Life Lessons: Building Furniture

February 4, 2009

Ever since I moved into my own place last September, I have been living out of baskets. All of my clothes have just been piled in a heap in a couple baskets on my floor (originally these baskets were propped up on a chair, but then we decided we needed a chair for the living room. Thus, they got demoted to the floor). I tried to organize them neatly but within a couple days they inevitably transformed into a tangled mess in those baskets. Five months later, I have finally graduated to a dresser.

We picked up the dresser a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to putting it together until this past weekend. My mother dear came by with the tools; we opened the box containing the parts to my dresser, flipped through the manual, and got to it.

All 29 steps worth of instructions.

It took us 3 hours.

Building furniture is no easy task, let me tell you. DietGirl can tell you all about it– it took her 3 hours to build a table, too! Must be something about that length of time when you’re putting together furniture. Needless to say, by the end of it I was knocking back the wine (but from a sherry glass! I’m classy like that).

They say you’re not supposed to wallpaper with your loved ones, but apparently it’s okay to build furniture with them. Provided you’ve got a snack partway through to keep your energy up and the crankiness at bay. I mean, when you’ve got a hammer in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, why would you need to take out your stress on your fellow builders?

But we did finally get my dresser built; all 3,000 lbs of it (took four of us to carry it from the car into my apartment. Okay, so 3,000 might be a little ballpark). Yes, a couple of the screws might be missing because they were a b*&67 to put in, but it stands up straight and everything fits together so that is good enough for me! And once I had my clothes folded up neatly and organized in the drawers, it was amazing how much better I felt- how much more like home my apartment felt! Waking up the next day to realize “oh crap I have 15 pages to write in the next 2 days” was quickly followed by “but life is good, I have a dresser!”. And I was able to tackle those 15 pages no problem with the knowledge that my clothes are organized in sophisticated compartments rather than being a mess in some old baskets.

It’s those little things that eat away at us. When one aspect of our lives is disordered or neglected, it crosses over to affect all other areas of our lives. I don’t know why, but taking out the recycling or doing laundry or washing the dishes or building a dresser makes all the rest of my tasks for the day seem a whole lot more doable.

Make a point of getting that little (or big, if it’s a dresser) task done today! What have you been putting off lately? Have you had similar tales of woe when it comes to building furniture or are you a natural at these things? Even if it doesn’t come easy, there sure is a sense of satisfaction with seeing the completed project and thinking, I built that.

PS Don’t forget to answer Monday’s poll!


  1. good GOSH YES when it comes to furniture. I never get why people adore IKEA so as I can BUY the stuff there and SURE it’s a great price but I can never get it assembled.


    what I hear this post saying is MIZ GET YOUR FRIGGIN BOOK PROPOSAL FINISHED.

    thank you Sagan.

  2. So, I have a dresser, but the clean laundry usually winds up in a pile on top of it. Folding and putting away laundry is my most hated task in the housekeeping department. But it still feels really nice to accomplish something, whether it’s building furniture or finally putting away the laundry!

  3. Hey Sagan, I love this story for so many reasons.
    FIRST: when my husband and I first got married, we moved to a temp apartment and so got some temp furniture from target and what-not (LOVE target btw). Anyway, the more temp (aka cheap) the harder to assemble is what i have found anyway. I’m one of those do-it-yourselfers and I like to dive in without taking any consideration as to the instructions. HA! The look on my husbands face when the tv stand fell apart was priceless..needless to say, he puts everything together now…

    SECOND: I need so badly to pull things out to donate to charity bc our new flat (yay!) has NO storage, so we are giving the big boot to things we don’t need. I’ll get on that today!



  4. Hi Sagan,
    Nice work!! And you didn’t hurt any family members! It’s a sense of accomplishment, isn’t it, when you finish something like this, something you’ve maybe been putting off.

    I’m headed out today to make a few calls on a basketball tournament I’m running – and I’ve been putting off. Thanks for the great reminder!

  5. I think the real question is: What HAVEN’T I been putting off?”!

  6. I swear my husband and I almost got divorced over an IKEA dresser. Kudos to you for getting yours all put together and working!! Anyhow, thanks for the nudge to get my doctor’s appt. scheduled. I’m going to do it today. I swear!

