One of the central conceits of the hit film Fight Club is the notion that Ikea furniture is symbolic of the proletarian sell out. In it the lead character played by Edward Norton works in a repetitive job and returns home each day to an apartment decked out in Ikea. A stereotypical collapsible cube with everything inside assembled from a flat pack.
The reality is that Ikea furniture is a utilitarian product. It’s competitively priced and readily available, enabling people to furnish their homes for limited outlay. It’s easy to disregard Fight Club and subscribe to the Nordic doctrine when you need a cheap bed and somewhere to store your clothes at short notice.
On its website Ikea markets ‘storage solutions’, and Ikea stores are populated with installations that suggest that the solution to your storage problem is wall to wall Ikea furniture, crammed with Ikea utensils, accessories, fittings and fixtures. The stores themselves are notorious for their labyrinthine layout designed to ensure that your eyes see every product on display.
While furniture is useful, the most effective interior layouts are sparse. This is the problem with the storage solutions that Ikea promotes; additional storage space prevents you from purging things that you don’t need. It pays to be judicious with Ikea furniture. Because just how much of that stuff do you need to store?
One of the most popular Ikea items was the Expedit shelves, large 4X4 or 5X5 units that come in a black, white or fake wood finish. The Expedit shelves were controversially replaced by the Kallax shelves in 2014. This new shelving unit reduces the outer frame of the unit from 2 inches to 1. Ikea uses 1% of the world’s lumber wood, so what consumers lamented as the end of a popular product was in fact a sensible modification.
In practice it’s the same unit. Both take up a substantial amount of wall space, and both are magnets for objects that require a space. While I’m a fan of Ikea furniture, I’m now going to tell you how large Expedit and Kallax shelves become a psychic occupational hazard in your home.
Shelving units that take up half the wall are prime zones for clutter. Whether you have a 16 or 25 cubicle unit, each makes space for you to shove random things. They are a sinkhole for hoarders who can’t part with their items. However, whether you need this stuff or not, the last place you should be storing it is up the wall. Particularly if you’re storing things in the room you sleep in.
Here’s why: Every object you own is charged with energy. It’s not magical but rather the property of each thing having associations from which we cannot detach.
Some of the things we keep are essential and have a purpose. Others are sentimental and laden with what we perceive to be value. Cognition dictates that we have a lexical relationship to the things we see on the shelf: We see them, and we identify what they are. This process is central to our consciousness. It is also a liability when we are forced to evaluate things when we don’t need to, such as when they are stacked up on a wall high Kallax shelf, in our face.
The distraction is more of an impediment than you might think. When you wake up in the morning to be confronted with Kallax shelves stacked with stuff it’s not conducive to focusing on the tasks of the day. Similarly, when you are trying to relax in the living room looking at books, magazines and other miscellanea will prevent you achieving calm. This is because viewing the objects causes unnecessary stimuli, shunting the mind into action and causing it to engage in rumination. That in turn leads to procrastination.
Collectively the objects we keep carry the psychic weight of association that creates inertia around us. These items can tie us to our past or to our imagined futures. A practice of purging unused objects enables us to be more present in our current lives.
Marie Kondo, Author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up says that to determine whether or not you need an object in your life you must hold it and ask yourself ‘does this spark joy?’ If it doesn’t, you don’t need it. It might sound reductive but using the joy factor is an effective litmus test when it comes to what you need and what you don’t.
Kondo’s manifesto is a must read for anyone trying to get rid of their crap. While some might find it excessive-Nicole Silverberg of GQ describes KonMari as ‘alternately cold and highly emotional, practical and insane.’-it does contain a comprehensive list of the benefits unburdening yourself.
Kondo’s ethos notwithstanding, some objects are necessary whether they give you joy or not. Things like clothing, toilet paper and cords to appliances. You can hold onto these things and keep your head clear if you opt for the smaller 2×4 Kallax shelving unit, but lay it on it’s side in the landscape position. Consider getting the custom made inserts or even cupboard doors that conceal the things you’re keeping. That way you can retain the things you need while still having a space that’s energetically conducive to work and relaxation.
For more information about purging your shelves check out this article by writer and denizen of condensed space Lulu Fogarty.