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Swedish angst

28 October, 2010

In the War on Heaps, I have lost a battle. I went to IKEA.

First, though, you have to find it. IKEA Dublin is just north of an unpleasant* area called Ballymun. They’re trying to regenerate it, but down the road from the too-fresh paint and unnervingly optimistic notices, you have to swerve around the heaps of dumped rubbish and tyres. To my surprise, IKEA is not actually lit from above by shining blue and yellow lights accompanied by angelic choruses.

Note the IKEA flags in the background.

This looked like a decent road on the map.

I digress. IKEA itself was stranger than I’d ever imagined. Imagine that you, too, have never been to IKEA. Imagine my confusion as we wended our way through some kind of theme park without any rides (complete with cartoony little maps and cheery shortcut advice). I saw an entire wall covered in copies of the same watering can in four different colours. I saw fake monitors and keyboards artfully placed on the desks. I saw domesticated couples calling happily to each other about matching colours.

Then we went downstairs.

Downstairs is a place as unhuman as the central reservation. Great storeys of industrial shelves tower over you, while the puny humans dart about through gaps and tunnels, peering at numbering systems and grappling with enormous trolleys.

Where does it all come from? Where does it all go?

What *is* all this stuff?

Somehow I think all of this is a trick. Maybe it is to encourage you to make long shopping lists without realising just how much stuff you are actually buying. Maybe it’s to ensure you only ever see a given product once only (upstairs in the showroom) and so logically, if there was only one of those tables, and now it’s in your house, you must own the only one of its kind. I don’t trust it. (I may be overthinking flat-pack logistics here.)

But let’s be honest: IKEA is actually a perfectly reasonable store that does not deserve quite the level of spite that I reserve for it. Unfairly or otherwise, for me it’s become a symbol of a bigger and stranger problem.

“It’s just, when you buy furniture, you tell yourself, that’s it. That’s the last sofa I’m gonna need. Whatever else happens, I’ve got that sofa problem handled.” – Fight Club

It doesn’t work like that. I wish it did, but I am stuck in this endless cycle of Stuff. For example: I bought a whiteboard. I remember using it in Loughborough. And I didn’t break it, or sell it, or lose it. But now I don’t have one, so I’d have to go and buy another one. How many whiteboards will I go through in my lifetime? Where do they come from? Where do they end up? (My parents’ loft? Landfill? Another dimension? All equally likely.) What about all the desks I have had, all the chairs, all the rulers and plant pots and staplers? Am I leaving a trail of abandoned objects in my wake?

It bothers me. If I have to have Stuff, I expect it to last and not just disappear. And then I wouldn’t have to keep rebuying it all, and suddenly being struck by this angst in the middle of working out what kind of dining set defines me as a person.

Anyway, now I share a house with a KLUDD and a small family of OMARs. As noticeboards and shelves go, I must admit, they are quite good. But that is not the point. They won’t stick around.


* In Ireland, you can quickly evaluate your surroundings using the Roadside Horse Enclosure Method: if there is a fence between the horse and the road, you are in a Quaint and Picturesque area and you’re fine. If not, keep your wits about you.

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