IKEA…Where are you?

Confession time. I’m, by nature, a slightly jealous person. Not in every occasion, mind you. Or even many. Just…once in awhile. I try to be happy when others have stuff that I don’t, but I’m simply not perfect, and this is one of my personality flaws. It’s not over cars or flat screen TVs or boys (got mine! No need for that drama). One thing that I’m pretty gosh darn envious about is simple: IKEA. *sigh*

I read some fabulous DIY/design blogs and inspiring magazines. But, I get hung up when they mention what, to me, seems an exclusive club – the “Close to IKEA Club.” Heck, I may be overreacting. It might be like wanting a Walmart to come to town SOOOO BAAAAAAAAADLY…and then, when it does, you come to hate it as much as dolphin killers and anyone with the letters “C.E.O.” in their job title. Please, friends who live near the coveted IKEA, do tell! Is it the land of milk and honey? Or, in my world, organic pop tarts and agave nectar?? (Sweet tooth much? Seriously, the pop tarts sound like a good idea…ermmmm, nope. Nasty.)

There’s so much to yearn for from IKEA. First of all, modern sleek styling. I’d love to incorporate, say, 20% more of this into our house. If you’d look at our style right now, you’d probably say it was traditional eclectic with some early Americana and Art Deco thrown in…aaaaaand we hear a whisper of the contemporary in the background. Not sure this is what I’d like our house to say about us. We’re all of these things, yes. But, how much of these things define us? If we didn’t live (and I mean truly LIVE; not idly cruise) in a modern era, we couldn’t embrace the historical as we do. So, yeah. A kick in the pants of modernity never hurt anyone. Gotta love the Swedes. (Although, we are trying to go for a wabi-sabi approach here, too, as you recall. Baby steps.)

Secondly, STORAGE?! Holy crap, would I have an entire wall dedicated to IKEA bookcases in the office, and the kitchen cabinets that have seen better days? Yeah, they’d come from IKEA. And all their other unique solutions for utilizing space functionally? Sign me up.

It’s time for Confession #2. I’m not a catalog person, and cringe when I get one occasionally. I’d rather buy from your online catalog, without needlessly killing trees, thankyouverymuch. But, I broke this rule. Remember when IKEA started their ads informing of their catalog? The envy struck again. So, of course, I ordered it. Normally, catalogs just come and are unwanted and get recycled. This is on my coffee table as “bored reading.” It’s not even technically READING material! Why the heck did I order a catalog full of stuff that I can’t order (because you can only obtain it at the stores)?? ‘Cuz I can dream, can’t I?!?! Just kidding. Fake drama queen moment. It’s over, I promise.

Anyhoo, I thought it might be fun to do as I’ve seen on Bower Power and create a wishlist. Y’know. For when, on our way into the city, we actually are able to stop and waste half a day perusing the Paramus, NJ IKEA. Someday. 😉

(Sorry so small. Took quite awhile to finally get it THAT size!) So, glancing at most of it, you must think “Wow, Meg. Not much color in your house, eh?” Aha! To the contrary. We’ve definitely got color. What we don’t have are substantial neutral pieces that help create a sense of calm and modernity. See? Still sticking with the wabi-sabi theme here. That’s also another reason that you see that I need more chairs in almost every room.

And, while we’re at it, I should say that I’m tres envious of those of you with a Trader Joe’s nearby, too! My dear friend Beth was sweet and thoughtful enough to give us a huge basket full of healthy snacks and goodies (my organic pop-tarts! And Spaghettios…although they were pretty nasty, admittedly) for our wedding. We brought along most of the snacks along to our honeymoon, along with several wedding cupcakes. I’d just love the opportunity to be closer to organic and all-natural options at a generally cheaper cost. *sigh, pine* (Okay, the drama queen thing wasn’t over.) Enjoy it if ya got it!

* I started writing this blog entry awhile ago – in January, 2011, to be exact. I figured I’d finish and post this one FINALLY because one of my dreams has come true: IKEA will deliver butcher board countertops. Of course, the ones I want are out of stock…but isn’t there light at the end of the fantasy tunnel??

** I happened upon this IKEA ad while doing some searching for this post. It amused me. Perhaps it will amuse you, as well. 🙂 (You’re lucky I didn’t share the one in which a store is filled with cats. Didn’t want to be “that person.”)

Oh, and all pictures used are from ikea.com. Props.

Wabi-Sabi Hobby


Dave and I are trying to put more thought into our surroundings and belongings; it seems to be an obvious step toward simplification. We’re considering feng shui concepts, particularly in organizing our office, and I’ve gotta be honest — it’s been TOUGH. It’s the hardest room we have to decorate; even harder than the living room (which still has its faults and quirks that we haven’t been able to figure out yet). I think that the wiring pretty much limits us to utilize the current arrangement for keeps…although I’ve drawn out a fantasy of what I’d RATHER do with the space.

An idea other than the well-known feng shui (which is an easy concept to implement, in my mind; it’s pretty much a “how to” guide of positive energy) is wabi-sabi. I found out a lot about this philosophy from a guilty pleasure magazine purchase I made. In the February/March 2011 edition of Mother Earth News, the article “Wabi-Sabi: Finding the Beauty and Peace in Ordinary Things” opened my mind up to a whole new perspective on looking at one’s surroundings. I love it. I hate it. I have a definite love-hate thing going on here.

