Kitchener-Waterloo

​Thrift stores see big boost in donations amid Marie Kondo tidying trend

Donations are up at local thrift and consignment stores amid the international popularity of the Marie Kondo tidying trend.
Organisation expert Marie Kondo introduces her new line of storage boxes during a media event in New York on July 11, 2018. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

Donations are up at local thrift and consignment stores amid the international popularity of the Marie Kondo tidying trend.

On Jan. 1, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — a special featuring the Japenese organizational guru — went live on Netflix, and though Kondo's books have sold millions of copies, it seems decluttering has reached a fever pitch. 

Now, many local thrift and consignment stores are overwhelmed with donations and stock.

"Our volume is up 80 per cent compared to last year," said Paula Wilkie, who owns Carousel Consignment in Kitchener.

"They say: 'We just want it out of the house, we want it out of our sight.'"

Every year, Wilkie has a week-long February sale to clear out stock and make room for spring items. This year, it will be at least two-and-a-half weeks long this year.

"It's a little bit crazy," she said.

Wilkie's not alone.

"It has not slowed down — and that's across the province," said Lynda Lynch, who manages the Mennonite Central Committee's seven Ontario thrift stores.

She said it's hard for her to say exactly how much donations have increased but that this month has been "so steady, and across the board it feels like there are more donations coming in."

Shannon Thiessen, who owns The Children's Marketplace in Waterloo and New Hamburg, says she's seen a clear increase in the number of emails and calls about the types of items they accept.

She says her concern is the urge to purge has people focussing too much on getting unwanted items out the door and that means they're not thinking about what happens afterward.

"They have to realize: where is it going?" said Thiessen. "Our thing [at The Children's Marketplace is] we're just trying to keep things out of the landfill. So are you taking it to the dump or are you taking it to your local [charity] agency?"

Relationship stress underestimated

De-cluttering may also have unintended consequences for couples and their families, especially if one person has bought into the trend more than others — that's according to Leah Valian, a couples counsellor and sex therapist based in Kitchener.

"It's underestimated the amount of stress that gets put on a relationship when we've got one person — what I would call — over-investing and the other underinvesting in whatever the project is or the work that is needed."

"If you were a roommate, it would be so obvious that one person is putting in such a bigger effort than the other, and we probably would have no problem calling the person on it because it would seem unfair," said Valian, adding romantic relationships tend to add another, complicated layer.

It can cause resentment and people avoid talking about it, she said.

She recommends the over-invested person try pulling back.

"It's quite common that the other person isn't aware of the list that's being compiled and achieved and done by that one person," said Valian. "It is sensitive, whenever we have to ask someone to do something that we feel they should be doing ... Timing can be everything. Timing and tone."

And, she says, anything is better than silently holding on to those expectations, hoping for change without saying anything. 

"If they discover it [on their own] they might just start pitching in more, but a gentle conversation might be a good way to make that happen," said Valian. 

Carousel Consignment in Kitchener said they've seen donations increase 80 per cent this January year over last. (Summerside Salvation Army Thrift Store/Facebook)

About the Author

Jackie Sharkey

Associate Producer, CBC KW

Jackie Sharkey has worked all over the country with the CBC over the past decade, including Kelowna, Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, NU. She frequently reports on the arts and is particularly interested in stories where consumer and environmental issues intersect.

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