Monday, September 17, 2007

A very short stravaig


I stravaiged to Ikea and it felt like a transatlantic trip. Does this count? Is it bloggable?

I say yes.

Don’t ask me what happened.

I know what happened. My daughter (who is in college) had a tough paper to do and I was swamped with work, and so we both got the overwhelming urge to do home redecorating. It was bad. One of the worst cases of distract-yourself-from-a-task-you-don’t-want-to-do-
by-taking-on-a-big-project that I have ever had. I don’t really have much of a home office, or rather, my work has outgrown my computer desk tucked away into the corner of the bedroom, so I have taken over the kitchen table. And the kitchen counter. And the hall entryway. And people cannot even sit around the table, balancing paper plates on their knees, because whatever is not covered with a stack of papers has a workbag on it. And I am always saying things like, “”Don’t touch that.” And “don’t move that!!” My new strategy for organizing each of my jobs is to have a workbag for each, so I have all of the stuff I need for the task in one place. It is sort of working. I have a plethora of paper clips and rubber bands and highlighters, but it is a step up from my last attempt, which was to leave everything in piles and run around frantically, looking for the all-important stack of papers that I needed for the day or turning my car into a rolling file cabinet.

I blame the home reorganizing all on my sister. And my daughter. My sister is one of those determined people who believe that most problems have solutions. And she believes in organization. And she asks hard-to-answer questions, like “What do you actually do in your living room?” When we visited her in Denver a couple of weeks ago, she explained what she was doing with her house to make it work for her family. So, last week, I looked up from my pile of work and was struck anew by the remarkably unlivable configuration of my living room. It is a long, sort of narrow rectangle, made more narrow by the placement of my couch. I am forcibly struck with the vision of making the room into two different spaces, both roughly equally square, one for the living room and one for the “office”. Did I mention that I am working at the kitchen table? I no longer cook, because I am overwhelmed (and a bit embarrassed) by the thought of having to clear stuff away.

I am thinking in terms of “spaces”. I learned that word from TV. A room is not a room, it is a space. I should say that I have a history of bad decorating behavior. When I was pregnant with Sam, I watched home redecorating shows and Trading Spaces obsessively. This led to a number of half-completed projects that are still, five years later, not completed. My poor husband came home to find that I had (at seven months pregnant) torn out all of the carpet in the house and deposited it in the front yard. I have to say that it was extremely therapeutic to hear the rrrrriiiiippping sound of the carpet leaving the floor. My bedroom floor is still bare concrete waiting to be painted. The baby just started kindergarten.

However, I digress.

Not only did I need a home office, but I needed a new living room. The present living room consists of a huge ottoman that my youngest loved and a small couch that was for him and the cats. It is ugly. And uncomfortable. On the plus side, it has a removable (with Herculean effort) slip-cover and was pretty cheap. I was not going to buy a nice couch until Sam (the five year old) was past the drawing on the furniture stage and the cats died of old age. I thought that cats’ claws sort of fell out when they got old, like teeth do – but it doesn’t work like that. My daughter has promised to clip the cat’s nails so that I can have a new couch – one that more than two people can sit on. Preferably a sofa bed, because my middle son is too big to sleep on the couch when company stays over.

Oh, and as long as I was there, I thought that I might find a way to make the boys’ room more livable. Loft beds, baby, loft beds. Right now, you can walk in about three feet – just enough to survey the room before backing out. At least that is what I do. The last time we worked in that room, there was one less member of the family. My older son has grown about a foot and has been complaining that he does not fit on his bed. And his clothes don't fit in his wardrobe. And his little desk is too small. And his bookshelf doesn't have enough room.

So, two Sundays ago, my daughter and I mobilized.

