It’s a polarizing topic, and I have stood on both sides of the aisle. Whenever the dreaded word is brought up, people always feel strongly: pro or con. There’s rarely — if ever — any middle ground to be found. I have seen my friends and nemeses scream, wail, cajole and whimper. Though it is an important election year, this is not a political issue. In fact, it might be the most apolitical issue of all. When forced to nest, to decorate your dorm or your newly acquired and much-loved off-campus apartment, will you go? Will you submit to the torture and the ecstasy of IKEA?

Freshman year, I hated it. I cried somewhere between home office supplies and bathroom accessories. My parents, loving humans that they are, joined me and my new roommates for the experience. The six of us could not decide on a couch. The question, of “Blerg or Björken?” defeated us. So for most of the year, our common room remained depressingly unfurnished … if only I had known the joys IKEA furniture could bring!

Sophomore year, luckily, my new new roommates’ furniture rendered an IKEA run unnecessary. But junior year, sans parental units, my new new new roommate and I got ourselves to IKEA. The stresses of getting ourselves to IKEA and making purchases eliminated any possibility of enjoyment. But we did cover those horrendous Swing Space linoleum floors with straw mats. Behold! Gone were the linoleum floors, no longer did I feel like my room was a place where I was just waiting to be interred in the Grove Street Cemetery. For the first time: IKEA had changed my life.

But now to the wonders of senior year: off-campus housing, replete with wooden floors and not a single right angle. I moved in and my roommates 4.0 (boyz!) had already set up the sound system in the living room and had purchased kitchen supplies from a graduating friend. All I had to do was make my room a haven within greater New Haven, a zone of zen.

So I set out arranging the furniture I bought off a friend (one piece from IKEA and one not). My first stop was not IKEA — and this is something I recommend to all home decorators — but the English Market. Some rare, choice pieces can individuate your living spaces. I mean, people don’t come from cookie cutters; we are not all the same, and so when I see replicas of IKEA rooms I want to barf. But the rest of my crap is IKEA crap, and boy does it look fly!

At first I dreaded that trip to IKEA. I figured, one trip, one hour, done. But that is how most of us approach the blue and yellow behemoth, and it is the wrong approach. This year, I discovered that the key to a successful and fun (!) IKEA trip is to maintain the one-hour limit, but throw out the one-trip plan. The first trips, yes, you will stay on that blue arrowed-path. But once you get comfortable enough you can veer and even trot through the different areas. Stick it to the man! Disobey that path and find the shit you want in your life. Of course, I couldn’t have ever gotten here without the free coffee IKEA gives out before opening (10 a.m. / 7 days a week).

So helpful, so close to Yale, and so many aesthetic options. What better happy place could a girl find?

P.S. A note of advice: People complain about putting the furniture together. And I understand that completely. But I like working with my hands, making stuff. Yes, the non-language diagrams can confuse. If this really is too hard for you, the IKEA speaker system reminds all shoppers: for a small fee, an employee will deliver and assemble all of your furniture. How kind of them.