I came over to Sydney with the bare essentials – my clothes, my laptop and phone – and I’d decided a few months back in Manila that I would purchase most of my furniture and household goods here. I reasoned, I would rather not constrain my choice of flats and places to live with the furniture I would be bringing with me. If I brought my bed and bed frame with me, I thought to myself, it would be pretty awkward if I found a nice apartment where the bed wouldn’t fit, necessitating me tossing out the bed or selling it.

Plus, there’s always IKEA.

So, in a hare-brained initial plan formulated as soon as I had signed the lease on my flat, I went one Sunday afternoon to the nearest IKEA I could find, which turned out to be the biggest IKEA in Sydney, to shop for a bed and basic furniture so as to make my flat livable, or at least so I can sleep in the damned place.

First, an aside.

I have never lived alone; this is the first time in my life that I would have to completely fend for myself. It’s maybe a bit of an embarrassment to me that I’ve lived with my parents for years, but doing so makes total sense in Manila in so many ways. Sure, I’ve fended for myself during trips to the US and elsewhere, but I never had to deal with the vagaries of home furnishing, among other things.

I’m a smart guy, I told myself, I can probably figure this shit out, as I made my way to the IKEA in Tempe. I didn’t waltz in there completely unprepared, of course – I had some plan of attack, some idea of what I wanted/needed to buy.

The first dagger of panic that stabbed right into my consciousness was when I realized just how much stuff there was to see, and how I suddenly realized I needed everything. Sure, I’ve shopped for myself before, and this wasn’t my first retail experience – but man, the onslaught of choice was brutal.

I wandered around the showroom floor, drunk in the entire experience, my head whirling. If not for the fact that I forced myself to adhere to a strict budget, I might have actually bought a lot more than I did that first visit. I messaged my friend Dean, with a picture of my cart, who promptly replied incredulously with “You’ve spent two hours at IKEA and that’s all you’ve bought?”

Which is, I guess, to be expected.

The thing that really, really overwhelmed me, at least in hindsight, were two competing forces: the first was the fact that I didn’t have furniture, and I needed furniture; and the second was the whole desire not to spend it all.

Completely overwhelmed me, but at least I walked out of IKEA with a mattress and tableware. Which was something at least – I could sleep at my flat.

Anyway, lesson learned: never go to IKEA without being really prepared. Which means focussing on a short list of exactly what you need.

I ended up going to IKEA a second time, the masochist that I am, but this time I did have someone to at least guide me through the maze; Dean had graciously offered, and I took him up on it.

It was still overwhelming, admittedly, but definitely less so – and I did come out with more required furniture (a small dining table, some chairs, knives, some shelving). Still, there’s a bunch of stuff I need to buy, so I’m heading there a third time, maybe one of these weekends.

Wish me luck.

Previously: Taking A Chance