• Per Obiora

The IKEA Effect And Why We Should Buy Second-Hand Furniture

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Most can relate to the feeling of accomplishment when you finally finish the process of assembling that Ikea bookshelf. While it is tempting to think that the necessity of using labor, money, and time may lessen the value of the Ikea bookshelf, psychologists found that quite the opposite is true.

In fact, we tend to place greater value on the things we work on to partially create. From the small-scale of building a lego house to furnishing your entire home with self-assembled Ikea furniture, this phenomenon seems to be true across the board.

The “Ikea effect,” as this phenomenon has been coined, has helped Ikea achieve its tremendous success, now having over 433 stores in more than 53 countries and $45.5 billion in yearly sales. “Ikea” really became the name that most often comes to mind when we think of furniture: it’s convenient, and cheap – so cheap, that it’s sometimes easy to overlook the true cost...

Fast-Furniture and MDF

Over the last decade or so, there has been a significant increase in consumer furniture manufactured with something called MDF. The average person is probably not familiar with the term, so you may be asking “what is MDF?”. It’s an acronym for Medium Density Fiberboard.

Technically, MDF is a mixture of wood solids, wax, and resins bonded together at a high temperature and under high pressure to create a solid wood-like structure that is cheaper than real wood. In other words, MDF is sawdust held together by glue.

Unfortunately, fast-furniture that uses MDF only has a lifespan of 1/4th to 1/10th of a piece that is made of solid wood. To be fair, it’s also about the same fraction of the cost of solid wood.

Swedish furniture juggernaut Ikea has certainly become the poster child when it comes to fast furniture in particular. Over 1 percent of all commercially available wood in the world is used by Ikea to manufacture furniture, packaging, and printed materials.

The simple fact that most of their fast furniture is made of MDF and produced cheaply means that it has very little re-cycling and up-cycling potential. And the subtext of that is that the pieces are already destined for the landfill before they are even produced.

Since we don’t buy furniture every day, it is easy to overlook the problem that cheap furniture creates, but unfortunately, furniture is still the least-recycled household item and represents the second-largest portion of all urban waste. And exactly how much waste is that? On average 110 million pieces of furniture are thrown away in the U.S. every year alone which is about 210 pieces every single minute.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of MDF is manufactured using formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Cutting, sanding, or in any other way releasing particles of it in the air poses a health risk and should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, when furniture isn’t adequately coated, it can release formaldehyde for years –leaking it into the air of our homes and offices.

So what can we do if we don’t want to spend a fortune on furniture, but also don’t want to sit on furniture that fills our air with toxic chemicals?

Second-Hand and Pre-Loved Furniture

Imagine your favorite restaurant slowly starting to change the core of their food with a wood-like filler, while still bragging about the “real” ingredients of their food, which is true; they just use a tiny thin layer of it on the visible part of your meal.

With more and more furniture manufacturers–even the high-end ones– replacing the core of their products with MDF, people are becoming increasingly fond of the value second-hand and pre-loved items can bring to their homes.

Fortunately, the lure of convenient fast furniture still doesn’t override the pure joy of finding unique pre-owned pieces. Each pre-loved piece has a unique story to tell, and by opening our doors to them, we have the opportunity to continue its story, rewrite it, and listen to the pieces telling it.

Buying second-hand furniture is also an increasingly modern thing to do, especially in urban areas. Most people in cities don’t live in huge houses, so it is vital that the few pieces we own actually mean something.

But buying second-hand is not as easy, just yet. It’s a tiring process to scroll through hundreds of listings on marketplaces such as Craigslist, sending messages to dozens and only receiving answers by a few.

When you finally get that answer for the affordable and chick couch you found, you still need a truck, helping hands, time and patience. A lot of it. Because oftentimes, upon arrival, that flowery couch from the 80s turns out to be in faulty condition - and the seller is not willing to negotiate the price. If only now, it was easier… we could prevent more furniture from ending up in the landfill, have more quality pieces in our homes, and less MDF around that potentially harms our health.

Kashew: A Second-Hand Furniture Marketplace

Luckily there is Kashew. At Kashew our ultimate goal is to make better choices easier. We believe that It shouldn’t be so hard to get your hands on affordable pre-loved furniture, furniture that isn’t made of a material that breaks in an instant, and furniture that doesn’t harm our health.

Not only do we facilitate the buying and selling of second-hand furniture through our delivery and pick-up partners, but we also provide a medium for secure transactions, quality assurance, and best of all, a medium for a lasting positive environmental impact.

We all know that furniture needs trees, at Kashew we believe that furniture also has the power to plant them. This is why we pledge 20% of our profits to reforestation projects around the globe through our partners at OneTreePlanted.

Head back to the Ikea effect, we now all know that we value the things more, that we help partially create. To become a part of building a more sustainable future, sign up to our waitlist and be the first to know when Kashew is live.

Live sustainably, buy second hand 🌱


Brightly: You’ve Heard of Fast Fashion – What About Fast Furniture?, Brightly Editor

CNBC: Meatballs and DIY-Bookcases: The Psychology Behind Ikea's Iconic Success, Catharine Clifford

Domino: Heads-Up: The Furniture You Tossed to the Curb Might Just Become a Work of Art, Brittany Natale

EPA: Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste, and Recycling, EPA editor

Forbes: How Ikea Designs It's Brand Success, Denise Lee Yohn

Psychology Today: The Ikea Effect, Lily Bernheimer

The Telegraph: Why You Should Buy Second-Hand Furniture, Gina Swann

Woodguide: MDF, Woodguide editor

 For every ten sign ups Kashew pledges to plant one tree!

Let's make a positive change together. 

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