Five years ago Jeff and I bought new furniture for our offices from IKEA. I love IKEA because it’s affordable, convenient, and matched my aesthetic. We picked out what we needed and everything was fine.

After a couple of weeks, Jeff wanted a file cabinet to match his desk. We went back to IKEA and found the Alex. It was perfect. The box was super heavy but we got it home and it sat for a couple days.

I decided that I was going to surprise Jeff by putting it together since he has precious little free time. I dragged the heavy box to the living room and I was excited to get to work. IKEA flat packs all their items so I expected to see a lot of slabs of wood.

Then I saw something else… the bag of screws.

It looked like THOUSANDS of different screws, bolts, plastic pieces, and a bunch of stuff I’d never seen before. I immediately panicked. I wanted to put this together so badly but I couldn’t get past the screws. Before I abandoned all hope, I decided to look at the instructions. I like written instructions and I understand that IKEA ships all over the world so their instructions are all pictures.

I tried to follow the pictures and looking at the bag of a million parts but I just couldn’t do it. I was frustrated and a mess. The box sat for the next 5 years. We moved and took the box with us.

We have a small room as you enter our condo and it has a recliner, electric stove, and our antique rocking chair. Taxi likes to sit in the recliner when we’re not home. We even called it the Dog’s Den. I do a lot of writing and developing here at home and I had a desk in our bedroom but it’s not a working environment. I have a workshop in the garage but it’s not suitable for writing. We decided to shift my office into the Dog’s Den.

We set up the desk and there was space for a small file cabinet. The Alex is still in the garage! I asked Jeff if he’d bring it upstairs. I knew he was concerned since it’s been in the box for literally 5 years.

As soon as I opened the box I saw the enormous bag of screws again and my heart sank. Then I remembered how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. I went to the cupboard and got some plastic cups. I separated each kind of screw in the cups. Then I counted to make sure I had everything that I needed. Next, I separated all the wood pieces into like groups and laid it all out. Finally, I took out the instructions and just did everything step by step.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned in karate is that you will not be good right away. It takes time, practice, patience, and relaxation. Also a healthy dose of forgiving yourself. You’ll make a mistake and shake it off and move on. Frustration will not be your friend in karate. Or IKEA furniture.

As I completed the steps and something wasn’t clear I’d go back and start again. Look at it differently, see what I may have missed.

Please note that box sat untouched for 5 years and with a little organization, patience, and taking it “one bite at a time” it was done!


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