You see, wabi-sabi (as defined by Kate NaDeau in the article) is “the Japanese philosophy of appreciating things that are imperfect, primitive and incomplete…embrace the authentic, useful objects and discover the sacred in the everyday.” This all goes hand-in-hand with the green and simplification movements — appreciate what you have and what you surround yourself with, flawed pieces, hand-me-downs, chipping paint, and well-loved objects. It’s a wonderful idea. The images in the magazine, I wondered, seemed almost too perfectly used and beautiful…was there not a stylist nearby primping? Enough cynicism; seriously, this is the perfect philosophy, especially for frugalistas.

And now I’m face-to-face with a difficult personal paradox. I want to embrace this concept, truly. However, I was raised with Western philosophies, and am pretty obsessed with home goods and, particularly, the purchasing of decor. I don’t over-spend, but I would say that I spend more on dressing my house than I do on my own clothes. (If you know me, you could probably attest to my wardrobe. I try to keep it mended and clean, but don’t do sprees. Dave’s even worse as far as clothes purchasing or yearning.) I go out of my way to create mood boards and design concepts for rooms, and change them as needed. But, as far as I translate it, this is pretty much a 180 turn from wabi-sabi. If I did more flea-market finding, this would be much more appropriate. The closest I come is maybe Salvation Army (or the ottoman I just bought at an antique/junk store a month or so back, just waiting to be reupholstered — there it is again! I need to fix it, to make it “pretty”…it’s too disgusting and ugly not to change it).

Besides, I’m working to get this house in a livable, resellable (if it comes to that) condition. I’m sure that the realtors of America aren’t wabi-sabi enthusiasts.

Where can I find the balance? The ultimate goal here is to feel good about the life decisions that I make. Not stress myself out even further.

I turn back to the article for advice, which it so kindly gives. I can definitely look to wabi-sabi sort of the way that Dave looks at Buddhism — while he’s not necessarily “Buddhist”, he finds great strength and wisdom from the teachings and concepts that Buddhism can bring. Love that.

So, what does it have? “12 Ways to Wabi-Sabi”, of course! Can’t have a feature article without a how-to. And, here, I find some solace.

– Cultivate Slowness: Their focus here is to rebel against the use of machines so much, like sweeping rather than vacuuming. This is something that I’d LOVE to revel in — when the carpet is gone and we have hardwood floors staring back at us. (Natural vs. synthetic is a theme with wabi-sabi, so while I’ll be craigslisting (or Freecycling) the rug so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill, and getting things patched and refinished with low-VOC methods, it won’t be an overnight process…unfortunately.) But the “slowing down”, I get.

– Cultivate Vision: Learning how to find beauty in the mundane or everyday object, such as a coffee mug. I think here they were thinking about the handmade ones that fit your hands so nicely…and, honestly, I’m not a fan of those. But, again, the “looking at things through new, appreciative eyes”, I can get on board with.
– Cultivate Craft: Making and growing things. I like to create art, and am looking forward to growing my garden again.
– Cultivate Cleanliness: See, here I have to make a bit of a confession. My husband has come to learn this (and deals in a very sweet, silent way) that I accumulate clutter. Working on it. But, yeah, it’s a part of who I am…unfortunately. But the reasoning behind this, in wabi-sabi, is to create clean, sacred spaces. I can dig that.
– Cultivate Solitude: Finding a space dedicated to solitude and meditation, or even a quiet corner in a room (which is what we need in our tiny, crooked, well-loved house). I’ll work on this. This is one that, I think, would help Dave AND myself tremendously.
– Cultivate Space: Again, deleting clutter to promote clarity, physically and psychologically. Space and light are the most desirable objects.
– Cultivate Silence: Leaving the TV off for one night a week, practicing a few moments of silence before a shared meal, making time for a quiet cup of tea…another one that we could BOTH definitely get on board with. While I’m a bit of a TV addict (HGTV…Food Network…DIY…or Cooking Channel are comforting background noises for me), I do appreciate that nights that Dave and I just sit reading magazines or books, eating a meal, and heading to bed at a good hour. It freaks the cats out a bit.
– Cultivate Sabi: aka the beauty that comes with age. They suggest building with salvaged materials, which I’d LOVE to do if I could find a salvage yard around here. However, updating spaces makes this tough. I need to not feel guilty for purchasing new items to improve the home, but feel proud when I find antique items (like our console in the dining room) to meet our needs and add their own unique beauty. Oh, and I always have a huge soft spot in my heart for those who are really showing the signs of aging – grandparents and, now, our parents. Why am I tearing up?
– Cultivate Soul: My soul is, admittedly, in a sad state. I haven’t paid it nearly enough attention since, well, maybe high school. In a simpler suggestion, the magazine says to surround yourself with things that are made by human beings rather than by machines — inviting the souls of the craftsmen into your space. I find this intriguing. Maybe I’ll glance at those weird-looking pottery mugs more closely.
– Cultivate Imperfection: Hey! That’s me! Wait a sec!! They say here, and I quote, “Real people leave mail piled in the entry, let the flowers go a little too long in the vase (if they have them at all), allow the dog on the bed and have unpredictable cats. Wabi-sabi embraces these flaws.” Man, were they watching me? I’ve now put out a basket to collect the mail, but it still sits there. Otherwise…yeah, they’re talking about Meg. Whew! A saving grace.
– Cultivate Hospitality: The article suggests giving every room in the house a comfortable place to sit, with a blanket to curl up with, gentle lighting and a nice rug to make the invitation to stay all the more wonderful. This is a goal for Dave and me, to make the house a place that people want to be. Currently, we can only seat about 4 people comfortably in our living room. I need to look at our spaces. I like this one.
– Cultivate Simplicity: “Less stuff means more time to spend with family, friends and nature.” True, true. This is something that Dave and I have been working on since we moved in together, and while we haven’t beaten the game yet, we’re well on our way to the finish line.

