’re surprised that someone actually takes them up on their offer. But I don’t see it here.

I am comfortable inviting him over. Following our first date, I put the Googler to use and he checked out. So he already is steps further away from being the serial killer that so many of my married friends immediately assume going into any first date.  So we head on over to my place.

Being sensitive to my pride, we both agree that I’ll start with the assembly and he’ll guide me through. He sits in a chair against the wall patiently watching as I’m on my hands and knees on the floor muddling around looking for the appropriate screwdriver and plastics and metals and woods needed for the next step. He sits there. Watches me.

He doesn’t sit there for too long before he can’t take it any longer. By now my pride has practically dissolved, so I’m actually somewhat relieved. My only concern now is my floor. Is it clean enough not to ruin those tray-plaided white crispy shorts he has on? I notice as I’m scooting around the floor, trying to position myself so that my knees don’t get bruised, my ass doesn’t crawl out of the back of my dress, or my crotch doesn’t show through my sits position, that the knees of his crispy shorts never once touch the floor. He is perched on the floor, squatting and balancing on two feet, maneuvering from toes to toes, up and down, and scooching around calling for pieces and parts and chunks and screwdrivers while assembling with rapid motions.


He teaches me “dowel”, “cam”, “phillips”, and “flat edge” and how to logically organize the screwdriver bits so I can make a faster quick draw the next time he calls for a tool. He lets me hold the instructions, pass him parts and even lets me screw in some of my favorite pieces. My favorite being the “cams”. Oh, how I love screwing those things (winky face)! Eventually, we get to a point where I have no understanding of what the directions are showing us at all, and I come to the realization that if he wasn’t there, I would be screwed. Stopped in my tracks. Possibly forever.

One hour later, we are done with the main structure of the dresser.  He has to go make a living so I’m left with the drawers. Simple, he says and Simple, they are. I finish all four drawers and by the end of the afternoon, I am slipping the drawers into that main frame and the dresser is complete!

I take a picture and e-mail it to my date thanking him for his help. He is nice and tells me it was all me…he only did a particular part of it.  I tell him, no, it was teamwork, and if it wasn’t for him, I would have been stumped. A couple more polite e-mails back and forth that day and I never hear from him again.

The next morning, as I move my dresser into the bedroom, it occurs to me that my other small dresser is actually my daughter’s. That dresser will be moving back up to college in no more than one month…

…meaning another assembling Ikea.

This journey isn’t finished with me yet.

Ciao for now!



  1. Stories like yours make me think and realise how much of a lifesaver a proper ikea assembly service could be. This is not the first time I encounter the IKEA post traumatic “disorder” and that has always made giggle. As every other skill ikea assembly requires at least some experience and there’s only one way getting it 🙂 Furniture assemblers are not born such ou know! To become confident with flat pack assembly took me quite a while, not to mention how many flat pack units I felt like @#!$!@.. The conclusion? I think that when you’re about to face ikea assembly/disassembly and you are offered help – go for it. Flat packs can be evil, xoxo.

    Kind regards and good luck next time!


  2. This made me laugh. I used to get a sense of accomplishment from putting furniture together. Now, not so much. My daughter and I put together 3 bar stools that I didn’t know would be delivered unassembled (not from Ikea, thought I was safe) and by the third one we were doing fine, but one of the stools (the first one we assembled, I’d bet) is sitting in the garage now, too wobbly to sit on.


  3. Oh, and I meant to ask — did the date ever call again? He sounded so promising, and a guy doesn’t usually offer to assemble furniture unless he likes you…unless he’s just REALLY into showing off his prowess with tools. 🙂


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