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Assembling the IKEA Expedit workstation…expediently?

There are several things you’ll need when assembling IKEA furniture.

Mmm, coffee

A big cup of coffee (or your caffeinated beverage of choice).

Don't be a tool, but have some tools

Tools! I purchased this toolkit at Target after I moved into my own apartment, and it’s the best twenty-something bucks I’ve spent in a long time.

Allen, the wrench

An Allen wrench, thoughtfully provided by IKEA. The Allen wrench manufacturers of the world must highly covet the IKEA account.

No image available

Patience. I have no visual representation of patience for you. A good understanding of spatial dimensions doesn’t hurt either.

A big Swedish puzzle

IKEA furniture typically comes flat-packed in large cardboard boxes, which you can rip open to view the large Swedish puzzle pieces, a bag of screws, bolts, nuts, and a diagram illustrating how to put the item together. There is no text on the instruction book, probably so IKEA can use the same booklets internationally without translating everything. I was putting together the Expedit bookcase and workstation in black/brown.

Your instructions in comic strip form

I was able to understand the little cartoon character’s instructions fairly well, but I ran into problems connecting the wood panels with the wooden pegs. I would push and push and push and there would still be a half inch gap between the horizontal and vertical panels. For problems like this, I highly recommend a rubber mallet…and not a hammer cushioned with a sheet of cardboard in between it and the wood. (Let’s just say one side of this bookcase is facing the wall for a reason.) Ehem, once I got back from the hardware store with my rubber mallet, I was able to get the bookcase the rest of the way together.

Contractor Bean approves of your construction materials

As you can see, Java Bean supervised construction. I denied his requests for a trailer and a hard hat. Overall, it wasn’t that hard to put together, but the desk set, sorry, WORKSTATION, didn’t have any moving parts or hinges to mess up my game. It DID take a long time, from breakfast to lunch, including the time I ran out to the hardware store. I was also hot and sweaty and ready for a shower by the end, which I believe qualified IKEA furniture assembly as my workout for that day.

However, I must point out one thing:

It's a lie!

This picture is a lie! First, I did not need two people to assemble this bookcase. Ok, I probably should have waited for Big Brother to get home from work to assist me with flipping the bookcase upright from the floor. I was terribly impatient though, so I did it myself, even though mid-way through the flip I started thinking, “If this thing falls on me, I hope my cell phone is in reach so I can Twitter for help.” Oddly enough, I think I really would have Twittered for help if the bookcase fell on me. (I Twittered in late to work once. My boss was not amused.) The picture is also a lie because the characters have smiles on their faces. Readers in my previous entry about IKEA let me know that you should never assemble IKEA furniture with someone you love, unless you’re trying to break up with them. Danielle joked that they should include divorce paperwork in the box.

My desk, er, workstation!

By mid-afternoon I had a new workstation and lots of corrugated cardboard I had to recycle in the proper bin. Otherwise, I fear the Chapel Hill police would have broken down my door and arrested me for recycling felonies. (Or just fined me, same difference.) People are really serious about their recycling around here.

That afternoon I filled the shelves with all my belongings and hooked up my computer. Then, later that night, when I was literally lying awake in bed, I realized I had forgotten to insert two screws at the bottom left corner of the book case. I have no idea why this realization came to me at that moment, but it did, and the next day I took a look and saw that the bottom left corner was indeed a bit lopsided.

No one's perfect

When faced with the choice of leaving it be or unhooking my computer, removing everything from the bookshelves, removing the desk, and flipping the bookshelf back on its side to fix it…guess what I chose? That’s right, if you see me Twitter that I’m stuck under a bookcase, I might not be lying. Think happy thoughts involving weight-bearing planks, will you?