So, while I’ll never be an expert at wabi-sabi, I can definitely hang it on my tool belt and get some good use out of it. I love that this concept is a little more abstract than the quite rigid rules of feng shui. Heck, it’s actually a sociological, economic and religious belief based in the Zen teachings, so it HAS to have more layers, which I find fascinating. In this way, it’s sort of the opposite of another philosophy that I have studied and admire, transcendentalism, which emphasizes more of perfecting oneself, whereas wabi-sabi embraces imperfection. I definitely respect a lot of what this philosophy provides and look forward to focusing on it.

When I look at Google Images for “wabi-sabi”, I can find inspiration and, simultaneously, disappointment. Some people aren’t getting it, either…so I guess I shouldn’t feel badly, myself, that I know I won’t be able to master it; only to use it and show that I respect it the best that I know how.

from trendir.com

Yes, beautiful. But seriously. Where’s the comfortable, inviting space? I can see silence and cleanliness…but where’s the imperfection – other than that someone spilled the oranges?

Daydream Believer…

With our collective brains pretty much inundated with opening-week theater stuff, I was surprised to find that Dave and I are totally willing to talk about, well, anything non-theater related. Just last Monday, we discussed different “must have”s for a future house, projects to tackle when money and time allow, ohhh lots of stuff.

I even gave in to my urge to try prying off a few wall tiles from the bathroom — with a flat-head screwdriver. From it, I’ve learned that it won’t be as challenging of a project to tackle as I feared. I’ll be patching some of the unevenness just to be sure the job’s done right, but it’ll all be covered with bead board, anyway. Now, I can’t wait to just rip up all the carpeting in the house!! (And if it’s rough underneath, it’ll MAKE us go forward with refinishing.)

The exhaustion has since set in and pretty crappy news (from car problems to bumped-up loan payments to the state of our school staff in 2011-2012) is making me feel like the recession is becoming a depression — seriously, at what point does a depression overcome the “recession” title? I looked up the definitions of each and a recession seems reeeaaaaaally tame compared to what the U.S. has been experiencing, and not to get political, but it clearly ain’t over yet. Long story short, things are my school will probably be turned upside down next year — but it’s still a heck of a lot better than what lots of other local (and other-stately) schools are dealing with. At least our doors will be opening.

So, what did the folks of the Great Depression era do (other than give up a hell of a lot more than we do — skipping meals, Hoovervilles, using a paintbrush to scoop up spilled sugar, REALLY doing without…)? Found distractions in the simple things, like time with family, being active in community organizations (the theater continued to put on 3 shows a year throughout — how cool is THAT? Even if they did steal building supplies from folks’ backyards. I think they were badass.), and finding escape at the movies (which didn’t used to cost the same as a down payment on a house).

Here’s one reason that I love my blogs, magazines, theater and family. And dreaming. (Hence the title of this entry – also a shout-out to the new Monkees tour) Dreaming about things we can’t currently have, but that are modest and will keep us hopeful and working towards goals. Goals like…

…getting refinished hardwood floors (not NEW floors, mind you),
…a budget-friendly modernized bathroom, a first-ever-brand-new driveway,
…a flood of sunshine in the front yard after disposing of the dangerously huge oak tree living far too close to the house (which is also giving us concern of structural damage…that sucker’s gotta go, even if we are treehuggers around this joint)
…a home that “matches” our personality better, with a better mix of eclectic and modern while trying to embrace wabi-sabi….

And, then, there’s OTHER goals, non-house-related. Getting a better grasp on our spending (and what’s really important to spend on), determining what career(s) to take us into our future, SIMPLIFICATION-SIMPLIFICATION-SIMPLIFICATION, creating a more organized and fulfilling lifestyle…y’know, all that fun stuff.

But, for now, we’ll focus on the task at hand — pulling off a near-perfect opening night (and subsequent performances) of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. If you’re in the area, come check it out! Once this genuinely awesome, fun, exciting endeavor is over — on with the bathroom “before” shots (and lots o’ chippin’) and carpet-rippin’! Some daydreams are free to achieve.

Any daydreams you’d like to share?