Bedspread and throw from IKEA make a cozy and thrifty first apartment bedroom.
We went to IKEA in search of a bedspread but found so much more…
Think you're ready to shop IKEA? Avoid frustration by reading these 5 tips first.

Think you’re ready to shop IKEA?  Avoid frustration by using these 5 useful secrets. The best IKEA hacks for apartment, bathroom, bedroom and organization you must have for a fun, frustration-free trip.

For more first apartment shopping ideas, read


“The key is to come with a list and stick to it.”  Wise words from the guy at the IKEA check out.  But even he admitted he couldn’t live by his own advice.  “Last week I saw a multi-tool I just had to have.  But I really didn’t need it.”

Crush IKEA

My daughter and I ventured to the temple of DIYers, organizers and minimalists last week.  We were in search of a few items to complete her first college apartment décor and organization.  But, of course, we ended up with so much more in our cart.  Read on for the useful secrets we came up with during our shopping extravaganza.

These fun black and white prints came 3/pack at IKEA.
Mr. Llama was a “must have”. This 16 x 19 inch print came in a pack with 2 other wall art.

Her design aesthetic is defined by simplicity of color and functionality.  It’s a trend that’s become quite appealing in our over-stuffed and highly accessed lives-especially for her and her Gen Z friends.

We spent a little over 3 hours at IKEA and put our heads together afterward for some tips that will make our next trip even smoother.  If you’re planning your shopping adventure, read on for our useful secrets sure to help you avoid frustration and overwhelm.

Make a day of it and avoid the weekend

OK, this is technically a two-for-one.  The point here is to realize IKEA is not a “drop in” store.  IKEA has carefully crafted your shopping experience to keep you in what we called “the maze” for as long as possible.

Accepting this reality and embracing it can make for a really fun experience.  Start by tasting some of the reasonably priced Scandinavian food in the café.  We planned our arrival at lunchtime and enjoyed some deliciousness as we reviewed our list and goals.

This colorful and extra large bag from IKEA is easy to identify.
This colorful and roomy bag was quite a bargain. It was also easy to spot on moving day.

If you have special dietary needs, like I do, here’s a useful secret.  IKEA has gluten and dairy free a la carte options.  My salmon salad and praline bar were delicious!  My daughter carbed-up on chicken fingers and mashed potatoes with gravy.

Originally, we’d planned our shopping for a Sunday, but at the last minute rescheduled to Monday.  We were so glad we made the change.  Help was readily available and the crowd was very manageable, not the experience we would have had on a busy weekend.

Understand the Store Layout

The Scandinavian shopping experience, apparently, is a very different way of doing things.  IKEA is much more than the western idea of a department store.  It’s an all-inclusive experience for home shopping that includes:

  • Cafeterias both at the beginning and end of the experience
  • A grocery store
  • A showroom of merchandise expertly displayed in various home styles and settings
  • A “maze like” merchandise area, carefully charted on overhead maps
  • A warehouse, where larger items and furniture must be collected BY YOU and brought to check out

In short, if the apocalypse happens when you are shopping IKEA, you’ll be just fine.

Visit the Showroom First

Choose the path through the showroom first, unless you know the store well and are extremely focused, .  We made the mistake of entering the retail side of the store and were baffled and overwhelmed much of the time. 

Take a trip through the IKEA showroom before you venture to the retail side of the store.
Visit the showroom first and discuss what you like. Don’t forget to take pictures!

Had we first seen all the organization and furniture items displayed in their appropriate settings, the retail section would have made more sense.  IKEA has meticulously staged the faux rooms with every conceivable home and apartment setting. If the apocolypse does come, I have dibs on the white bedroom with the chandelier.

Take Reference Photos

While you’re touring the showroom, take lots of pictures.  These will help you reference specific product numbers, prices, and ideas.

Make sure you snap a photo of the tag for larger items at IKEA.
Notice the Aisle (8) and Bin (29 & 23) numbers on the tag. You’ll need these later!

Don’t forget to snap a photo of the tag on larger furniture pieces you plan to buy. The information on the tag will direct you to the location of the aisle and bin for your item at the end of your trip.  We chose a swivel desk chair that ended up being two separate pieces.  We’d never have found the bins in which they were located without this useful secret.

Don’t Split Up

Most of our shopping trips include splitting up, retrieving items, and meeting back at the front of the store.  This approach usually saves time and allows each of us to look at what we want for a few minutes.

We tried this at IKEA and were sorry we did.  Since we had to “travel” the store in a certain order, we spent a lot of time finding each other. Thank goodness for texting. Pay attention to the useful secret we learned: stay together.

“Where are you?”

“By the giant, flowered chandelier.”

“Stay there.  I will find you.”

“OK, I’ll just be across the aisle sitting on the orange sofa.”

Could IKEA be a psychological experiment used by crazed Scandinavian researchers to study stupid Americans?  Just sayin…

Could IKEA be an evil experiment?
With perfectly-sized bathroom shelfs and dividers like this, I’m not asking questions.

We ended our shopping experience exhausted, but satisfied.  I had fun helping my daughter choose items that fit her tastes and learning more about her dreams for the coming school year.

Think you're ready to shop IKEA? Avoid frustration by reading these 5 tips first.
Think you're ready to shop IKEA? Avoid frustration by reading these 5 tips first.
Think you're ready to shop IKEA? Avoid frustration by reading these 5 tips first.