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Ikea offers $100,000 sabbatical

Furniture firm's Life Improvement Project encompasses furniture and community service.

By Teresa Mears Sep 14, 2010 2:32PM

Do you feel as if your life could use some improvement? We all certainly see a need for improvement in the lives around us.


Ikea thinks it can help.

The Swedish furniture retailer has just unveiled a new advertising campaign that includes The Life Improvement Project. The store also is adopting a new slogan, "The Life Improvement Store."


We didn't know you could buy life improvement at a store, but we're willing to go window shopping. Post continues after video.

Ikea wants you to believe you can improve your life by buying some of its furniture. Frankly, better home organization can improve most people's lives, and Ikea certainly sells attractive furniture for that purpose. We will note that you can achieve the same level of life improvement with secondhand furniture (Ikea or otherwise), and you might be able to eliminate the need for more shelves and cabinets by clearing out the clutter.


Ikea also wants you to improve the lives of others. The company is offering a $100,000 Life Improvement Sabbatical to the person who comes up with the best plan. To enter, you need to write an essay outlining your project, including a budget, by Nov. 8. A panel of judges will choose five finalists, and the public will pick the winner.

The contest definitely provides food for thought: If someone gave you $100,000 to improve the world, what would you do?


Perhaps you'd do something radical, like sell your house and give the profits to charity. Maybe you'd start a soup kitchen or a tutoring program for inner-city youth. We don't believe traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia to find gelato and love would qualify, but you could argue that an inspirational book improves lives.

"Volunteering at a homeless shelter, a recycling effort in the community, those are the types of projects that we're looking for," Christine Scoma Whitehawk of Ikea told The New York Times. "The contest would help people who have the vision themselves but can't afford to do it."


The company also is providing five grants of $10,000 each for projects suggested by its employees.


You can see some examples of "everyday people changing the world" at CNN's Heroes project.


If you'd like to start with improving your home environment, Ikea also is providing free inspiration: a series of seminars at its stores nationwide, in conjunction with major magazines. So far, only three are listed: Oct. 9 in Portland, Ore.; Oct. 9 in Stoughton, Mass., and Oct. 16 in Elizabeth, N.J.


Check the website of your local Ikea store for other activities. Mine sometimes offers salsa lessons, and we mean dancing, not cooking.


If you don't win the Ikea contest, you can still make a radical life change. Nora Dunn of Wise Bread offers a 20-minute exercise she says can change your life. It worked for her. She writes:

The point of this exercise is not to create a giant and outlandish "to-do" list that never gets ticked off. Instead, it is simply to open up your mind to the idea that anything is possible, and to give you ideas that will help you to become unstuck in life.

If you're looking for less radical change, Bradley J. Moore at Shrinking the Camel shares how one hour a day over three years can change your life.


Start dreaming. How would you improve the world with $100,000? How could you improve your life, either with a few new pieces of furniture, a sabbatical or another kind of change?


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