  7. My fiance is both good at and enjoys putting things together.

    And I’ll start doing yoga again.

  8. LOL I completely understand! “Some assembly required,” can be the three scariest words in the English language.

    Once, when my folks were visiting, I talked my dad into putting a rocking chair together for me. It took him a while, but he had a real feeling of satisfaction afterwords, and I always think of him when I see or use that chair!

  9. I’ve been living in my current apartment for over a year, and I STILL don’t have a dresser! I’ve been looking for one on Craigslist, but I don’t have anyone with a truck to move it…blah, blah, blah. It’s so stupid. And I’m so tired of my clothes sitting in piles. And I’d be embarrassed for a guy to see it…geez, I need to get a dresser already! (But I don’t want to spend hours putting it together! Wah!) 🙂

  10. Good for you for putting your dresser together! I love doing stuff like that, and it really does give you a sense of accomplishment, doesn’t it?

  11. MizFit- yes, for sure get that book proposal finished! A MizFit book would be fantastic:) (I love IKEA. The frustration of building, not so much).

    Gena- sure does. I find it a hassle to put my sheets back on the bed after they’ve been washed, so inevitably I’ll go to my room at 11pm and realize my sheets and pillowcase are just scattered on my mattress. And then I curse myself for not having done it earlier.

    Rupal- good for you for downsizing and giving it all to charity! We all have way too much stuff that we don’t actually need. Love the story about the cheap furniture!

    Lance- that sounds like a fun time!

    Chocolatecoveredvegan- ahaha well there’s that too…

    Charlotte- doctors appointments are so easy to put off. I forgot that I’m supposed to make one so thank YOU for that reminder.

    Tricia- oh good! I’m glad.

    Dr. J- aw that’s so nice! I do love the memories that come with being associated with different things because of people involved.

    Zandria- maybe you could get some cardboard boxes and duct tape them together? 🙂

    Bag Lady- ooh yes. I guess you being on the ranch means that a lot of those little things can’t really afford to be put off… don’t think the cows would appreciate it much if they didn’t get attention and all!

  12. It’s so true – whenever I have clutter or unorganized stuff, my mind reflects that! It feels so good to accomplish things you have been meaning to get done. Now I’m off to mark a few things off my To Do list…

  13. When I suggested our “building adventure” might make a good insert into one of your blogs, I had no idea it would be the entire topic. I am so glad we finally bought the dresser, finally got it assembled, finally have your clothes organized, and I finally have the baskets back for the den. That sense of calm and organization is part of Feng Shui; I am so glad to see it is already working for you. Thanks for the Guinness to see me through the hardest parts of the construction.

    Oh, by the way….your dresser is only missing ONE screw, a very unimportant one 😉

  14. ..”taking out the recycling or doing laundry or washing the dishes or building a dresser makes all the rest of my tasks for the day seem a whole lot more doable.”

    That is me to a TEE! I have a “To do” list that have had things on there since last fall. Really? I know, it’s sad. And after reading Charlotte’s comments, I just called to make a doctor’s appt. I’ve put off for…oh, a year or so. 😉

  15. Haha, my first year living in the city, I didn’t unpack any of my clothes. I simply threw my suitcase that was opened up and lived from that. LOL

  16. I so know what you mean. Having my house in disorder as I’m unpacking it is driving me bats! In fact, I have established my kitchen as an oasis of clean just to keep me sane!

  17. Since we’ve been married, I do all the put together stuff like your dresser and my wife promises to not “supervise”. I seem to actually read the directions and count parts, where she just jumps in and fits things together like it should go, or so she says. The accomplishment is great and the silence is wonderful.

  18. omg that’s so true!! when i moved, i had a few boxes left, and it really did bother me, yet i couldn’t get myself to do it. once i started taking care of those little things, SO much better!

  19. It sure feels like an accomplishment once it is all put together! 🙂

  20. My task today is to catch up on everybody’s blog! I have over 100 in my reader…augh!

  21. I’ve built a lot of furniture through the years, dozens of book cases (I’m a collector), and at times have found it to be meditative and theraputic. While other times I’ve felt like taking a hammer to it all.


  22. OMG, I am the worst at assembling furniture and cursed myself everytime I bought something that had to be put together.

