There are many words that can send a shiver down your spine. Head lice, stomach flu, root canal. But last week, my son Ryan and I decided that the two most daunting words in the world are “assembly required.”

Oh, I know many people rave about IKEA. It’s cheap and you can purchase everything you need to furnish your entire home there, and it can all fit in the trunk of your car. But not all people are born with the DNA that enables them to assemble furniture from scratch. Our family has many talents; furniture assembly is not one of them.

My husband, Maury, and I recently decided that we needed new carpeting throughout the entire second floor of our house. It was a lot like moving. We had to cram every piece of furniture from every room on the second floor into the master bathroom. It forced us to really look at some of the dilapidated furniture we were holding onto.

We decided that the large dresser in Ryan’s room had to go. It was a 40-year-old hand-me-down that was warped, scratched and missing a door. Instead of moving it into the bathroom, Maury and Ryan took it to the dump. This created the need for a new dresser/entertainment center. Ryan checked out some websites and finally found a nice looking, sturdy TV stand with some drawers and shelves. Perfect. It was $400 and we got free shipping.

A week later I was upstairs when I heard a ruckus from the front of my house. I glanced outside and saw a UPS truck. The poor UPS driver was struggling with an enormous box — it must have been seven feet tall. He managed to get it on his handcart, but I think he hurt his shoulder. He grimaced and pushed the enormous box up the walkway. I opened the door just in time to see him drive away rubbing his shoulder.

The huge box was leaning up against the wall. I carefully tried to lay it on its side so I could slide it into the entryway. It must have weighed 300 pounds! It nearly crushed me as I tried to ease it to the ground, feeling a twinge in my lower back. I was hoping the entertainment center would be delivered in one piece, but two horrifying words glared up at me from the box: “Assembly Required.”

My son Ryan is 19 years old. He wants to be an engineer and is doing very well in college. He’s a bright kid and can breeze through calculus and physics as if they were simple addition. His homework notes look like strange alien writing to me. He has, with ease, assembled office chairs, complicated animatronic Halloween decorations and even my stationary exercise bike, so when he saw the large box in the hallway, he wasn’t at all intimidated.

Maury and I, on the other hand, have had nothing but bad experiences with furniture assembly. Whatever it is — a bookcase, table or desk — we always end up putting it together backwards, then we take it all apart and start over. It never fails. I once screwed a wrong-sized screw into the bottom of a dining room chair. I just kept screwing and screwing until it was nice and tight, flipped it over to examine my handiwork and, to my horror, saw the pointy end of the screw protruding right through the seat. Thankfully, the man at World Market felt sorry for me. When he was done laughing, he gave me another chair, free of charge.

Maury advised Ryan to open the box downstairs and take the pieces upstairs one-by-one. There were 30 pieces of shelves, track assembly, drawers and a huge bag containing all the hardware. There must have been 400 screws. It was ridiculous. Ryan’s good friend David, also an aspiring engineer, came over to help. Just separating all the components took two hours. And then there were the instructions: What a joke! There was no instructing, just some poorly drawn, faded and confusing illustrations. NO WORDS!

For two days Ryan attempted to put it together. Maury and I could only offer words of encouragement, as we are undisputed bumblers in the furniture assembly world, but Ryan was becoming discouraged. It broke my heart watching him stare at those stupid instructions, trying to make sense of them. And then I got mad!

I called the store, explained the situation and pleaded for a refund. The woman I spoke with was wonderful. She asked me for the item number so she could see what TV stand we had purchased.

“Oh no,” she said sympathetically. “This is one of the worst! The instructions are horrible. They don’t even mention that you are supposed to assemble it upside-down. We’d be happy to give you a full refund.”


We have since purchased another TV stand. It’s coming in one piece, no bag of bolts, no stupid instructions and most importantly, No Assembly Required!