Marie Kondo-Inspired Closet Cleanouts Are Giving Resale Stores a Boost

It’s nearly impossible to watch Netflix’s new self-help reality series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” without being inspired to do a little decluttering of your own.

The Japanese organization expert first had this effect on people in 2014 with the release of her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and now onscreen, she’s doing it in the living rooms of millions of American viewers.

Part of her appeal is the tenderness with which she encourages wholesale excavation of one’s possessions: Whether she’s working with a young family whose house has been overrun with kids’ toys and dirty dishes or a widow who’s holding on to her late husband’s clothes, she invites them to thank the items for the role they played before getting rid of those that don’t “spark joy.”

In a savvy move, Netflix dropped all eight episodes of the series on New Year’s Day, spurring resolutions to get organized, make room for a new family member or even just make a little extra cash from a pile of unwanted stuff. Plus, unlike most home improvement shows, the process doesn’t require a $500,000 budget or taking a sledgehammer to a kitchen wall.

In response, resale stores around the country and online have seen an uptick in sellers offloading wardrobe cast-offs. ThredUp, an online thrift store that lists 1,000 new items per day, collects items from “clean-out bags” sent in by sellers and said that on average, the number of bag requests this January has been 57 percent above what the team usually receives per day. And while the beginning of the year is always a popular time to start fresh, the first week of 2019 saw a 55 percent increase in bag requests, compared with the same period last year, possibly because of the Kondo effect.

“With the new year and the release of the show, we’ve definitely seen a lot of new faces coming in to sell their closet clean-outs, and many of our sellers have been specifically mentioning Marie Kondo,” said Kerstin Block, president and founder of Buffalo Exchange, which has 49 stores nationwide as well as a sell-by-mail program. “When her book first came out a few years back, we also saw a huge movement of people more interested in cleaning out their closets and selling to us — we’re really excited to see that happen again. We’re always happy to have more sellers and more people interested in recycling clothing.”

Over the past weekend, the company’s diminutive East Village store was so packed with sellers hauling blue Ikea bags and overflowing totes that it was tough to get in the door.

At the buy-sell-trade store Beacon’s Closet, New Yorker writer Rachel Syme noted an hourlong wait of hopeful, clothing-laden Brooklynites on the first Sunday of the month, many of them fresh off a Netflix binge:

Asked about the influx, Gina Nowicki, director of communications at Berkeley, Calif.-based resale chain Crossroads Trading, said: “It’s so funny you mention this: Just yesterday, I was speaking with one of our senior managers in L.A., and she told that several sellers had come into the L.A. stores recently and specifically mentioned they were cleaning out their closets because of the show. Then, in an afternoon meeting, my co-worker mentioned that she’d been told the same thing from another store manager.”

It’s hard to quantify the uptick, she said, but the company did see a surge following the release of Kondo’s first book, although that time, it was mostly concentrated around the San Francisco Bay Area. “I think that Netflix has reached a much broader audience,” she said.

For shoppers with space in their closets for more pieces that spark joy, now may be the best time to snag a deal on some barely worn cast-offs. And for those who are still staring down piles of clothes and wondering if they should wait to tackle the project, Buffalo Exchange’s Block has some words of encouragement: “Bring them in. There’s never a bad time to sell. Even if there’s an influx in sellers, it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

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