The Psychology of DIY

I spent most of my 20s working for an electrical contractor on construction sites on the mainland. Building things that would likely outlast me was a satisfying job, and I get a feeling of permanence when I drive through Glasgow seeing the lights on in people’s homes knowing I fitted the fuse boards that power them over 20 years ago. I miss being ‘on the tools’ but I still take pleasure in renovation projects and DIY.

In terms of psychology, DIY is a surprisingly complex subject. Whilst many people unwillingly undertake projects just because it’s cheaper, there are many positive and often subconscious reasons why we’re driven to it. Doing DIY increases mental physical and mental wellbeing, and life satisfaction, but only if you start what you finish (and don’t physically injure yourself in the process).We place far greater value on objects we have made, even if it is just assembling flat-pack furniture. Experiments show a large statistical difference between the monetary value someone places on something that they have built compared to what another person would pay for it.

Constructing elements of our living space gives us a sense of control of our surroundings, and helps us express ourselves by creating a unique environment that we curate through numerous choices and efforts.

Then there’s the feeling of satisfaction on completion. Statistically, women more likely to complete the DIY jobs they start than men.

Research indicates that the type of job you have also influences the reasons for DIY, particularly for men, who often subconsciously use it as a way to assert masculinity in an age where traditional notions of gender roles are less distinct. Men in ‘practical’ jobs tend to take satisfaction from the end result of providing a better living environment for them and their families, but men in management and/or desk-based jobs take satisfaction from the process of  ‘getting their hands dirty’ and feeling, well, more manly.

Perhaps my current management job doesn’t satisfy my more primitive urges and that’s what compels me to haul on my boilersuit and hit things with a hammer.

Published in Shetland Life magazine in November 2019