Ah…IKEA…paradise in the real world. A shopping haven loaded with budget-friendly organizing and decorating solutions…what could be better than that?

Well, for starters, having an IKEA in my own town would help. The closest IKEA is a four hour drive for me—from driveway to parking lot (which means another four hours to get back home!) So, a trip to the paradise known as IKEA, while worth the time and effort, must be a well-planned event.

IKEA Shopping Tips

Blog reader Vickie is planning an upcoming trip to IKEA so she asked if I had any suggestions. She, too, has the long drive factor, and needs a plan for a successful shopping day. So here are some ideas for a well-organized IKEA trip.

Shop with a list.

For me, shopping with a list is necessary even when the stakes aren’t high like they are with an eight hour drive to IKEA. A list is a must for me, but even if you live close to IKEA, a list is still a great idea. The place is big and very enticing, and it is really easy for things to jump into your cart when you aren’t looking. J

To create your list, start by browsing through the IKEA catalog.  You can get a copy via their website. Or, if you prefer paperless browsing, simply peruse the website and begin creating your list.

Make your list as specific as possible.

It might just be me, but after a while all the names for the IKEA furniture and containers start to blur together. Include the IKEA name for the items you want. Model numbers, color and dimensions are even handier.

Check availability online.

Last time I went to IKEA, I had two very specific needs in mind: a 2×4 Expedit bookcase, and a 4X4 Expedit bookcase. If I had arrived at IKEA only to find that there weren’t any in stock…it would have been a really long four hour drive back home. To check the stock status for your items visit the IKEA website and go to the product’s web page. Once on this page look for the link that says “check stock” and you can access the current stock status for your store. While you’re at it, jot down the “rack” and “section,” as this will tell you exactly where to find your items when you arrive at IKEA.

Make sure your stuff will fit.

Measure your vehicle’s available storage area (such as the dimension of the trunk, hatch back area, etc.) so you’re sure your purchases will have a place to ride home. Also, check the box dimensions of the items you want to purchase. (These also can be found online.)

Shop early.

If your trip to IKEA involves a long drive like mine does, I recommend checking stock status the night before. Then, go to bed early and start your trip at the crack of dawn (or before!) so you can arrive at the store right when it opens. Purchase your must have items first…then shop for the smaller, less mission critical items.

Shop on weekdays.

If possible, plan your trip for a weekday…so the crowds are smaller.

Take a friend…even if it means you can’t buy as much stuff.

I know. The temptation to make the most of the trip and load your vehicle with IKEA goodness is strong…but I will never again shop at IKEA alone. Never again.

The IKEA shopping experience is a bit stressful, truth be told. It’s a combination of realizing this is a once-every-few-years type of trip (pressure!) along with “I can’t return this if it doesn’t work out at home” (pressure!) Plus, there’s the fact that the store is big, loaded with really cool stuff, and arranged in some sort of circular maze…that makes it really easy to get lost and overwhelmed.

A friend is an IKEA shopping necessity.

She can help you with decisions like “Will this blue blanket work in my bedroom?” as well as “I think we really should stop and eat some Swedish meatballs…you seem to be losing your focus.” This helps you avoid getting overwhelmed, lost or dizzy, and helps you purchase things you need, as well as items that will work well for you back home.

Other handy things to bring along.

Aside from the most important shopping accessory (your friend) it’s also handy to have a notebook or clipboard and paper, a pen or pencil, a calculator, and a tape measure. Also bring along any fabric or paint swatches so you can make sure things will look great in your space. Also, take along measurements of your space so you can be sure your new purchases will fit as you envisioned them fitting.

Last but not least, load up your CD player with your happiest tunes for the drive, and wear comfy shoes. Plan a break for hydration and Swedish meatballs, and a successful shopping day is in the bag!

Do you have any IKEA shopping tips to share?  Or favorite IKEA finds? I’d love to hear…

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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