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The IKEA Effect

I have a complicated relationship with IKEA.

I love how affordable their products are and they’re maddening to assemble. I’m fairly handy and not particularly prone to anger, but I have more than once yelled at the instruction manual for being unnecessarily convoluted. If you’ve ever purchased an IKEA product, you can probably relate.

Psychological research has actually demonstrated a cognitive bias that has been coined “The IKEA Effect” based on this complex relationship consumers have with IKEA products.

According to a Harvard-based study, the IKEA effect basically says that we tend to place a higher value on that which we create (be it assembling a piece of IKEA furniture, folding origami, or completing a Lego set – all examples of which were studied in this research).

This makes sense to me.

I feel a sense of ownership when I create or make or even just assemble something.

The problem, though, is that I so often feel ownership over things I need to let go. I think that because I gave it time or attention or energy I need to care about and invest in it forever.

The truth is that I’ve spent a lot of time on things that ran their course and needed to be handed over to another. I’m no longer the right person to “own” it. It was the right investment for a season but it’s not the right investment now.

I’ve also spent a lot of time on things that were never worth my time, attention, or energy, and just needed to die.

Here’s the point.

Just because you labored on something doesn’t mean it’s worth loving.

It might be.

But it might not be.

Don’t succumb to the IKEA effect. Don’t convince yourself that a relatively cheap piece of furniture is more value because you dedicated a disproportionate amount of time to assembling it.

Don’t hold onto something just because you’ve given it your time, attention, and energy. It may be time to let go.

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