Some Assembly Required

If you’ve ever grown your own veggies, you’ve probably noticed they taste better. Some of that is because they do of course, but I suspect it’s also partly to do with the effort put into tending to them.

A similar effect has been noted with regard to flat pack furniture and other DIY construction; even of simple items.

Coined the “IKEA effect”, researchers have found people place a higher dollar value on something they have “built” themselves compared with the very same product assembled by someone else, even if their own attempt is greatly inferior.

You can read more about the IKEA effect here.

I’m not about to claim IKEA is saving the world – the company has its issues – but the flat pack concept itself is great, if somewhat frustrating at times. Aside from saving on space used to freight the products, which helps reduce transport related emissions; it connects us more to things and makes us think.

I’m a fairly intelligent sort of bloke in the areas of verbal and non-verbal reasoning; but when it comes to spatial reasoning; I’m average. In some ways, it’s been like getting through life with one leg shorter than the other.

It means putting together something like a flat pack object can be a little challenging. The mistakes I make are quite basic, really “duh” sort of things. It was truly an achievement for me to assemble a steel cupboard recently – and yes, I do tend to value these things more.

And this is where where environmental issues come into play.

Half the problem of humanity when it comes to the environment is we are not connected to what we consume. We might understand its cost – say $x a pound for bacon – but not fully appreciate its value; e.g. the resources that went into getting that bacon onto the plate and the sacrifice of an animal that may have been raised in less than ideal conditions.

Because their appears to be little effort in acquiring things (we forget the toil to make the money to buy stuff) and a lack of knowledge of its origins or construction, we’re prone to consuming more, repairing and maintaining less and throwing things away.

“Some assembly required” not only attaches our toil value to that object, but also gives us an opportunity to appreciate more how objects are made. I think it also helps to build confidence in doing more for ourselves.