Friday, February 24, 2012


A few years ago, an IKEA opened up in Michigan, about 45 minutes from us. If you don't have an IKEA in  your neck of the woods, well you're missing out. It's a huge home store that sells everything from furniture to dishes, and everything in between. Visit their website and request a catalog, you won't be disappointed. Even if you have no hope of shopping at an IKEA in the near future, just looking through the catalog is inspirational. They have innovative ways of furnishing and decorating a house, and really creative ideas for organization. The prices range from unbelievably cheap to slightly expensive.

There are rooms set up - bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, closets, offices. Strolling through these rooms fills my heads with ideas. With an unlimited IKEA budget, we could have the Ultimate Organized Home. And stylish too, in a sophisticated, European way. If you're setting up house for the first time, or moving, or re-decorating, or trying to get organized, or going away to college, then just walking through the staged rooms would be worth the trip in itself - even if you ended up not buying anything.

Shopping at IKEA is an event. I've only ever been to the one in Michigan, so I don't know if they're all set up the same way. But here is a basic run down of how to shop at IKEA.

  • When you first come in the store, you'll need to decide if you want a cart or just a yellow shopping bag to carry (if you choose cart, you'll still need a yellow bag to attach to the back of the mini-cart to hold your stuff).  You'll have a chance to snag a larger cart later on in your shopping journey. Also grab a little pencil and paper and a measuring tape. After gathering these few essentials, you'll want to head upstairs to start your shopping experience. There are stairs or an elevator available. Just a note: there are restrooms right by the entrance as well as lockers.
  • There is a play area near the entrance where you can drop off your potty trained children for a short time (children are signed in & out and it is a fully supervised area), but we've only used that once for Bethany and Connor. To me it's not convenient because I think the limit is 45 minutes, which really is kind of useless because you can't get much done in 45 minutes at IKEA.
  • Upstairs is where you'll find the display rooms and the various furniture departments. As you're looking around and see something that you like, you'll notice that every single item on display has a tag hanging on it with the item's price, dimensions, and where you can find it when you're ready to buy. Be sure to use your little pencil and paper to jot down this very important information. Certain things you'll be able to pick up right then and there and put in your shopping bag, but most things will be found for purchase in different areas of the store.
  • When you've worked your way through the entire upstairs, swooning over bedrooms and kitchens you wish you had, you'll find yourself in the cafeteria style eating court. There are restrooms up here too. Side note - there are family restrooms and in case you have a diaper emergency, there are machines with free diapers. By the time you get to the eating area, you will probably be starving. So get a tray and get in line. The food is good and fairly inexpensive. One specialty dish you may want to try is the Swedish meatballs. I also love the Lingonberry Juice. In case you're shopping with young children and worried about juggling multiple trays, last time I was there I noticed some odd looking carts near the queue and at first I wasn't sure what they were. Then I noticed a couple people using them and I realized they were for transporting trays. I think you can get three or four trays on one cart. It also took us awhile to realize that there is children's cutlery available (self-serve), as well as bibs and little plastic cups. Since IKEA is very hands-on and do-it-yourself, customers are responsible for clearing their own tables. By the wastebaskets, there is a place to put your trays of dirty dishes.
  • After you've fueled your body, you can go downstairs, where your inspired ideas from upstairs will lead you to find all those items you jotted down on your list. So look at your list to find out in which department to find everything you're looking for. At the bottom of the steps/elevator, you'll be able to switch to a larger shopping cart if you'd like. You'll find dishes, rugs, lamps and light fixtures, towels, and much more downstairs. The larger items can be found in the Self Serve area, which is the last area before checking out. There are carts suitable for large items available when you get here. This area is the most important reason for taking good notes while you shop, because you'll need to know the aisle and bin number of each item you're buying. There are computers and associates to help you in case you get confused or you didn't take good notes, but by the time you've reached this point you'll be tired and ready to go home, so the easier time you have finding your treasures, the sooner you can get out of there. First find your aisle, then find your bin. They are very clearly marked.
  • Just so you're not in for any surprises, most everything in the Self Serve area requires assembly. With many of the items, things like legs, knobs, and handles are optional and sold separately. Look at those tags carefully, they will generally list each item needed to create the piece as it is displayed. The merchandise comes packaged in flat cardboard boxes, which makes it pretty easy to cram a lot of stuff in your vehicle. In my experience, most of the items are fairly simple to put together. That's not to say you won't spend a good amount of time on assembly, but most aren't too tricky. If there are drawers involved, however, all bets are off.
  • When you're ready to check-out, leave the big stuff in your cart and put the smaller stuff on the belt. IKEA does not accept checks as payment, and some lines accept only credit or debit cards, so be sure to look for signs before wasting your time in the wrong line. Also, they don't have bags - unless you decide to buy a large re-usable shopping bag for 59 cents (available at the check-out). The bags hold a lot, but if you have your own bags at home you may want to bring them along.
  • After check-out, you'll have one last chance to buy a snack before the drive home. There is a food counter with a few items, such as beverages, hot dogs and ice cream cones. I highly suggest you take advantage of this, especially if you have a long drive home. The last couple times I was there, I should have got a drink and snack before driving home because I wound up with killer headaches BOTH times. I think I was a little dehydrated. Learn from my mistakes. You can also buy some Swedish foods to take home (including frozen meatballs).
  • Just outside the store, there are parking spots specifically for loading your vehicle. So if you have a ton of stuff, you or someone in your party may want to move the car to one of these spots.
If it's your first trip to IKEA, and you don't have a catalog to look through before you get there, you might want to plan on mainly window shopping and gathering ideas. Definitely grab a catalog to take home with you.  If there are specific things you're looking for, be sure to bring a list, and include measurements of your spaces. If you're looking for an entertainment center, make sure you know ahead of time what your limits are in terms of size. IKEA can be kind of overwhelming. Make it as easy as possible on yourself!

We're on a bit of a re-organization kick around here, so Chris and I went IKEA shopping with Mattie last week. Then my mom mentioned that she wanted a few things from IKEA, so she and I went back a week later - this time with Mattie and my mother-in-law. Each excursion lasted about four hours, not including drive time.

Since we recently did away with our family room carpeting, a need for a rug originally lead us to IKEA. Chris and I found a perfect rug, brought it home and put it down in the family room, then decided we needed a second one.  We also needed to get something to put our CDs in, since they've been in a closet in the basement since we moved into this house. Again, we got home, set them up, and realized we needed one more. So it worked out well that my mom wanted to go back a week later. We got some other stuff too - something for my shoes that I hope works out, some shelves for the bathroom that ended up not quite fitting (but I'm sure we'll find some place else for them), and other odds and ends. And every time I go to IKEA, I keep getting more ideas. The wheels are churning...

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