Writing at Ikea

“I know we don’t need it, but it’s still pretty cool.” -IKEA shopper

I’m wondering about the reactions of the shoppers as we sit here in a living room set writing. Do they think we’re store employees? Paid actors? Squatters? Performance artists? I imagine writing in this space as a quiet protest against the necessity of purchasing things, at least for today.

I think one of the chief lures of IKEA is that it allows us to visualize how our lives might look, going so far as to set up entire (cute, space efficient) houses within the store. I do value that they consider efficiency and beauty and that does make me likely to purchase something here rather than elsewhere if I’d made the decision to buy something. Things are also really cheap at IKEA, at least in terms of dollars. There are hidden costs of things, though. The emotional costs of having to manage stuff, to put it away, to clean it, the energy to replace it.

Writing at IKEA during the UNCCWP Writing Marathon

I’ve been thinking about objects differently over the past several months. From getting rid of 75% of my clothes to parting with several large bags of books and household furnishings, I’ve been trying to donate or trash things I don’t find beautiful or useful, preferably both, rather than asking if I might need the thing one day.

I realize that purging can be a privilege. There are things I haven’t worried about donating because I know I can borrow one from a friend if I need them again. And I don’t have the experience of ever having lived in a situation where I didn’t easily have my basic needs met, which I’m sure affects the way that those who have lived this way relate to material belongings.

The purging can be challenging, but the not replacing is even harder. I’m finding that I often have the impulse to purchase things for reasons other than the thing itself. I want to buy stuff when I restless or tired or lonely. I want to buy stuff that will change the way I feel about my relationships or my job. In the past four months, I’ve bought four items of clothing (recent weight loss made that seem reasonable), a book, and a cake pan. Everything else that I’ve bought has been consumable (toilet paper, food, shampoo, etc.). It’s been an interesting (unintentional) experiment. I’ve been inspired along the way by friends who live significantly more simply than I do and by blogs like Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist. A slightly strange effect of this is that I’ve found that I’m holding on to the things I do have more lightly. A friend’s friend’s friend, stranger to me, is staying in my house this week while I’m away.

I’m still wrestling with this idea of stuff. Wondering when, if ever, I’ll ever go back to something that looks like my old purchasing habits. For now, I’m resting in this slightly uncomfortable space.

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4 thoughts on “Writing at Ikea

  1. Your post brought to mind a quote by William Morris: “Have nothing in your home which you do not know or be useful or believe to be beautiful.” But I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that “purging can be a privilege.” I grew up regarding possessions as precious and scarce. We had a make-due attitude, that kept us from throwing away anything that might be useful one day, since we might never have that item again (or the real thing that we’re using this in place of). So for me, the things I believe to be beautiful are many, since I revel in the atmosphere they create… Wondering about the purposes of minimalism and what I gain or miss from populating my space with stuff…

  2. Thanks for that quote. Suspected that I’d heard it somewhere before when I was writing the post, but I couldn’t place it. I think you’ve definitely hit on something with the idea of beauty being subjective. I imagine that there are lots of different notions of beauty (it’s in the eye of the beholder, after all). I think what I want to push against for myself is the idea of having things just because I feel that I should or that there is some societal or commercial pressure to own them.

  3. I, too, am trying to give away–get rid of stuff. Because we had the big old Victorian house, everybody brought stuff to us and we took all these “family pieces” in. Now the givers have all died and we are left in our old age with that stuff. I am getting rid of it in waves and feel good every time. Feng Shui proponents refer to massive collections of stuff as weight up one’s head and shoulders that pushes one down. I do feel lighter when the stuff gets out and I like my house better, too.

  4. I attended this I think in May with my coworker. It was a great and new experience for me to go different places and write about anything to came to my mind. Then, I had no idea about on how to blog. However, Meredith I admire how you have this experience on here. Also, with visuals too, makes it come live then just being in our daybooks.

    Thanks

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