Conquering IKEA

Home sweet home, overlooking the Pacific

My college apartment was amazing. Over the course of my three years there I furnished and decorated the whole place, floor to ceiling, with stuff from IKEA. I had couches, tables, chairs, curtains, bookshelves, framed art. The works. I have no idea how much money I spent at IKEA, but it must have been a lot. I remember giving myself a $100 budget every time I went to IKEA and I went often.

Then when I graduated, I gave it all away. I was hitting the road west, to Oregon, and every single thing I owned that wouldn’t fit in my 2-door VW had to go. I could have sold it. I could have stored it all in the big red barn at my parents’ house, but I didn’t. I gave it all to friends, friends of friends and total strangers. To this day, when I go back to Pennsylvania I’m forever asking people, much to my delight, “aren’t those my plates/ curtains/ chairs?”

Last week, hanging around the Bay Area, I paid my first visit to IKEA in many years. I didn’t set myself a $100 budget, but I did intend to buy something, something cute and useful to go in the Teardrop, for old time’s sake. I spent all afternoon walking around that store and didn’t find a single thing.

When you live in a 5X10 foot trailer, whole sections of consumer culture no longer apply. Furniture? Nah. My bed and table are built-in and I have a nice folding camp chair with two cup holders. Kitchen supplies? I have everything I need, except for a grapefruit spoon, which IKEA didn’t have. Lighting? LED lights are built into the Teardrop. Carpet? I already have a carpet, which velcros in and out for easy cleaning. No vacuum necessary. Bedding? I sleep in my sleeping bag. Framed art? I make my own art.

On and on. I walked around and around, looking at everything, in full nostaligia-mode, finding many things I used to own. But I didn’t find anything I needed. Moreover, I didn’t find anything I wanted. I have no place in my life for any of that stuff. I spent $3.50 on a hot dog and soda for my date and an ice cream cone for myself and walked out of IKEA empty handed. After nearly 10,000 miles on the open road in the Teardrop, I’ve never felt so free.

Camping with my brother and sister in Redwood Country, California

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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25 Responses to Conquering IKEA

  1. Wynne says:

    I absolutely love this post! There’s a big part of me that dreams of your life and freedom from “stuff.” Maybe one day… Keep livin’ the dream!

  2. Pip says:

    Reblogged this on As You Wish Healing-Light and commented:
    Living like this sounds so freeing, and enticing. 🙂

  3. Ronda L Kleeber says:

    Hi Blonde Coyote, I love your pictures of the redwoods in N. Ca. I also loved the pictures from Lake Tahoe. Especially Emerald Bay. Enjoy… Take Care Ronda K 🙂

  4. et says:

    I always get ikea candles.
    And just bought 2 solar lights – but then like you that’s it – no more room, or even desire….

  5. Maria says:

    I did the same thing a few weeks ago here in the south of Sweden (the homecountry of the original IKEA)! Me and my husband moved from a big apartement we didn’t need to a much smaller one and suddenly a lot of stuff was unesscesary! It’s a good feeling!

  6. Glenn says:

    Nice. Reminds me of an story I once heard about an old taoist who now liked to go shopping to see all the things he didn’t want or need. Walked home afterwards feeling good about what he was happy to do without and leave alone.

    Since right now I’m building a 10×10 cabin for a future home, this is a timely message for me as well. Thanks Mary!

  7. Egon says:

    Mary I’m so overcome with laughter reading this last post,tears running down my cheeks
    reading,from the beginning till the end.10,000 miles to the shining sea and it looks as good as when it left home ,it may be only the beginning of a long journey to come.
    My thoughts are with you every day.

  8. The saddest thing about Ikea ( the third largest wood consumer on the planet) is that a good deal of the furniture is not built for the long haul…particle board stuff just does not last as long as solid wood.

    Re-purposing a fine antique is much better for the world’s climate.

  9. I want a tear drop trailer so bad, but I think my bug will need a major engine upgrade before it’s able to tow anything like that 🙂

  10. Oh and I’m happy to say I’ve never been in Ikea 😉

  11. redmitten says:

    when our wants agree with our needs- that’s a fine moment.

  12. I find your lifestyle so inspiring, and I love your blog! Keep up the good work 🙂

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  14. To quote Michael Card (one of my favorite musicians) – “It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”
    (you can see it here, if you wish:

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  22. I LOVE this post! I’ve been intrigued with minimalism for a while now and the experience that you describe is an amazing victory! Thanks for sharing!

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