I called my sister and we had deep conversations. (This also helps me to not get my work done.) My daughter offered to have a local charity come and get our stuff and to clear out the boys’ room. I have the urge to get rid of everything that is not tied down. Kitchen table! Couch! Beds! Everything must go. I hate everything in my house, with a deep, abiding hatred. Nothing works. It’s ugly. And old. And crap. Every flat surface is cluttered because there is no storage. I think that storage is one of those words that is made up to sell us stuff – like bins and cups and file stacker things. “Storage” is a made up concept to sell us crates much like Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday to sell us chocolate.

Mmmmmm … chocolate.

The first step was to drag just about everything in the house into the back yard. All of the stuff that was going had to be out of the house. Everything that could go into a Hefty bag went into a Hefty bag.

The resultant open space and lack of clutter was so pleasant that I almost stopped right there.

The next weekend, the whole family, armed with lists and diagrams and a tape measure and a calculator and a camera, we packed up the whole family, borrowed grandpa’s truck, removed all of the seats from the van and caravanned to the echoing vastness that is Ikea. Things started out well except for my husband and I snipping at each other in his parents’ driveway. That was nice. I am not sure exactly what we were arguing about, but I did not let that deter me and I gave as good as I got. I think I won.

Anyway, we drove the hour and half to the store, the two oldest in the van, husband in the truck, smallest one and I in the Honda. We rendezvous in the store and march around, discussing, comparing, sketching in furniture, people advocating for their ideas like we were negotiating the borders of a country, except for the middle son, who drifted about, listening to his ipod.

Eight hours, four carts, a skillion dollars, and four rooms worth of furniture later we trailed out to the loading dock. The worst part of the trip? After we had everything paid for, we were told that the sofa was in the store somewhere and they could not get it while there were still people about, so we had to wait for two hours until the bloody store closed. I stood staunchly at the customer pick up counter and said, in a firm, no-nonsense way that we were not all going to wait and that the problem had to be solved. It didn’t work, but I felt better for saying that the whole thing was Absolutely Unacceptable.

And the sofa was the big thing … you know, the thing that you load first?

The highlights of the trip?

Well, I have to say that lunch in the Ikea café was fun. The kids were willing to be adventurous and have a Taste of Sweden. More hilarity than you would expect ensued. Everyone was tired and starving and a meal was seldom enjoyed more. I would say, that as a family, we have the ability to make the most of little things.

The second highlight was in the lighting section – the song "sexyback" started playing and I turned to see my daughter dancing to it. Imagine Arnold Horshack channeling Justin Timberlake and you would get a flavor of the dance. She only does it when the song has that self-referential, almost bombastic, "I am sooo sexy" attitude. It is a masterful dance. The middle son and I begin to dissolve into giggles. I see my husband, inspired by JT and my daughter also begin to get his sexyback. And then it was a sort of dance off. Somethings cannot be adequately described, but must be experienced.

About a decade or so later, when we were finally going through the self-service part of the store, which is the part where you go up and down the aisles, pushing the cart and risking significant injury to yourself by having to extract the items from shelves. It is always amazing to me how Ikea can make anything flat.

Anyway, I could not find some part of the desk or something and was told by the unhelpful young man that I would have to go upstairs and order the item. I asked, rather reasonably, I thought, if he could not save me a slog upstairs, as he was standing right next to the computer. He said that he could not, saying something about the computer system. In a more reasonable tone yet, reining in my temper, I asked if his computer was not hooked up to the same system and could he please look up the item. Grudgingly, he looked up the order. I heard one of my favorite songs/videos “Here it goes again” by Ok go,

Realizing that I was all alone at the desk, I turned around to see my son, daughter, and husband taking advantage of the large empty space to indulge in some synchronized cart maneuvers. Never let it be said that we don't know how to have a good time.

I will let you know how the reorganizing goes ...

So far we have managed to get most of the "office" and living room done. There was a bit of a problem, because I had not really thought through the ramifications of having the fourteen year-old do the measuring of the rooms. I am not sure how he was FOUR FEET off in his measurements, but there you go. Live and learn.