I’ll Build it For You
When I moved into my new house last year, there was an interesting phenomenon that I noticed. Every time I’d mention to someone that I bought a new desk or a crib for my upcoming child, I’d get the response: “I’m sure you’re super busy and I’d love to come and build it for you.”
At first, I thought it was just my incredible generous friends and family offering their time to take some of the burden off of my wife and I. And surely it was, at least partially. But no one was chomping at the bit to help us more our furniture, or scrub the bathrooms… overwhelmingly, they simply wanted to build our furniture that we had purchased from Ikea or Wayfair.
I have a theory as to why this is. It’s the same theory that I have about kids and a traditional math class, which is that when you provide the steps to do something, and those steps don’t require learning a new skill, the process is incredibly enjoyable.
Compare building a piece of furniture to designing a website. With website design, unless you’ve been handed a rough sketch, the shape of the thing will shift as you build it. Sure, there’s an immense payoff when you’ve finished the project, but the wondering, the revising… all of it is cognitively taxing.
With furniture building, once you’re done, you have a new desk or bed or shelf. It’s immediately functional and useful. Unless you ran into a missing part or perhaps some directions that were poorly written, the process was fairly straightforward. Meditative even.
With building furniture, you can go into a Zen like state. You’re not reading Facebook statuses or trying to write a term paper. You’ve got an end goal, and the end goal is necessarily satisfying (unless you’re building something you won’t use, in which case, why?)
The near desperation with which people would ask me to build my furniture was striking. It makes me think that everyone is looking for an escape, and a project like furniture building is not something you can just go out and do. It coincides with a friend or family moving, or perhaps your own need to replace something in your house. In some ways, it’s the perfect route to escapism. So it makes sense that people would be practically begging to do it for you.
I figure this is true for them because it’s true for me. Whenever I’m asked, I clutch my escapism close to my chest like a pearl necklace, take a deep breath, and say… no thanks, I got it.