    That and painting are two things I have vowed never to attempt for as long as I live!

  23. FatFighterTV- I strongly believe that HAVING a to do list in the first place is the first step!

    Anony-mum- what about the piece that we forgot to attach at the back of the dresser? And are you sure there’s only one screw missing? 😀

    Holly- hurray, so glad that you did that! Yeah, when things have been on the list for months… you just know you have to do them.

    Sharon- ahaha that’s awesome. It’s so easy to do that.

    Rachel- I like that, an “oasis of clean”- kitchen is definitely a good place for it.

    Tom- there’s a bit of role reversal going on there 🙂 That’s great that you two have figured out a way that works for you both.

    ttfn300- Love that feeling!

    Mark- for sure.

    Big Girl- ME TOO. Some days of the week I’m able to devote lots of time to reading peoples’ blogs; other days… it doesn’t seem to happen.

    Mike- thanks for reading! Interesting that you find it therapeutic. I think it definitely could be… once you get into the zone of it and know what you’re doing then it is a calming process.

    Biz319- I hear ya on the painting. I think my form of “artwork” will stick to writing… don’t even want to think what a bad paint job I’d do of a house…

  24. I had to assemble my new Balance Ball Chair for my office and I couldn’t figure it out! It was so funny because today my boss showed me that it’s actually really simple! I felt silly 🙂 Good job on your furniture!

  25. I always tend to put off small errands and then I spend one day on the weekend doing everything. I feel like I waste an entire day when I could have gotten things done earlier in the week. Great post!

  26. I find when things get busy and there are little tasks that aren’t getting done, I start to get cranky…I can feel the weight of my to do list and it stresses me out. Early this week I managed to get two little things done that have been hanging over me and it made such a difference.

    As for furniture…I only remember ever putting one thing together all by my lonesome – a wooden futon frame. It actually went pretty smoothly and it hasn’t fallen apart yet (it’s been a good 10 years). My computer desk on the other hand…Husband was on hand to help with that one and it was a headache. Who writes these instructions anyway?

  27. I can only imagine how much better you feel with a dresser again. Living out of suitcases and laundry baskets is more stressful than one would imagine-it’s the disorder of it all, I think. Glad to hear you got it together..I’m sure the wine helped!

  28. If it were up to me, I’d steer clear of self-assembly projects and pay extra to skip the whole frustrating process. But the Lobster is ever the optimist about how easy it will be, and has the patience to keep going when I give up in frustration.

    On the other hand, as the pessimist I’m more likely to actually think we might need to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS, so sometimes that comes in handy.

    And, um, there are SO many things I’m putting off right now. Where does the time go?

  29. Ashley- I want a balance ball chair too! They look like fun. Thank goodness for bosses being able to figure these things out for us 😀

    Strongandhealthy- agreed, we could accomplish much more just by organizing our time a little better.

    JavaChick- I think they write the instructions for the sole purpose of frustrating us.

    Crystal- oh wine always helps 😉 And yeah, I don’t like that much disorder!

    Crabby- We all need a Lobster in our lives! (good idea to read the instructions. That’s definitely important).

  30. Ahhh, putting together furniture! I do it by myself (well, with the two cats’ “help”).
    I have been putting off organizing a huge box of personal papers in one of my closets – just been dumping stuff in there with no sense of order. Maybe…THIS WEEKEND???? Will at least start…

  31. Yaay for organization! It surely can make all the difference in the world in how you view the day. I love that snowball effect, too, when one little task leads to another, and then to another, and before you know it, everything is all neat or orderly.

    at least, I think that’s how I remember it happening. It’s been awhile. 🙂

  32. This post reminds me of an episode of the Amazing Race, where the contestants had to put together a desk (I think it was a desk) at IKEA as their challenge.

    Furniture assembly is not for the faint-hearted :-).

  33. I seem to remember being rescued by your mother (with tools in hand) in the Hague when a barbeque needed to be assembled……………………….

  34. Missicat- oh I bet your kitties love to help/get in the way when you’re building stuff!

    Cammy- hehe. The snowball effect is great.

    Dara- that’s for sure! I guess me and my mum are totally eligible for the Amazing Race then 😉

    Rebecca- She’s good at that 🙂

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