Plain Living, future tense

Nicholas and I got rid of furniture about a year ago. We were moving around a lot, living in furnished situations, so there wasn’t much use in hauling about our beat-up stuff. And while we are in another furnished living environment, I’ve been thinking about what we will do when we move to our own house.

And I’m too old to sleep on the floor anymore.

I will scrounge most furniture – desks, tables, lamps, dressers. I can refinish wood and make it look almost new. I prefer older things of real wood, good simple lines and some presence in a room. However, my dust mite and mold allergies are so bad that I cannot risk used upholstered furniture, rugs and certainly not second-hand mattresses.

Although the furniture where we are living is exceptionally clean for its years of use, and the mattress we have on our bed is perfect, this is not always the case. I’ve spent miserable weeks, unable to sleep, because of breathing difficulties, headaches and even muscle spasms because of dust mite contamination in mattresses. Rugs and curtains are big culprits. Vacuuming and a spray with dilute hydrogen peroxide helps for a little while, but once those dust mites get into the textile, it’s near impossible to get them out.

So I am contemplating how much money we will have to save to buy furniture, and where we will get it.

So much modern furniture is made of plastic and PVC. I have a certain level of chemical sensitivities as well, and the all-natural stuff is so expensive! I think the mattress may have to fall into the natural category, but the living room furniture would cost as much as a new car if we went that route.

And there`s the issue of sustainability. How was it madeÉ What kind of materials were used in manufacturingÉ Was the wood sustainably harvestedÉ

I`ve looked at Ikea furniture online, and I like it. It has the plain style that is suitable for our life, and it is priced right. But my sister, who lived in Europe for years, calls Ikea `the Swedish Walmart.“ Are their manufacturing and shipping practices as ecologically sound as they implyÉ

What are others doing about thisÉ I don`t want to make a big decision like this without adequate information.

7 thoughts on “Plain Living, future tense

  1. Magdelaina,

    I can’t speak for Canada, but in Australia, from personal experience, the vast majority of Ikea furniature is, or at least until recently, was, manufactured using particleboard rather than timber. even if trees used in particle board manufacture were somehow ‘forestry Stewardship Approved’ I’d still have huge reservations. Additionally, I can’t vouch for the non-synthetic makeup of their soft furnishings, trims, accessories etc. Furthermore, its all flatpack for the mostpart, so, you can look forward to a nice afternoon spent trying to follow incomprehensible instructions, glowering at the provided alan key and wondering what on earth possessed you to consider prefab in the first place!! :-0

    I understand completely re properly constructed, non-synthetic furnature made from proper timber and cloth, produced locally, from local materials, keeping the cabinet maker;s/carpenter’s craft alive and well.; it costs – a lot. ( tragic, in my thinking, because its the particle-board plastic culture that’s wrecking God’s creation, our planet, as much as any CO2 emitions, if not more!! (but that’s another outcry against the collective tragedy for another time)… If you have a Canadian consumers’ advocacy group simmilar to Choice Australia, such an organisation would be the best place to start when trying to verify the validity of Ikea’s claims. for old-time properly constructed simple yet good furnishings, (though it sounds goolish) estate sales are brilliant!! I’ve scored beautiful desks and as new soft furnishings/linens never used through such in the past… its worth considering.

    I’d rather spend my $$$ on a handful of pieces that will see me through rather than a whole house-full of synthetic/chipboard prefab that is unsustainable every time.

    I’ll pray that something comes up for you. Sorry if it sounds like I’m raining on your parade…



    • Ikea’s online catalog does tell you what is in the furniture, but not where it is made or where the wood came from. I’m assuming anything made of pine or birch was made of wood harvested in Scandinavia or North America, but who assembled it? I want furniture that will last, because I don’t want to replace it. Estate sales are a good source, if we are shopping here in Ontario; they are sometimes kind of pathetic in New Brunswick, where people have been too poor to own anything worth keeping for generations.

      • I love IKEA furniture. My kitchen table is very ingenious, the leaf folds into the middle of the table -no need to store it anywhere. I like there one big wardrobe (for Ella) but it’s a little out of my price range. My girlfriend’s husband’s ‘bachelor pad’ was nearly completely from IKEA. He was satisfied. As to assembly, my Mom and I put together our stuff, so it’s not that hard 🙂

  2. What about re-upholstering? Find a piece with lines you like and take to a shop to have it recovered and stuffed again. Have you tried vynal bedsacks that cover the entire mattress (not just the top) then zip shut? We got one to cover a used mattress for my daughter and have not had any problems. Or perhaps wood or wicker lawn furniture with cushions. That wouldn’t help sleeping quarters but can be great for living rooms.

    • I’ve tried the mattress cover, and the zipper broke in short order, which rendered it useless. Maybe they are better quality now. But then there is the vinyl offgassing problem; if they are hypoallergenic, that would be a good solution. We have a practically new mattress right now here at Kay’s rectory, so I am sleeping better than I have in years. Her good household management has helped in keeping me well so I can take care of Nicholas. Carpets are clean and regularly vacuumed; furniture has been covered or cleaned. Keeping up with basic household tasks really does make a difference in overall health. I’ve probably got a whole blog post in that. There is a theology of housekeeping!

  3. magdelaina,

    I understand completely your concerns regarding who has actually produced the Ikea furniature…the ‘who’ and ‘how’ aspects are as important as the ‘what’. In the part of Sydney I now live in, I think the general socio-ecconomic situation would yield simmilar results at estate sales as you’ve encountered in your part of the world; keep on looking though, because sometimes, good furniture will surely come up; the proverbial diamond in the rockpile…

    I’ll uphold you regarding this.



    • In the past we have found good furniture in the dump bins at the university at the end of semester. Oak tables, chairs, bookcases – too scratched, burned or dented to keep in the dorms, apparently, but our standards are lower than college students. (Which is hard to believe, isn’t it? The furniture had been dumped by the dorm manager, thogh, not the students.) We have on-line classifieds in this area. Kay bought a toddler bed for Patience that way. Since we will be here a while longer, it’s not critical. But if something useful for the future comes my way, we will find housing for it now!

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