Local thrift shops and booksellers have had a spike in donations since the new year, and it seems Netflix may be to blame.
“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” premiered on Netflix in early January, and the eight-episode season immediately garnered quite a bit of buzz. The show follows Kondo, a Japanese de-cluttering expert, as she aims to help people simplify their lives. Kondo published the New York Times best-selling “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” in which she introduced her trademarked KonMari method that challenges people to ask the question of each of their possessions: “Does it spark joy?”
The show has certainly sparked a culture shift — Goodwills across the country have reported an increase in donations — and local secondhand and donation-based businesses are feeling the effects as well.
Susan Tuttle has been a volunteer with Friends of Los Gatos Library for about a year. She works in the sorting room, where she appraises donated books and sends them to the Friends of Los Gatos Library Bookstore, where they are sold to raise money for the libraries.
She also mans the phone, where she likes to ask callers the reason for their donation. On more than one occasion, callers told her they were inspired by Kondo’s show. It was then that Tuttle made the connection to the higher-than-usual volume of donations.
“We have been overwhelmed with book contributions—for which we are grateful, but still overwhelmed,” Tuttle said.
The Friends of the Library Bookstore, located in the children’s section of the old library in Civic Center Plaza, just south of the new location and adjacent to the New Museum Los Gatos, offered everything at half-price in February to deal with the overflow.
The Thrift Box in San Jose’s Willow Glen area is a volunteer organization that raises money for Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. According to Kathleen Erdmann, Thrift Box publicity and community outreach chair, the volume of donations didn’t slow down after the usual spike during the holiday season.
“The quality of donations has normally been good, but it’s gotten even better, including new designer clothing and finer jewelry as well as brand-new items with the tags still attached,” Erdmann said.
The Thrift Box sells everything from clothes to art to jewelry and board games. Erdmann said donations typically come in from young families as children outgrow clothes and toys, but more donations are streaming in from people who want to downsize.
“Lately there are many of our donors that have said they are scaling down their possessions, and cleaning out their closets is part of that process,” Erdmann said. “With that said, many of our donors drop off bags of clothing and household items and go through the store to shop!”
Erdmann herself was inspired after watching the first episode of Kondo’s Netflix show. She cleaned out the shirts and sweaters from her closet, packing most up for donation. She said Thrift Box volunteers are seeing a pattern in donations as people clean out their homes “section by section.”
Happy Dragon, a volunteer nonprofit thrift store with locations in Los Gatos and San Jose, raises funds for Uplift Services in Santa Clara County, which provides mental health services to kids. Michelle Jenny, volunteer coordinator for Happy Dragon, said she has seen an uptick in donations recently, and volunteers have been working hard to “meet the challenge of effectively sorting all the incoming items.”
“These are good problems to have!” Jenny added.
Phyllis Dieter, Happy Dragon’s board president, says volunteers process thousands of donations daily. While many donations come as people move or clear out the estates of recently deceased loved ones, she has heard many people talk about Marie Kondo’s clean-up methods. And she’s seen a few strange things pass through their stores.
“I think the strangest thing I have seen lately was a vintage porcelain urinal,” Dieter said. “I think we sold it to someone that was going to take it home and use it as a planter.”
As these local organizations scramble to keep up with an influx of donations, they’re putting out renewed calls for volunteers. For more information about how to volunteer with these groups, visit www.friendsoflglibrary.org, www.thriftbox.org and www.happydragonthriftshop.org.