Just one question left: When will my office stop smelling like plywood?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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[…] I’m a bit disappointed none of you have emailed me in the last month to make sure I wasn’t dead. It’s been over a month since my last entry, an entry devoted to my chronic illness, so weren’t you just a little bit worried? I could have been trapped under that IKEA desk I didn’t assemble properly. […]

[…] I like to work at coffee shops during the day instead doing all my work in my home office. My IKEA desk set is a nice work space, but there’s something about being outside of my home that spurs me to […]

[…] I’m a bit disappointed none of you have emailed me in the last month to make sure I wasn’t dead. It’s been over a month since my last entry, an entry devoted to my chronic illness, so weren’t you just a little bit worried? I could have been trapped under that IKEA desk I didn’t assemble properly. […]


Evalinn • August 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

Lol, good job! :-)

We got new carptes at work, and when we first got them I was wondering for how long they would smell (or if it was the glue that smelled). Then one day I realised, they still smell but I just can´t feel it anymore, since I got used to it. So maybe that´s what will happen….


Kelly • August 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

It took me two nights and a lot of under-my-breath swearing to put together the IKEA Malm dresser. I only stopped the first night because I had been working on it for 4 hours and was really fighting the urge to throw it out my 3rd-story window.


Lanie • August 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

My 8 year old and I assembled IKEA furniture together and we are still amazingly in love, so there ARE exceptions to the rule. She is AMAZING with an Allen wrench!

I love your product. So cute! IKEA is my 2nd home.


Nell E. • August 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

One thing that really expedites IKEA assembly? Cordless screwdriver.

Germany is like IKEA capital, so I got told off by everyone and their neighbor for using good ol’ axle grease to assemble thirteen (!) Billy bookcases. Let’s just say I can do that in under fifteen minutes flat now…

I also disagree about the divorce papers: The divorce is finalized by the time you’d reach the instructions because in my experience, him and her guides to laying out IKEA furniture packages should be taped to the outside of said packages since significant others seem to oftentimes lack the ability to distinguish between wood colors in assembling dressers.

As for the smell… I still have it, and it’s been more than half a year ;)

IKEA is fun!


Magnarama • August 4, 2010 at 11:36 am

WHO’s a good little resourceful tool user? Who is? Who? YOU are!


Jen, a priorfatgirl • August 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm

thank you thank you for putting pictures up!

Didjaknow that I just recently got the same bookshelf & love it?! Yep, we are twins like that.

I put together a kitchen island about 3 months ago from Ikea and was so proud of myself. I had some pieces left over but the island was standing and looked fine so I thought nothing of it…until Carlos came in to double check my work. He put his hand on the island and gave it a wiggle to check the its sturdiness. You guessed it, the whole thing fell apart!

I pray your desk does not fall apart. I will watch your tweets to make sure you are okay and are not trapped under a desk.


jord • August 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

My mom told me before I got married that if your marriage can survive putting up a Christmas tree, you can survive anything. Updating it to the 21st century, if your relationship can survive IKEA (the going there and the setting up) you can survive anything.

I often end up with ‘extras’. I think it’s because IKEA over packs, but maybe I’m a bigger minimalist than the Swedes.


Carla • August 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Good job! I would have been a mess with a project like this.

Just wanted to drop by and say hi. I use to blog a LONG time ago but am starting up a new blog. I hope you’ll stop by. :)


Debbi Does Dinner Healthy • August 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Oh my, that was so funny! I love how if you were trapped under your desk you would think to twitter first! Love the divorce paper line too, I’ll have to check that out, thanks!


Nancy • August 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Not to go too far off subject (these last Ikea posts were great, really Ikea is my kids’ favorite “restaurant”), but when are you going to do the winner of the GoSmart? Thanks


Elizabeth • August 4, 2010 at 3:33 pm

You brought back memories of mom and I putting together her IKEA. Love your writing style. This is my first visit to your blog; I will be back!


PastaQueen • August 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

@Nancy – Thanks for reminding me about that. I keep forgetting to post, but the winner was Shelley from Boston. I’ll write up a proper post about it later this week.


Debby • August 4, 2010 at 7:09 pm

When we got new furniture at work a few years ago, we were actually instructed to call our little places we sit in WORKSTATIONS, not cubicles. OMG, I kid you not. You reminded me of that with today’s blog. Thanks for the laugh! (not to mention the memory of the ridiculousness of the whole thing) :-)


Another Fatso • August 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Mmmmm, plywood.

Btw, I linked to your blog.


Crys • August 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Can I just tell you about my expedit experience. It’s pretty short. It had no words, I couldn’t figure out what to with all the little wood peg thingies, I cursed, I had several wood peg thingies left over, there are gaps and weird spaces on my shelf, I’m scared to put anything on it, I went to the bar. That’s it.


