Old Diary

Assemble Your Flat-Pak Life

Put dowel “B” into hole “C”.  Use a screwdriver to tighten cam “F” onto stud “G”.  If you found a flat-pak project that even has written directions you’re doing better than I am.  Usually the directions are strictly visual.flat-pack-instructions

A couple months ago a new IKEA store opened about one mile from our home.  We went to check it out a few weeks ago but our daughter hasn’t, so it was a fun excuse to spend the day together, not so much shopping as just walking through the store talking about life.

We’ve bought our share of IKEA furniture over the years.  I furnished my entire photo studio with IKEA furniture and in spite of the carelessness of customers the stuff survived all of the abuse it was given.  That’s less a comment on the quality of the furniture and more a comment on the fact that I always GLUE my flat-pak projects for a little extra strength; and I don’t remember ever buying a flat-pak product that came with a tube of glue….

All of which made me think of flat-pak furniture as a metaphor for life.

If you think about it, most of us are born with all of the bits and bobs that we need to make it through life.  I’ll admit that this isn’t the perfect metaphor — there are  humans who are born disadvantaged in many ways; instead of two healthy legs, one might be damaged; or they may be born with a genetic defect that will forever affect them.

Which is sort of like the fact that we don’t all use flat pak furniture in our homes.  Some of us go to furniture stores and buy our stuff already assembled.  Others actually make it themselves.  I had a really good friend named Alec Gonczewski who was a home builder by profession but in his “spare” time he built custom furniture with the most exquisite, lathe turned ornamentation. I could never match his skill and I was in awe of his pieces, but at the same time the style was not to my liking.

But back to the metaphor…

For many of us flat-pak is a reasonable choice.  We aren’t looking for something to pass on to our grand-children; the idea that future generations will value the same kind of furniture we value has been proven to be foolish over and over and over again.  Times change and so do styles.  Flat-pak is clearly a compromise — a lot like the lives most of us live.  We might dream about being wealthy but we aren’t.  We may dream about living in the forest, but most of us don’t.  We may dream about beachfront property — of perhaps a 5th Avenue address — but again, most of us won’t achieve those dreams because they are, cruelly, beyond our budget.  Enter the Flat Pak box.

Modern construction methods seem to have solved the old problem of opening the box and discovering the absence of crucial parts. Thank goodness for ISO standards that taught manufacturers how to improve quality and catch the causes behind sometimes missing parts, packages that were poorly sealed, and shippers who damaged their goods. All those manufacturing standards came about because International committees worked together to improve quality to the point that today you can open pretty much every product and it’s a rare, rare, rare case that something is missing.  So, as I said, most of the time all the parts to make a completed project are there.

Directions have had to be graphic.  Not everyone speaks the same language.  Companies want the most diverse distribution possible.  So teaching manufacturers to speak “graphics” was the universal solution.

Armed with all the parts and a set of directions there’s no reason someone can’t put their project together.  Of course, not paying attention to the directions can result in disaster.  I have a table for our TV in our living room that is missing the back wall of a drawer opening.  I missed the graphic where it showed putting a piece of masonite into a slot BEFORE securing the top to the sides and as a result if I open that drawer I can see past the back of the table right to the wall behind.  It’s not a terrible mistake, but it is  one that reminds me of my carelessness every time I open that drawer.  And no — I could not disassemble it because I had glued the parts and they had already begun to set.

Life is a lot like that.  We have all the parts we need to do the assembly.  There are components and there is education.  If we stick with both we end up with what we purchased.  If we neglect either we might end up with something unusable or embarrassing.  Our choice.  20-Situations-Represented-via-IKEA-Flat-Pack-Assembly-Instructions3__605

Whatever the project, we assemble it like we assemble our life, using the education we have, or the education we think we bring to the project.  Like life we may purchase different projects through the course of life and once assembled we arrange them among the projects we’ve already assembled, in an effort to design a life that fits the way we live.  Sometimes we realize one piece of furniture, one life project, no longer fits the way we live, or maybe even a new home we’ve moved into and we start all over again looking for a project / furniture to fit the new space.

But always it’s with the desire to make a life that suits us.