The Ikea Hypothetical: The Fun Killer

As we all know, Ikea is everywhere on the planet. And it is the one piece of globalization that I give the big thumbs up to. Karlanda by Karlanda, Expedit by Expedit, Ikea has decorated its way to world domination. There’s not a lot you can say that’s bad about them.

They work directly with Unicef to enforce child labor laws unilaterally, they have a non-profit ethic, they actually are the only company I can think of whose prices get cheaper the longer they make an item.

But there is one thing about them that does give me the shits. And that’s that they are the get out of jail free card for anyone considering doing something really un-sensible.

I’m here in the Netherlands doing a little consulting on MINI and of course, the little car comes up a lot in conversations with people. The other night I was talking about the car with a few friends when one of them loudly pronounced that he would never ever buy one. When I asked why, his reply was, “What if I have to make a trip to IKEA? What then? I can’t take a MINI on a trip like that.”

He is of course right. A MINI is not a Tardis and you’d never even get a small cupboard back home in it. But the thing that annoyed me was that we all nodded our heads and agreed.

MINI is a heart-want, there is no doubt about it. It’s cool, it’s fun, it’s the best thing to drive and it’s a car ogled by others. Driving it makes you feel young inside and good about the world. But apparently, it’s become OK to deny yourself this everyday pleasure on the off chance that you wake up one Saturday and think, you know, it’s time to get a new sofa from those Swedish people.

It got me thinking about how we often kill the thing that we really want when our heads step in. You have an initial instinctually correct reaction to something the first moment that you see it. You know that you want it. But then the grey matter demands that you justify it.

If I want an ice cream, I think about how much walking I need to do after.
If I leave a night out with friends, it’s usually an hour after I wanted to go.
If I like it in sky blue tartan, I’ll buy it in sensible flat navy blue.

That’s because I have Nigel, who is well verse in the IKEA Hypothetical and it’s derivatives. Nigel is the voice in my head that pipes up every time that I find myself at the intersection of Money St and Happiness Ave. He berated me when I lost my last thousand dollars in a blaze of glory piss-up in Vegas three years ago. He was there where I went to find a new apartment in Venice and he tried to sell me back my old crack pad on the rent factor. And he loves to come along on a clothes shopping trip; repeat after me, Nigel says, “You live in LA, you don’t need this jacket/sweater/shoes/scarf, you’ll never wear it back there. Put it back on the shelf, be sensible.”

It’s the IKEA Hypothetical again. The fact that I’m standing knee-deep in snow right now doesn’t override Nigel’s voice when he intones the IKEA rule. I’m sure that Nigel has every Dido album.

But I’ve let Nigel talk me out of more things that I’ve wanted with variations of the IKEA Hypothetical than I care to admit. I know I wanted them because I still think about them now. And everyone has their version of Nigel kicking around upstairs.

Then at work the other day, we had this designer come in. Young, talented, covered in tattoos. He started talking about how every person in the world is a designer now. Photoshop, In Design, Final Cut Pro – the tools are there for anyone to create with.

After the rush that the world feels about the possibilities opened up by this democratizing of technology, we realize a few years in that there’s a lot of shit design out there. Lots of people are making stuff, but not a lot of it is good. I mean really, when was the last time you looked at the YouTube video/short film/t-shirt company/blog that your friends are doing and actually liked it? Oh, well, thank you.

But you know what I mean.

Anyway, this guy goes on to say that his whole design philosophy is fun. If it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be fun, he’s not going to do it, because you know that nothing that good is going to come from it. This is the antithesis of what we are all trained to be. Good IKEA going, non-MINI buying sensible folks. But it’s the smartest thing I think I’ve heard anyone say this year.

I’m going to guess that any guy who has tattoos of sailor girls, Louis Vuitton logos and his favorite artists’ names doesn’t butt heads with the IKEA Hypothetical very much.

So say it everyone, Fuck IKEA. Fuck them.

Buy the thing that makes you happy, date the person who makes you laugh, run with your favorite plan, get a job that makes you like Monday mornings and the minute you think this thing you’re doing isn’t fun, drop it.

And the next time you need a sofa, I know a guy with a truck.

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About Some Gay Guy

I'm getting divorced. So... yeah.
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