When I moved into my freshman dorm, I bought a lot of new stuff. Granted, I bought new stuff because my old stuff I’d had since I was a baby and it was falling apart. I bought all this stuff at Target. I don’t regret any of these purchases because what I don’t still have went to a better place. One of the most jarring experiences I had as a freshman—one that soured me—was getting shamed for never having been to an Ikea by people who had gotten all their dorm stuff from Ikea. Okay, “shamed” is hyperbole (English major, remember?). But the pervading attitude was definitely “What, do you live under a rock?”
My mom came to visit me and went to Ikea alone, leaving me an excited voicemail about how it was like Disneyland and had meatballs. She took me later on, next time she was in town, and we got lost and the meatballs made me feel really gross. My first real exposure as an Ikea consumer came when I moved into a house with friends and we needed stuff. I was really frustrated with trying to put the furniture together because I am shit at making things level or doing things right the first time. The kitchenware pretty much sucked. The glasses broke all the time.
The biggest frustration came when I moved back to Colorado from Portland. See, in Portland, my friend bought the amazing psychedlic bookcase. She couldn’t take it when she moved in with her boyfriend, so she bequeathed it to me. I wanted to take that Ikea bookcase back to Colorado with me (don’t ask me why; my bedroom ceiling might not even be high enough for this beast). I drive a four-door sedan that’s big but not huge. This was the only piece of furniture I cared about besides my Ikea mattress, so it wasn’t worth renting a truck or anything. My philosophy with these Ikea things was as such: it came compressed, I should be able to re-compress it small enough, get it home, rebuild, and have the bad-ass-est bookcase in the land.
Nope. The mattress got straight-up dumped. A renewed public awareness of bed bugs prevented me from donating it, plus it had some mildew stains because when I put it on the floor I didn’t get the wet-climate/mildew relationship. (I swear it didn’t smell, though!) The bookcase went back to the friend I got it from. I don’t know where it is today; she has moved out of Oregon.
Recently, we redid my bedroom. I know, getting a dream bedroom is a weird venture when you move in with your parents after college, but my room was the last in the house to get new carpet installed. We’d had the carpet for a decade. We did look at Ikea for new shelving, but nothing struck my fancy. We got some crappy shoe organizing shelf thing at Target and it was just like Ikea furniture: cardboard back, poor quality. We put holes in it trying to get it together.
This stuff makes me mad. I am tired of shitty furniture: both its assembly and its impact on our culture. Sure, some of it gets recycled to other poor young people, but by design it’s cheap so people won’t feel bad if they have to toss it. And with such poor quality stuff, it’s WHEN you have to toss it more than it’s IF you have to toss it. Ikea is no better than Wal-Mart, nor is Target.
My latest issue with disposable culture is my wallet. I bought a checkbook wallet at Target a few months ago. I fucking love this thing. It’s adorable. It has zippers so my stuff won’t fall out like it did with my last wallet. It is pink with roses and sequins.
So I was at The Avengers on Saturday, with my wallet closed and for some reason I had like three people in front of me at the concession stand who took forever. I fiddled with my zipper pulls. Our next stop was the liquor store because it was Cinco de Mayo. The zipper pull on one side came off in my hand and yet somehow the zipper was sealed on both sides. Thank god it was the side with only my checkbook and change and not my ID, money, insurance info, etc. Six days later, we couldn’t figure out a solution. My dad took a knife and cut the wallet open. I can’t use it anymore. I might be able to salvage the fabric and use it at a later point.
So it’s not very non-consumer of me, but I’m going to invest in a nicer wallet this weekend. Fossil ones are like $80—I don’t want to pay THAT much. I don’t trust a thrift store scour to do the job and I’d rather pay for something nicer to last a long time than buy another cheap wallet that will fail me and break my heart. (I have kind of a problem getting attached to things, so we’ll see how successful cutting down on things becomes for me.)
UPDATE: As you can see from the comment below, the Amazing Psychedelic Bookshelf yet lives and will continue to be cycled by many a poor post-undergrad pre-grad student.