Unless you’re a professional shopper or have several trips to Ikea under your belt, I have some insight to offer that could be useful. Since Ikea came to the Twin Cities about five years ago, I would venture to say we’ve been there about 20 times. The key, as with many over-sized shopping experiences, is not only to pre-shop but to measure, make a list at home as well. And finally, when entering the store: be realistic, allow time to hit all the shopping and warehouse areas, lower your expectations and go in with high energy and decision-making powers.
It was a summer Sunday morning and my Mom, daughter and I were on a small home improvement project kick. My parents’ extended stay of five days opened it up to actually take action on the projects we talk about but never get to. So while the boys worked on exterior project, us girls lit up at the prospect of a visit to Ikea.
I pulled out some pictures that needed framing and a set of five wall hooks from a previous overly ambitious Ikea trip months ago. Where to commit to hanging those hooks? Goodness knows without a modern day mudroom, this family is challenged. We brainstormed a bit and opted to look for additional hooks so one set could go in each of the kids’ rooms. An ah-ha moment. We also measured the distance from the floor to my son’s bedframe – we’d be ready to pounce on the perfect baskets that would clear the opening. The list was comprised of frames, hooks and baskets.
For a fourth opinion, we brought my 8-yr-old daughter’s American Girl doll, Mia, with us. We arrived about 15 minutes prior to store opening and headed for the Ikea Cafe. I’d eaten here just months ago with daughter Ava for breakfast. I assured Mom, this would be a value-driven meal. $1.99 for eggs, bacon and french toast sticks (2 orders) and coffee, an order of Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam, chocolate and cookies (for later!) all for less than $9.00. I already feel obligated to spend $30 shopping. The cafe is clean, bright and optimistic. It feels European, yet like a neighborhood cafe. I even run into a friend who’s there in search of a toddler bed. I can’t help but give her some advice.
At store open time, we shop. As tempting as it is to go through the entire top floor, which is furniture and larger ticket items, we do a quick run-through of the Children’s section on Floor 2, then head down to Floor 1 for home accessories. I pick up an outdoor rug ($5) and briefly scan the lighting possibilities to see what’s new. In framing, I find a three picture opening frame ($14) for 5×7 photos and decide I can make my 4×6′s work with some clever matting. We move on to search for a set of hooks to match the others – no easy task – they’ve moved, but luckily they still have them ($10 each). Note: turnover is high here – if you have any inclination you’ll come back to get matching items of a set or more of something, don’t count on it.
We get a little caught up in framing – no luck finding the odd size frame for a USA map of my son’s that needs a 20 by 38 frame. I let it go, we move on. Baskets are next. I check out wicker baskets that I saw on the last trip that would fit under Calvin’s bed. They are still $20 a pop and I’d need three. I decide to wait. Risky, I know.
If you think you’re done shopping when you hit the warehouse entrance, this is a rookie mistake. Everything is displayed as assembled and you might find some things you missed in the furniture section. Or maybe you’ve carefully marked what aisle and bin to find your items in from your shopping tour only to find out that they’re sold out or discontinued. Disappointing, but that’s how it might go.
Proceed to checkout. Don’t be afraid: do the self-check-out, especially if you have an impatient child. Ava loves to scan, she’s got a knack for it. We don’t have a kid to pick up in the play area today (in the past, I’ve checked them in there while I shop – slick!), so it’s an easy exit to the lot. I think we spent about 1.75 hours there.
Over the next days, we paint the wooden boards that will hold the hooks – green for Calvin and hot pink for Ava – to match the stuff already in their rooms. No more excuses for stuff on the floor – the five hooks have two prongs each, so 10 places to hang towels, backpacks, robes, hats and lunchbags. Each board needs three coats of paint. We plan out positioning from floor and location behind each door. Papa assembles them the next day, while I’m at work. A satisfying two-day turn-around on that project.
What’s your Ikea experience? How do you shop there? Do the store and products give you inspiration or make you overwhelmed? Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being brightest, is Ikea a good idea?