In Chuck Palahniuk’s cult classic, Fight Club, the narrator observes, “The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue.” Experts estimate that a billion people turned the pages of IKEA’s 2013 catalogue—the consummate pornography of domestic order. In a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research,Delphine Dion (Sorbonne Business School), Ouidade Sabri (Paris-Est University), and Valerie Guillard (University of Paris Dauphine) set out to understand why we’re so finicky about our personal space.
IKEA (or The Container Store or Real Simple) may have elevated organization to an art form. But modern fantasies of tidiness reach back into the nineteenth century, and the idea that messiness presents some kind of danger. A neat home yielded social recognition—and a messy home, disapprobation.