Thrift stores cash in on Marie Kondo's decluttering craze

As organization guru Marie Kondo's method for tidying up gains popularity worldwide, local thrift stores say they're reaping the benefits.

Donations have tripled from the same time last year at some local thrift stores

Mission Thrift Store assistant manager Carol Hine stands next to 'bag mountain' — the pile of donations that have flooded in since Marie Kondo's show Tidying Up hit Netflix. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

As organization guru Marie Kondo's method for tidying up gains popularity worldwide, local thrift stores say they're reaping the benefits. 

Kondo's KonMari method for cleaning house first caught on overseas in Asia and Europe in 2011, when Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up sold millions of copies, and again when the book was re-published in North America in 2014.

Since then, Kondo has posted numerous YouTube videos on the topic, offering viewers tips and tricks for decluttering and organizing your home — and ultimately your life.

Now, the KonMari method has shot into the spotlight once again with the release of her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

'I'm tidying up. Take these'

As the KonMari method makes its way into Calgary homes, Calgary thrift stores told The Calgary Eyeopener on Monday that they're seeing a big boost in second-hand goods coming through their doors.

Laura Laanstra, manager of Mission Thrift Store, said her store has seen their inventory triple compared to this time last year.

"I had a gentleman come just a week ago, and he had like 35 high-end, $150 dress shirts, and he said 'I'm Kondo-ing. I'm tidying up. Take these,' and we are so thankful. It's great," she said. 

Zoe Budinski, owner of Zoe's Store in the city's southwest, said her store is experiencing a similar boom. 

"Same story with my store," she said.

"I had a lady last week. She tidied up the kitchen [and] brought 24 jars — big jars. She said, 'I need only four for Marie.'"

Laanstra said bags of the things that fail to "spark joy" — what Kondo says all of one's belongings should do — have been piling up over the last month.

Bag mountain

"We have a joke in the store we call a bag mountain. You know, when the donations come in, the bags are piled up. And in January and February, typically [they're] not," she said.

Author and organizing guru Marie Kondo has millions of followers around the world has inspired many to pare down. (KonMariMethod/Facebook)

"We can sometimes see the floor in our store. But now? No. That bag mountain is real."

Laanstra said as they open bags, the treasure hunting begins. 

"Our store has over 90 volunteers, and that's what they do — they sort through these bags," she said.

And what might not be a treasure at Mission Thrift Store is recycled.

Thrill of the hunt

Budinski said she's not worried that the newfound trend in decluttering will lead to fewer people shopping at thrift stores either, because she's got a specific clientele. 

"Not everybody shops at thrift stores," she said. "And it's always the hunt that people like. It's not until they see that blouse, or that pair of shoes or grandma's cup of tea."

Laanstra said she sees the same in her customers. 

"That's what thrifters want — the thrill of the hunt," she said.

Laanstra said she had a customer tell her that she looked forward to tidying up the Marie Kondo way because it meant she could come shopping for things that did "spark joy" for her.

"That's a total twist on that. She wants to come back and buy things that she does love, so I don't think the shopping will stop."

Thrifter buying into KonMari method

Budinski said she's personally bought into the KonMari method.

"It's going great," she said.

And, as per Kondo's instructions, Budinski did it by category, not location, beginning with her clothes.

"You kind of get sentimental with the things and keep it for a certain time. I'm like, 'Oh I like it. Maybe next summer or the summer after I will wear it. But eventually, you don't. And you just set your mind and do it. And it works."

Laanstra agrees. 

"It totally does. I started doing it too. My assistant manager, she showed me a picture of her kitchen pantry. She had totally Kondo'd it, like it was amazing," she said. "My son texted me and said, 'Mom, I totally started doing this with all my clothes. My clothes are all folded this way,' so it's all good."

And as she tidies up her own home, Laanstra said she brings her rejects into the store. 

"Every time I do this, I bring it into the store and resell it," she said. 

As for putting the KonMari method to work in their thrift stores, the women say they already have strict rules about how long an item can stay without selling.

"We're forced to do this all the time," said Laanstra. 


With files from The Calgary Eyeopener

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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