This story has been updated.
Americans woke up on New Year’s Day, bloated in body and soul, and stumbled out of bed to survey their overstuffed post-holiday homes.
It’s no accident that was the day Netflix chose to release “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” an eight-part series hosted by the Japanese-born decluttering diva and space healer.
Although resolving to clean up stuff is a typical New Year’s resolution, there is rarely something as motivating to kick-start the process as a reality makeover show that’s not about weird hoarders. Binge-watching a cheery woman in a flippy skirt who drives up to people’s ranch houses or apartments in a black van and patiently shows them how to deal with their baseball cards or sneaker collections is inspiring. (Reminder: The KonMari Method, as it is called, asks you to hold each possession and ask yourself whether it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and let it go.)
The show seems to have started a national conversation about overbuying and over-stashing. Many Americans opened junk drawers and toy chests while watching the show and started dumping. Shoe boxes were repurposed as drawer organizers, and T-shirts were folded in the crisp KonMari style.
Millennials texted friends photos of their newly neat sock drawers and makeup trays, and posted them on Instagram. Furloughed government workers spent their time off sifting through closets and lugging shopping bags of clothes to consignment shops. Auction houses got calls from consumers desperate to get unwanted furniture out of their living rooms; consignment shops filled up appointment slots weeks into the future.
Kondo, 34, started out as an organizing consultant while a university student in Tokyo. Her 2011 book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (published in the United States in 2014) put her on the clutter-busting map. Today, more than 11 million copies of her three books have been sold worldwide. Her Instagram account, @mariekondo, had 710,711 followers as of Dec. 31, 2018; by Tuesday it had swelled to 1.4 million.
Although Netflix won’t share any viewership data, the show clearly has hit a nerve.
Donations at D.C.-area Goodwill centers were up 66 percent over last year for the first week of January, according to Brendan Hurley, spokesman for Goodwill of Greater Washington. At the Gaithersburg location, donations were up a whopping 372 percent. A colleague recently tweeted a photo of 20 cars in the donation line at the Goodwill on South Dakota Avenue NE in Washington.
Hurley points out there is no way of knowing how much of that is due to the Kondo effect. People donate at this time of year for various reasons, including wanting to rid themselves of unwanted Christmas presents or having vacation time to tackle larger projects.
The Current Boutique consignment chain noticed a major uptick in its four Washington-area locations. The last week of 2018, the Logan Circle location filled six large industrial mesh bags of consigned clothes and accessories; the first week of January, workers filled 16. “I think it’s a combination of the show and the government shutdown,” says Andrea Beaty, manager of the Logan Circle location.
Current Boutique owner Carmen Lopez says mail-in consignments have increased 25 percent since the show aired. “The show has definitely inspired some serious purging,” Lopez says.
Potomack Co. auction house in Alexandria is busier than usual. “It makes perfect sense, as people are Kondo-ING their possessions since they have time to spare during the shutdown, as well as to bring in a little income,” spokeswoman Kira Greene said in an email.
Pixie Windsor, owner of Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot on 14th Street NW, said the store has been getting lots of calls from would-be organizers: “Anything with cubby holes is selling, and people are looking for bookshelves, shoe racks and organizational pieces and things to hold bottles of wine. We just sold a seven-foot-tall unit for sorting papers in an elementary school office that has been here forever,” Windsor says.
Maddy Renalds, who works in tech sales in San Francisco, posted on Facebook that she and her “Besties” friend group of 20-somethings spent last weekend on a decluttering frenzy. “Our message thread is replete with pictures of our newly folded clothes & requests for tiny boxes,” Renalds wrote. She said a scientist in the group ran out of boxes, so she repurposed pipette boxes from her lab.
“I am thinking now that @MarieKondo is now on Netflix there is going to be some awesome thrift shopping in the coming weeks. #TidyingUp,” tweeted Washington radio personality Kelly Collis, who pens the blog City Shop Girl. She has used the KonMari method in several rooms of her house. “I’m obsessed with it,” she says. “I have two kids, so the clutter never ends. My drawers don’t look like hers, but it’s an inspiration — and reducing clutter makes me not want to spend as much.”
Bethesda professional organizer Katherine DiGiovanni, founder of Refine Home Concepts, says Kondo has also motivated people to call in professionals. “Her book and now the show have helped to elevate the importance of organization and the idea that your clutter is affecting your mental health and general well-being,” she says. She thinks the drastic category-by-category comprehensive clean-out Kondo recommends might not be realistic for all but that the “folding of clothing like file folders” is a real space saver if you can handle it.
Kondo’s office issued a statement from her about the response to the Netflix show. “The fact that people have reacted with such speed is beyond anything I could have imagined and my wildest expectations! . . . It’s my sincere hope that the items at the donation centers will find new owners for whom they will truly spark joy.”
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