The ‘Kondo Effect’: Thrift stores see increase in material donations

A Netflix show has people questioning their clutter

Sales associate Angela Stacey stacks donated clothing at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Eureka’s Henderson Center on Tuesday. Behind her are just some of the many bags of donated adult clothing still waiting to be sorted. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard)

Many local thrift stores, resale boutiques, and consignment stores are seeing what could be dubbed the “Kondo Effect.” The retail outlets are seeing an influx of material donations from viewers inspired by Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

The show follows Marie Kondo, a tidying celebrity, as she visits homes to assist people with organizing their belongings, which inevitably involves gently walking them through the process of shedding unnecessary things.

But Kondo has a special way of determining whether or not an item is a keeper. It revolves around a simple question: Does this item spark joy?

It appears that for many items in the county, the answer to that question is no. While influxes of donations are attributed to early spring cleaning by some, many are pointing to the show as the driver behind increased material donations.

Kim Class, the director of the Companion Animal Foundation, said she’s seen a noticeable uptick in the donations this month since the show began airing at the beginning of January.

Class said the end result is a win-win for both people who donate items, and for the thrift store. The thrift stores see an increase in sellable inventory, she said, and the people donating are able to de-clutter their lives.

“They’re giving us their burden and I’m happy to take it,” she said. “I love it because we’ve done really great things with all the money we made from donations (in the past).”

Class said the Companion Animal Foundation has helped spay and neuter over 8,000 cats and is working to raise funds for a mobile veterinary unit. The more donations they receive, she said, the greater chance they have at meeting their financial benchmarks to turn their planned projects into reality.

“I’m grateful to that woman,” she said. “She found a way to really get through to people … she honors the items and thanks them. I think it’s beautiful.”

One change Class has seen in donations is the quality appears to have increased.

“People aren’t donating (items) because they’re not nice, but because they’re not sparking joy,” she said. “The more stuff you have in your home is just more stuff you have to take care of.”

A display shows off some of the items available at the thrift store in Henderson Center. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard)

At Willow and Rags, a clothing store that also does consignment, the show nearly doubled the number of drop-offs, Tressa Thompson, the assistant manager said.

“There has been an insane amount of people dropping off,” she said. “The average drop-offs are about 50-70 (people) per week; it’s been hundreds of people per week.”

One week, she said, they had over 1700 items dropped off, but for now, Thompson said, drop-offs appear to have peaked and are slowing down.

“(Marie Kondo’s) process of organizing and getting rid of things is helpful,” Thompson said. “The way she organizes is nice.”

In Fortuna, the Kondo Effect appears to have less of an influence. Mariel Herbert, the store manager of Miranda’s Rescue Thrift Store, said she has been working there for 12 years and hasn’t noticed much of a change.

“It’s a regular flow of donations as normal,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re rural or what, but I haven’t seen anything out of the normal.”

Joyce Thurman, the owner of Fortuna’s Redwood Thrift, reported that although there has been a slight increase from the average donation flow, she has only heard one person specifically mention the show.

“The woman that’s presenting the program is just very intelligent as far as (understanding) the things we have and the things we need are very different,” she said. “I think it’s awesome.”

At the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop, a resale boutique, store manager Deb Cawvey said January is typically a time when donations increase, but the show has been a common subject.

“A lot of people are talking about that as they’re bringing stuff in,” she said. “But what I’ve noticed is that everybody that has watched it is cleaning out when they might not have.”

This means that to a degree, donations have reduced in size and increased in frequency, she said. Areas of a home that might not have been organized are being re-examined, and even people who are used to having good organizational habits, like her volunteers, are finding new places to sift through.

However, Cawvey said people should be aware there are standards for what is and isn’t acceptable for donation.

“It should be gently used, not torn, with no stains and not broken,” she said.

Dishes that are chipped, clothing with paint splattered on it and broken electronics, unfortunately, make their way into the donation pile, meaning Cawvey is left with the task of disposal. She encourages others to be mindful of an item’s condition before donating it, and added there are many resources available to dispose of broken electronics like televisions and computers.

Cawvey hasn’t watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” yet, but says she has plans to do so.

“I think it’s great — we’re such a materialistic society,” Cawvey said. “It’s good for people to be conscious of what they’re getting, what they’re buying, how purposeful it is and how they’re gonna use it.”

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.


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