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Charlotte thrift stores see surge in donations thanks to Netflix fans ‘Tidying Up’

Thrift stores and second-hand shops in Charlotte and beyond are seeing a surge in donations thanks to people like Jenn Mickus, who was recently inspired by a popular Netflix show to de-clutter parts of her house and give away unwanted stuff.

Mickus, who lives with her husband and two dogs near Highland Creek in north Charlotte, put off purging her home for years. There’s something about throwing away belongings that made her feel guilty, she said. So the stuff built up, especially in the bedroom closet.

“I couldn’t even walk into my closet without almost breaking my ankle,” Mickus said.

Like millions of other Americans, Mickus started watching the show “Tidying Up” after it premiered on Netflix Jan. 1. She started taking notes from each episode, detailing how the lessons of the show starring professional “tidier” Marie Kondo could be applied to her own home.

Last weekend, Mickus pulled everything out of the closet — clothes, shoes, hats and shoes — threw it all on the bed and went through Kondo’s suggested ritual of examining each piece, and asking herself whether each item “sparks joy.” For those that don’t, Mickus followed Kondo’s suggestion of thanking each, then sending them onto their next life.

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Jenn Mickus, a Charlotte resident, was inspired to de-clutter her closet recently after watching the popular Netflix show “Tidying Up.” She posted about the process on her Instagram story, shown here. Instagram

Mickus packed up three trash bags of clothes and one of shoes and drove the donations to the Goodwill store in Huntersville off Statesville Road.

While it’s hard to directly tie a surge in donations to Charlotte-area second-hand stores to Kondo’s show, some area nonprofits and retailers say this year’s volume in donations is unusual.

Alyssa and Shawn Cox own three Clothes Mentor stores in the Charlotte area — in midtown, the Arboretum and Rock Hill. The stores, which specialize in the resale of clothing, shoes and accessories, gives customers cash for pre-owned apparel.

Alyssa Cox said that the average number of “buys” that the three locations have taken in has surged over 25 percent this year over last year.

“Oh my goodness, it has been CRAZY here,” Cox said in an email, adding that customers in Charlotte who bring in their clothes to sell have experienced longer-than-usual wait times for their money. The items that the Clothes Mentor stores cannot take get donated to a local nonprofit called Great Things, Cox said.

“We have customers every single day tell us that it is from that documentary series. We have also heard this from store owners of Clothes Mentors all over the country,” she added.

The Netflix series is about Kondo’s “KonMari” process of organizing clients’ homes, which primarily includes paring down belongings that clutter shelves, closets, living spaces and garages. The show is based off Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” which was released in the U.S. in 2014.

Buffalo Exchange, which also handles clothing and accessory re-sale, is experiencing a similar bump in customers at its stores nationwide as it saw in 2014 when Kondo’s book came out, according to the company’s president and founder, Kerstin Block.

“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 cleanouts and many of our sellers have been specifically mentioning Marie Kondo,” Block said.

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont similarly has seen a “significant increase in donations” — roughly 30 percent — for the first two weeks of January compared to last year, according to spokeswoman Samantha Story.

The last few days of each year typically brings a spike in donations as people try to reach the threshold for tax donations, Story said, but the donation volumes tend to drop off in January. “Interestingly, it hasn’t died off,” she added.

“It’s hard to point to a direct cause for our donation uptick – but what we do know is that we’ve certainly seen a buzz on social media connecting the KonMari method to Goodwill this month, and that we embrace the philosophy of reorganizing and reusing household goods,” Story said in an email.

Crisis Assistance Ministry posted on its Facebook page on Monday a call to action to donate for anyone recently inspired by Kondo’s show.

The nonprofit’s spokeswoman, Liana Humphrey, said the post has reached nearly 6,000 of its followers. Humphrey called the post’s response “phenomenal, and probably indicative of heavier donations this time of year.”

The nonprofit, which gives the donations free of charge directly to families in need, is looking for new or gently used clothing, shoes, bed linens, towels, winter clothing and accessories, Humphrey said.

“(The donation) may have outlived its purpose at your home, but it still has life for somebody else,” Humphrey said.

The next step for Mickus, the north Charlotte resident, is moving on to other parts of the house.

“I’m trying to get my husband on board. He loves getting rid of stuff,” she said.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
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