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'Marie Kondo'-Inspired Decluttering Drives 14 Percent More Donations To Kansas City Thrift Stores

Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Keisha Gracius, retail training manager at Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas, stands in front of several gaylords, or bulk boxes, of unprocessed clothes that donors gave to the organization.

Even before the new year, Beth Kapp had been thinking about clearing the clutter in her Kansas City, Missouri, home.

Just the thought of the holidays was making her anxious. The single mom with two daughters knew her family would get presents, which meant even more stuff.

“Then, after the holidays, I was watching on Netflix this show. And it was really interesting to see her process because I knew there were things I needed to do but I really didn’t know where to start,” Kapp says.

The show was “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and it's inspired people like Kapp to send so much stuff to thrift stores and consignment boutiques that the re-sale industry is reporting an uptick in donations.

In Kansas City, donations to the Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas were up 14 percent in January, said Keisha Gracius, a Goodwill retail training manager. Though donations always increase slightly in January thanks to New Year’s resolutions, she says, they’ve never seen this kind of jump. 

Gracius attributes it to the Kondo craze.

“We’re appreciative of any benefit that brings to our stores and to our agency and to the work that we do,” she says.

During each episode of the show, Kondo, a 34-year-old Japanese woman, enters people’s homes and teaches them the “KonMari Method” of organizing.  She encourages people to keep only things that “spark joy,” and go about de-cluttering their homes not by rooms, but according to categories, like clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous and mementos.

Nationally, Goodwill stores have seen an increase in the 10- to 20 percent range in January, which is partially about the Kondo show, says Lauren Lawson, senior director of public relations for Goodwill Industries International. However, she says, the increase could also be attributed to the new tax law because people didn’t need to donate by December 31 as in previous years.

Adele Meyer, executive director of the Association of Resale Professionals, says some of the 1,000 members in her organization, which includes non-profit thrift stores and for-profit consignment stores, are also reporting an increase because of the Kondo show.

But not all of that stuff is a boon to the re-sale industry, Meyer says. Some of the merchandise people want to donate or sell is older and of lower quality, so stores are forced to pay to have it recycled.

“Mostly it’s older because some of them are people that really haven’t cleaned out their closets on a regular basis, or their homes if we’re talking about furniture, so the items are too old to be re-sold,” she says.

Credit Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Beth Kapp and her two daughters, six-year-old Margaret Heap (left) and eight-year-old Rory Heap. Kapp has been using the Marie Kondo method to clear her Kansas City, Mo., home of clutter.

Kapp has been working on Kondo-izing her Waldo home for a couple of months now, calling her list “Great Vacation 2019 Plans!” She took a couple days off work, gave her stuff to several area non-profits and even rearranged most of the rooms in her house.

“I really like my house more,” she says.

She no longer has to move stuff from place to place, she says, because it’s all arranged in drawers. Even her evenings, once frantic with preparing dinner and getting her girls to sports practices, are better.

“I feel more relaxed and more peaceful,” Kapp says, “knowing where things go and being able to find them.”

KCUR's Peggy Lowe is a hub reporter for Marketplace, where a version of this story first appeared, and produces investigative projects with APM Reports. She’s on Twitter @peggyllowe.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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