Although Marie Kondo’s method of organization has been around for quite some time, it really reached the masses with her Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” this past year. Its success prompted countless viewers to ditch the clutter and hold onto only what “sparks joy.” And while that may have simplified some lives, it’s also resulted in a surge in donations to thrift stores all across the country. Although many shops are glad for the increased attention, others are starting to wish that the KonMari method never caught on.
Although people are shopping online more than ever, with women’s apparel being the top-selling item on the internet as of 2017, consumers are generally making more conscientious choices now, too. In 2016, sales at used merchandise stores in U.S. hit $17 billion, continuing an upward trend that’s been in place since 2009. People are into sustainability and are more willing to buy items second-hand to save money and to do their part in saving the planet.
So in that sense, thrift shops were already doing well. Winter is typically slow for the second-hand industry. But the same month Marie Kondo’s show premiered, Goodwill donations rose by more than 30% in some parts of the country. Now that there’s an influx of goods coming from people across the nation, you’d think they’d be thrilled. Unfortunately, it’s not all well and good for many of those stores. The problem is that instead of donating new and lightly used items that still retain value, people are flocking to thrift stores to dump their unusable junk on someone else. Second-hand stores are being inundated with donations of dirty and worn-out clothing, broken appliances, ugly knick-knacks, and oddities that the stores could never sell. Volunteers are forced to spend countless hours sorting through the donations, resulting in a backlog for many locations. Some have even asked the public to hold off on making donations so that they can make some headway. The items that cannot be sold may, unfortunately, end up in landfills, which truly helps no one and would take the wind out of anyone’s sales who thought donating the goods would be more sustainable.
As Stephanie Ziersch of Sustainability Victoria in Australia noted to The Wall Street Journal, “All that clutter doesn’t just disappear once you’ve given it a kiss and thanked it for its service.” Ziersch added that the KonMari method would benefit from adding a seventh step to its regime — mottainai, a Japanese term that expresses regret about wasting a resource. As she explained, “it encourages reflection on waste and action when it comes to reducing, reusing, recycling, and respecting.”
Still, there are some stores who are thankful for Kondo’s growing popularity. Shops that have normally struggled during this time of year have been blessed with high-ticket items and in-demand brands that they might not normally see or stock. And because some collectors have come to realize that the decluttering trend could mean great things for their own homes, many have purposefully made trips to go thrifting in the hopes of snagging some rare finds and great deals. But even when the stores are happy with the outcome, they’re often still overwhelmed with donations.
If your home is filled to the brim with belongings and you can’t put any more pieces into storage containers, it’s time to make some changes. Considering that wardrobe boxes fit 24 inches of hanging clothes, that’s nothing to sneeze at. For your state of mind and the state of your home, decluttering can work wonders. But as a rule, you should be thoughtful about the kinds of items you drop off to charitable organizations and second-hand shops. These organizations are not merely convenient places to get rid of your junk; these are businesses that are trying to give new life to items in good condition and to provide affordable prices to the public. In short, don’t donate anything that cannot feasibly be used and enjoyed by someone else. If it’s not going to enrich another person’s life and potentially bring them joy, find another way to reuse, recycle, or dispose of the item in a sustainable way.