building furniture graphic

How not to fight with your partner while assembling furniture

By Liz Keuler

June 2019

Assembling flat-pack furniture seems like it’s specifically designed to ruin relationships – but with some planning and self-discipline, you can beat the odds.

If you just dropped most of your savings on the down payment for a house, you may not have much extra cash to spend on fancy, solid furniture that experts assemble and deliver. (Of course, you could always make a smaller down payment and reserve some of those savings for furnishings!)

These tips have been honed over years of bookshelves, office chairs, futons, a fancy light fixture, an outdoor fire pit, the contents of an entire craft room and one particularly wretched kitchen cabinet – all assembled with the same dude. (Reader, I married him – and this was AFTER we assembled all that stupid furniture.)

Make sure you actually have enough time to put together furniture

It’s tempting to get started on your new bookshelf as soon as the package arrives or you get home from the store, but stop and think: Do you have enough time right now to complete this task? If you have to abandon a half-built bookshelf to be on time for your dinner reservations, then get back to it at 9 pm on a full stomach, it’s going to be tough to refrain from sniping at each other. (Also, it’s twice as likely you’ll lose a critical part or put the shelves in wrong.)

Know your strengths

Are you the brains or the brawn? Frustration will quickly set in if both of you are trying to read directions and partially tighten screws (but only partially!) at the same time. In your heart of hearts you know which one of you is better at interpreting instructions: That person should be in charge.

Set up your mise en place

That’s a fancy French cooking phrase for organizing and setting up your ingredients in advance. Actually read the furniture assembly instructions all the way through before you touch anything. Unwrap all the parts and identify them. Retrieve any tools you might need. Clear out the packaging so you aren’t always losing screws under all the styrofoam floating around.

Give each other positive reinforcement (even when you don’t deserve it)

Remember, your enemy in this situation is the bookshelf itself. You and your partner are a team, so don’t let the bookshelf divide and conquer you.

Whenever you want to say something salty to your partner, instead say, “You’re doing a great job!” or even, “I love you.” Even if your partner just dropped his end of whatever needs to be tightened (but only partially!) for the fifth time.

Reward yourself

Decide in advance what kind of treat or adult beverage awaits you when you finally put the Allen wrench down for the last time. Every time your energy flags or your rage rises, think about donuts (or beer, or sweet potato fries…) Trust me, it helps.

Tyler Adams

My wife is better at reading instruction than I am, so I let her guide me and I build the furniture and she helps build also whenever it is necessary.

Mohammad Alizai

I read all the above notes, it is significant to keep it in mind

Yousef Al Hamwi

thank you so much for this great training.

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Liz Keuler is the editor of Readynest. She spent a decade meandering through radio, nonprofits and the corporate world before convincing MGIC to hire her based on her staunch grammatical convictions. She lives in a charming 100-year-old bungalow on Milwaukee’s East Side. Her interests include old Ernst Lubitsch films, new action movies, 60s girl pop, Regency romance novels, word games, sewing and shallots.
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