There are two ways of buying new furniture. There’s the old reliable way of going to the nearest furniture store, consulting with pushy sales assistants and eventually selecting the option most suitable. Or, there’s the other way. The one where you check out catalogues and wander around large international stores armed with a map and a compass. It also depends of course on things like budget, time, manual handling skills and proficiency with an Allen key. Not to mention the ability to follow instructions to the letter. Always a useful and much underrated skill.
Anyway, in the interest of economics we recently chose the latter route and quite quickly found ourselves surrounded by boxes of all shapes and sizes, pages of instructions, bags of screws and a picture in our head of how it all should look. The directions seem fairly straightforward, clear and concise and all done in pictures. There are no complicated tools required, no hammers and nails, no drills, in fact no electrics at all. Assembling flat pack furniture is similar to origami right? It’s all about correct folding and matching of parts and there’s a similarity in the way all the pieces slot easily together. Well, kind of. I mean how hard can it be, right? Well, the smug booklet of instructions contains lots of doodles of injured or maimed cartoon characters who dared to build their furniture without following directions exactly or phoning for help so the secret must be in careful adherence to rules. But unfortunately I’ve never been very good at that. Even laying out all the pieces and checking out that we had everything required was a test of my patience. Time to bring in the big guns. Time to call in the reinforcements, the experts, the building engineers. Time to call in the children.
It’s not for nothing that some of my children were moulded and shaped into Lego engineers before they were big enough to articulate their objections. They have been building furniture, albeit doll sized since they were doll sized themselves. I have cleverly invested many a Christmas morning up to my knees in little bricks teaching them, guiding them and pretending it was all for fun. Now the time has come to reap the benefits, to enjoy the fruits of my labour and revel in the reward it brings.
Being the helpful mother I am I opened all the packaging myself so they wouldn’t hurt themselves and subtly removed the scissors and other sharp implements just in case tempers flared. It pays to be prepared. Between the three of them they managed to appoint a project engineer, a labourer and a sidekick. No prizes for guessing which was which. Anyway I kindly provided liquid refreshments and pretty much left them to it. There was a prevailing air of calm, which in itself is never a good sign, but probably helped by the fact that I was leaving them alone. Anyway, I watched with interest as a recognisable shape appeared from the mountains of parts. It didn’t take long however, for them to begin lining up the boxes to make a slide for the stairs. But in fairness their work was more or less completed. They showed an uncanny ability to follow instructions, work together as a team and work against a deadline. The furniture was assembled on the floor, the instructions a little crumpled but obviously examined and there was a lovely little pile of abandoned and discarded and forlorn looking screws in one corner. Well it wouldn’t be a true flat pack furniture experience without an extra screw or two. However, I might just leave them there on the floor, until they are checked and examined for strength and ability to stand up. That’s the furniture now, not the children who I presume are none too maimed by the experience. Who would have thought that all that money spent on complicated Lego kits would pay off so well? So basically what I learned this week is that building flat packed furniture is a bit like building a Lego castle, only with larger adult sized pieces. They could probably do with a bit more colour coding to make it easier on us constructionally challenged individuals but otherwise what’s the difference? And if the children do it for you, even better.