Ever find yourself in a sticky situation and think, “What would Bear Grylls do?” You know, the guy who runs rapids without a raft, swims naked (covered in seal skin) beneath frozen Siberian lakes and who once manoeuvred his way out of quicksand. In other words, the guy who made crazy acts of survival his trade?
I do, all the time. Most recently? Last Saturday. In IKEA.
IKEA, even to the initiated, is a total head spin. It takes no prisoners. It destroys relationships, blows finances, makes you question everything you ever thought you knew about your taste in décor. But I was determined not to be defeated. I had a plan: some Kallax storage shelves for the spare bedroom, a new lamp for the entryway and six red wine glasses from the market hall… maybe some napkins. (You can never have too many napkins.)
It was a sunny Saturday and I refused to spend it drowning in a vortex of Scandi minimalism and $1 hotdogs. I had a life to get back to, which meant I needed to be smart. I needed inspiration. I needed to get in and out in one piece. I remembered Bear Grylls. I channelled his Rules of Survival.
1. Keep calm
You have to mentally prepare for the task ahead. You gotta tune out the manic screams of children jumping into the ball pit in Småland. You must ignore the yellow-and-blue-striped staff manning the entry armed with yellow bags, enticing you to fill them to the brim with crap you don’t need. Stay focused. Resist temptation. Resist distraction. Your credit card will thank you.
2. Face your FEAR
To Bear, FEAR is an acronym: False Expectations Appearing Real. IKEA is ALL about false expectations. They want you to believe you can recreate their perfect 25 sq ft home that somehow fits four human beings in total comfort when you and your partner have twice that space and still keep tripping over each other’s stuff.
They’ll convince you any idiot with an Allen key can happily configure clever storage solutions like a fold-down origami table out of nothing but a few planks of wood and some welly after three glasses of wine. You KNOW what the reality will be - leftover screws and a wonky table hanging off the wall. And you’re $200 out of pocket. IKEA is trying to intimidate you. Don’t let it.
3. Take charge early. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Your prep has to start the minute you enter the carpark. Park closer to the exit because you know you’re gonna be pushing more crap in that trolley at the other end than you intended. Keep that mindset going inside - know what’s on your list and know where to find it. You don’t need a new Poäng armchair. You know the dog will just destroy it the way he destroyed the one he’s currently sitting on at home, waiting for you to get back.
Also, be true to yourself. Yes, that Lackside table may only be $10 but are you really the kind of hipster who is going to Pinterest-hack it into something unique and Instagrammable, or will it just take up valuable floor space in your already crammed inner-city semi?
4. Study your surroundings
It’s easy to get disoriented in IKEA. There are no windows, dubious phone reception, strange words with umlauts trying to mess with your brain and perfectly staged interiors lulling you into a false sense of domestic security. They even have their own radio station for crying out loud. And when there are seven billion people there on a Saturday afternoon, it can get a bit overwhelming. Don’t let them sway you. Don’t let them distract you. Stay alert but not alarmed. Remember, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a Billy bookcase.
5. Keep moving
Bear reckons the worst thing to do in the wild is to stay still - you have to keep moving. The same is true in IKEA. “Just a quick look over the soft furnishings," you say to yourself. “It’s not like we need new cushion covers, it’s just fun to browse.” Be warned - before long you’ve redecorated the living room in on-trend shades of teal and pastel pink, and you’ve dropped $199 on a matching Sönderödhigh pile rug. Remember, the arrows on the floor are there for a reason - like in an airplane, they’ll point the way towards your nearest exit.
6. Know what you can and can’t eat*
We’re not talking drinking your own urine here, which is a Bear Grylls staple. We’re talking making smart food choices. You really want to stick to the staples: meatballs, soft serve, maybe a family sized bag of Daim bars for the ride home. Don’t try and step outside the box. Let’s face it, you don’t go to IKEA to get corn fritters, even if they are $2.
*This also applies to what you can and can’t fit into your car. Don’t be dumb. You can’t fit a four-piece Pax wardrobe system into a two-door Toyota Yaris.
7. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll get back
Perhaps the most important survival tip of all. It’s not like they’ll be able to call you (see above re: crappy phone reception) but at least they’ll know where to send the search party who will eventually find you in the bathroom section, contemplating the cost of renovating your '90s-era lav while giggling maniacally about how the vanities are named “Godmorgon”, which is hilarious cos it sounds just like “good morning”.
It’s at that point you’ll be glad you gave people a heads up. It’s time to pay for your Kallax shelves, your 12 wine glasses (you should get an additional six just to be safe), your high pile rug, your throw cushions to go on your new Poäng armchair, those two Lacktables you know you’ll do something fun with and your 300 packets of napkins, and drag your poor, sorry behind outta there, driving 15ks below the speed limit because your Yaris is so full, you can’t see out the rear vision window.
But don’t feel like failure. You didn’t fail. You survived. You got out. Bear would be proud of you.
Watch The Island with Bear Grylls on Saturdays at 9:30pm on SBS starting 3 June.
Missed the first episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand right here: