Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix about getting rid of clutter has led to an influx of donations at Our Thrift Store in Franklin, as well as others in Williamson County. / Photo Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
In January, Netflix released a new show about getting rid of clutter featuring Japanese author and organization guru Marie Kondo.
On the show, Kondo visits American families with piles of unwanted items and helps give those things away. Soon after the show launched, the donations started pouring into thrift stores in Williamson County.
“We saw a major increase just after the first of the year,” Tammy Lenox, the processing manager for GraceWorks, said. “Usually the holiday time is a lot busier anyway, so we didn’t really notice the difference until after the holidays were over and it just kept coming.”
Some of those donations proved valuable, like brand new clothes and full sets of dishes. Other donations — such as boxes of VHS tapes, cassette tapes or worn out shoes —were less useful.
Lenox started asking people arriving in cars loaded with donations what their motivation was. She said the answer was often Kondo’s new show, especially if the donors were young.
“I’m really surprised at the age. We get a lot of older folks all the time. Retirees are really good. They bring a little bag here and there, and they keep up with it,” Lenox said. “It’s been surprising to me how many young people have shown up.”
Susan Selling, an accountant for GraceWorks, wrote in an email that sales at the thrift store this year are higher than last year. Sales increased by about 7 percent over the last fiscal year, and the store is on track to beat those numbers in 2019.
“Whether it’s due to inspiration from Marie Kondo’s show, or Franklin’s increasing generosity, both in their giving, and in their shopping, is hard to quantify,” Selling wrote.
Dave Krikac, the founder of Our Thrift Store in Franklin, said donations to his store have generally grown by about 10 percent a year for the last decade. He estimated that donations so far this year have increased by about 20 percent, which he attributes in part to the Netflix show.
“We saw an immediate bump. We were wondering why, and then customers started telling us. Are you watching this show?” he said. “It started getting traction. It’s a big deal.”
He said the store now fills about two giant baskets with donations every weekday. Previously, that’s how much the store would receive on a Saturday.
Trash bags filled with clothes covered the processing floor at Our Thrift Store, and racks of coats lined the walls. A box truck filled with donations was parked behind the store, and Krikac said a warehouse nearby had 50 pallets filled with winter clothing.
Krikac said only about 40 percent of donations are in good enough condition to sell, and he recently had to double the number of trips to a recycling plant.
“We’re overwhelmed, but it’s a good kind of overwhelmed,” Krikac said.
While Kondo’s show has certainly had an impact on donations, Krikac said a strong economy and the number of new people moving to the county has also increased the number of donations.
With the increase in donations, both Krikac and Lenox said they have to spend more time acting as a therapist for donors breaking up with possessions that mean a lot to them.
“I think a lot of it is, just as people, we have a hard time getting rid of our own stuff,” Lenox said. “We have so much sentimental attachment to things. Sometimes it really is just having … somebody else do the getting rid of.”
The donations haven’t slowed down yet, but Lenox doesn’t expect it to last forever. Still, she hopes that show will encourage a new generation to think about thrift store
“It’ll wear off. Everything comes in cycles. There are waves, and it will calm down again,” she said. “But I do hope … it has put that in them, that you donate your stuff when you’re done with it. You don’t just throw it away. It does have value still and can be handed on to someone who needs it.”