Destroy It Yourself or Dangerous Insanity Yielder?

By Liz Green

There should be a law against flat-pack furniture. These things are designed to destroy your health, sanity and relationships.
Over the past few months, my daughter has been updating the furniture in her house. With the arrival of yet another child, previously ravaged items have had to be replaced and new items purchased for the latest offspring. She has good taste, as most of the items have all been flat-packed real wood pieces - not chipboard, or wood effect - but pine has to be an all time hatred of mine now, due to the difficulty with screwing it together and the effect it has on your hands.

To date I have had the "pleasure" of erecting the following:

1. Set of bunk beds in pine
2. Two sets of toy boxes in pine
3. Tallboy
4. Chest of drawers
5. Cot (pine again)
6. Swinging crib (you've guessed it - pine)
7. Large 3-door wardrobe with mirror (not pine)
8. Bookcase (again not pine)
9. Child's first bed, shaped like a car - made from plastic
10. 2 picnic tables for the garden
11. Bookcase (for my own home)
12. Dining table and 6 chairs (don't know what wood it is - but it's a) heavy and b) tough)

She says she cannot understand the instructions or needs an extra hand, so I get roped in, and usually end up doing it myself. To give her the due, she did start the bunk beds, I just had to screw in the base slats on the first one (all 16 of them), but because I did "such a good job", I got the chance to do it all again for the second one and then piece them together. The ladder took two of us!

The toyboxes were a rescue. She'd tried to assemble them herself, but the top didn't fit on the first one. Luckily, there she stopped, leaving the second still sealed in the box. "Could I help?" she asked. On taking a look at the work done, I discovered that she had assembled it upside down, and used the wrong slats of wood for the base (or so I thought). I dismantled the first into component pieces and compared them to the pristine one. Amazingly, on the one she had attempted, the slats for the base were too long by 1cm! Trimming that bit off was more difficult than the assembly of the box itself. Finally, after two night's full work, and a very sore palm, they were fully assembled and WORKED!

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"Never again", I said, but a few weeks later the tallboy and large wardrobe arrived. "Can you help me with these?" was the plaintive request. "Help? - Yes, but I'm not doing all the work myself." Famous last words - guess who did it all - yes, me. "NO MORE" - I said. "Well .............I also ordered a new bed for No.2, but it's not wood, it's plastic" she said. "It'll be here in a day or so, I should be able to do that myself." she snapped, indignantly.
It arrived on the day she went on holiday - "When it arrives, can you put it in his room, so it's ready for when we come home? I've cleared the room, except for the cot. You'll have to take that down first.............." ???!!****!!

How can 6 pieces of plastic cause a total wreck of a woman?............... Quite easily, I can assure you. The cot was easy - I had already assembled that before. Disassembly is just the reverse. Pack it all away safely - ready for the next one, and wait for the new bed. I had no idea what to expect, just that it was plastic, but I was not prepared for what arrived. Four very large boxes came out of the truck - two so large we had to unpack them outside, as they would not come through the front door. Large bits of yellow and blue plastic - very bright in the sun, finally unpacked and carried up the stairs. On the floor they filled the room - hardly any space to turn - let alone space required to build it! One sheet of instructions - 6 pictures, no writing, and no screws - just snap together - easy? Not a bit of it. Three days later, bed was in two halves and not progressing toward anything resembling a bed! I wrestled with it, sat on it, lay on it, swore profusely at it and eventually abandoned it. Finally, with two men helping, the bed snapped into place. We all said "Never again" with relief, while I added sheets and duvet.

Never again became again very soon. A huge bookcase for the eldest - easy - made from chipboard. The hardest thing was squaring the hardboard backing so it sat straight. Sore thumbs here - OOPS! wrong nail! It was a similar story with the tallboy - except with sore palms again as well as sore thumbs!

I would have run away when I heard about the picnic tables - except these were to be used for a barbecue that same afternoon. I had been asked to help with the eldest child's birthday party, which was to be a barbecue - cooked by dad. Easy enough. When we arrived, I was told the tables needed building - two of them! I was glad we had all attended. More sore hands! We worked up quite an appetite for the food.

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The latest is a new table and chairs. When the lorry arrived and two deliverymen struggled down the path with five boxes, she called me. Luckily for her, she had not been aware the furniture would be flat-packed. No one had said. I screamed - both at her and the furniture warehouse! Particularly the warehouse, when no instructions were found for the chair assembly. I found it eventually in the last box, after the warehouse had promised to send a copy IN THE POST?! At the time of writing this, I am half way through assembly. The tabletop is too heavy for two of us to lift - I need more willing hands. The leg assemblies are exceptionally heavy on their own, and the chairs are both heavy, awkward and are giving me sore hands - AGAIN!

Why do I do it? I have seen her attempts at assembly - namely one chest of drawers and a shoe rack. The shoe rack is still providing good service and looks fine, but the chest of drawers has collapsed and has been discarded. At first, after a few months' use, the drawers wouldn't slide easily back and forth (usually closing), and finally fell off the runners with no hope of salvage, before it ended on the tip.

I know these things are cheaper flat-packed and/or easier to deliver, but I cower when she mentions something she's seen for the house. A new suite is next - I hope I don't have to assemble that!

With the above lines, I was only joking, I think! However, the new suite arrived 11 boxes! She asked the deliverymen to remove the old suite before carrying in the new one, to be absolutely astonished when they brought in two boxes. "There's more of these," smiled one of the delivery men, "In fact there's 11 of them!." He scuttled off back to the lorry and returned with another, then another, and so on. She picked up the phone to me. "NO WAY" I shouted back at her. "Not a suite!"

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"If I had known it came flat-packed, I wouldn't have bought it" she retorted heatedly. "No-one said anything when I ordered it!"

Thinking fast, I suggested she was complaining to the wrong person, and perhaps she might try the place she bought it from. In fact, she did just that, explaining that had she known it required assembly, she would not have purchased it. She "explained" so forcibly that after a few minutes the shop returned her call, promising to send two warehouse men to assemble the suite - free of charge!

A few hours later, she is now very pleased with her suite, and the service she has received, and is in absolutely no doubt just where mum draws the line with flat-packed furniture - up to dining room table and chairs - AND NO FURTHER!

So, for all of you out there thinking of buying new furniture - take a moment to check before parting with any money that this fine piece of furniture will be delivered fully assembled, saving yourself a great deal of effort, frustration and disappointment. I am now thinking of emigrating to prevent any further attacks on my welfare and sanity, before she goes to buy any more items for her house.

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