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Yesterday, my oldest daughter and I picked up a bookcase she has long admired from IKEA for a birthday gift.

She’s been showing a lot of interest in decorating and rearranging her room over the past few years, something I have encouraged as I see it as practice for feathering and keeping her future home as an adult.

She’s shown herself to be quite creative and frugal — repurposing, restyling, and reusing items or moving them around and mixing things up to create fresh new spaces.

Shes also adopted a “less is more” approach, and has already learned that her room looks better and is easier to keep tidy if there’s less “extra stuff” in it.

She loves to study images of home decor, getting ideas and inspiration for seasonal touches or ways to make her room more cozy, comfortable, and inviting. All in all I think these are all good things to be learning and exploring not to mention practice for the future.  She could certainly be interested in less wholesome teenage pursuits and I am so thankful that she’s not.

But back to the bookcase. It was an adventure for us to go to the store, admire the various showroom displays filled with creative and appealing ideas, find the bookcase, load it onto the cart together, then into and out of the car, pack the big box into the house, and assemble it.

I am not the most handy person but I was the handiest of the two so my daughter looked to me to lead the way. We read through the instructions and got down to it. I gathered the tools and we went to work, step-by-step. Luckily there were no major snafus and after an hour or so of good mother-daughter bonding the bookcase was built.

As we were nearly done it occurred to me that we had just experienced the IKEA illusion — that with few skills or tools two rather not-handy people could successfully build something themselves!

I seized the teachable moment and we had a really interesting discussion about this illusion and how often in modern life we forget that for most of the history of humankind things did not come pre-cut, pre-drilled, pre-painted in a box with instructions.

We assembled the bookcase, but we did not make it. Without those who designed, engineered, planned, sourced the materials, cut, painted, drilled, packaged, and sold the bookcase, we would not have had that moment. Because of them, we could.

It was an interesting thing to reflect on and I could tell she understood. We may have successfully put it together but that’s does not mean we “built” that bookcase or that we now have all the knowledge and skill to build bookcases independently on our own in the future. It’s only an illusion that we, “did it ourselves.”

In any case, it looks great and she’s happily reorganizing, decorating, and dreaming of ways to make her little nest more cozy. It was a fun experience and an unexpected red pill moment!

What do you think? Please share in the comments.

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