Mrs. Thighs • August 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Your posts on your IKEA adventures keep me laughing — but be careful with the leaning furniture. We left our IKEA bookcase leaning “just a little” and it ended up collapsing.


ChrissyS • August 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Oh your office looks so nice!

Jen’s story about her island is a riot. Having parts leftover always makes me a little uneasy.

I’m thinkin’ one of these days you might work up the nerve to take everything off and fix the shelf. Maybe next time big brother comes..I would much rather read that you had to do that sometime than to see your blog entries stop abruptly sometime ….due to a bookcase accident. Or have Java cause a bookcase accident.

Have you found any good bike trails in your area?


Lindsay • August 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

So, I have to say, you should never assemble ANY kind of furniture with a loved one. I have experience from Wal*Mart desk chairs and dinning room tables also can precede breakups.

In our case, putting together furniture usually caused flying tools and wood when my BF and I attempted such a feat.

Congratulations on your successful individual assembly: I find that I wind up being the furniture assembler in the household.


Angela • August 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I have that exact “work station” except it is in white. I also have the larger bookcase that matches. My hubby put them all together by himself. I think I might have handed him some pegs and helped lift it up but it was a one person job.

We also have a dresser from IKEA and talk about a headache to put together! I helped a little more on that one.


Kari • August 5, 2010 at 10:46 am

I love this desk…I think I may have to have it. How much was it?


PastaQueen • August 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

@Kari – The retail price at IKEA is $119.00. Here’s the link: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S19861339 And I also had to pay for an SUV rental and gas to and from Charlotte. I think the IKEA in Cincinnati is probably the closest one to you?


Kari • August 5, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Did you add the bookcase into the side of it to make it all one piece?


PastaQueen • August 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

@Kari – Yeah, you need the bookcase to support the desk. However, you can get a 2×4 cubby bookcase or a 4×4 or probably even the 5×5.


Donna • August 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I really like the precision of the IKEA furniture compared to others like Sauder, Target (whatever brand they call it), Sullivan, etc. I have had many IKEA furniture pieces that worked out great. I hope you enjoy your new desk and bookcase.


Running Phoodie • August 5, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I bought that same Target tool kit when I moved into my condo 4 years ago and I have gotten so much use out of it! Definitely a well-spent 20 bucks :)


anji • August 5, 2010 at 10:41 pm

@jord – That is SO true. My last christmas with my (now ex) hubby, I had the tree up and… he refused to participate… so, it came right back down and into the box.

It was our last christmas, for very good reasons, obviously!


Mary • August 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

That smell is not good for you. Open up your apt and air it out everyday for a few minutes.

Because of outgassing and cleaning products, most homes would not meet the osha air requirements of factories. Sad to say.


Steph • August 7, 2010 at 7:51 am

I bought the EXPEDIT 5×5 bookshelf when I moved in to my new place two months ago. Four hours and lots of cursing of Scandinavian manufacturing later, I had it done. Thank God for the extra pegs. I have no idea how I’m going to get it down the three flights of stairs separating me from the ground level and my apartment when it’s time to move out. You go girl!!


Tina • August 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Thanks to your blog, I convinced my boyfriend that THIS–and not some ugly glass and chrome POC from Staples–is the desk he should get when he moves into my place later this month. Now… off to find me a rubber mallet.


Deanna - The Unnatural Mother • August 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I found that the allen wrench is the only tool you really need with Ikea furniture and a good sense of humor…


Kari • August 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I noticed your bookcase was twice as large as the one on the website which was why I asked such a weird sounding question…LOL. I may have to check out Ikea in Cinci sometime soon.


Johanna • August 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I live in Sweden but would do almost anything to avoid Ikea. I’m 43 now and just too old to put up with the “facing the wall for a reason” part of the assembling process.

Got lucky and stumbled over a couch marked down considerably at a truly expensive furniture store. It was brought home and assembled – by actual store personnel – right in the middle of my living room. Pure heaven!

After that I raided my grandmother’s home for some quality furniture from the 1930’s. Some of the pieces make strange noises at night time, not because they’re haunted but because they’re solid wood, right?


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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