Idaho Youth Ranch sees an uptick in donations due to popular Netflix show
It was the middle of January, and the amount of clothing, household goods and other donations coming in to the Idaho Youth Ranch was at July levels.
That was a head-scratcher for Rich Cline, who runs the Youth Ranch’s thrift stores throughout the Treasure Valley and other parts of the state. Peak times for donations have always been summer and the end of the year, when people are squeezing in last-minute tax write offs. Not the middle of the hibernation season that is January.
“Then, we got wind of the show,” Cline said.
“The show” is Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” hosted by lifestyle maven Marie Kondo. Kondo’s popular “KonMari method” for an organized home includes getting rid of material possessions you don’t need.
“My wife’s told me for years, ‘You only wear like one-third of your clothing,’” Cline said with a laugh.
The Marie Kondo effect
In each episode of the Netflix show, Kondo asks people to gather up everything they own, in a certain order, then hold each item and ask themselves, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is no, it goes into the discard pile to be thrown away, recycled or donated.
The series debuted on the streaming network on New Year’s Day, just in time for resolutions. The Netflix show’s trailer alone has been watched more than 2 million times on YouTube.
Viewers in Idaho must have decided their jeans, recliners and food processors don’t spark joy. Because the donations are flowing.
The Idaho Youth Ranch has received about 40 percent more donations than usual so far this year.
It’s not unusual on a weekend afternoon to see a line of cars snaking through the parking lot at the Youth Ranch’s store on Broadway Avenue in Boise, Cline said. That’s something the store is used to seeing in the warm summer months — not when it’s below freezing.
In January, people made more than 6,500 donations.
Then, the first two weeks of February, the store took in more than twice as many donations it got in the same period last year.
When people pull up in their cars with a trunk full of stuff, they’ve said, “I watched that show, and it got me in the mood” to do some pre-spring cleaning, said store manager Tiffany Lambright.
Does it spark joy?
The phenomenon has helped other Treasure Valley nonprofits, as well. Organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul and Easter-Seals Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain, which runs local Goodwill stores, told the Statesman they have experienced a surge on donations.
They’re not sure how much credit to give Marie Kondo or Netflix for their recent bounty.
“For all stores, donations are up, but none of our donors have actually mentioned that their donations are due to the show. We do know that ... we’ve had an unseasonably warm winter, and that’s probably making a play,” said Chelle Fried, community relations officer for ESGW. “Some people might be doing it and just haven’t told us.”
Goodwill stores are up about 10 percent in donations, compared with last year at this time.
The chain opened two Goodwill stores in the past year and a half — in Twin Falls and Idaho Falls. They’re not included in that number.
Donations to the four Goodwill stores in the Treasure Valley are up slightly more: 13 percent. The store on State Street in Boise has seen a windfall — getting 23 percent more donations so far this year.
One person’s junk, another’s treasure
The Marie Kondo effect has shown up elsewhere in the U.S., and in other retail sectors.
Kondo’s guidance for purging books has been a gift to used book stores.
“Because Marie Kondo’s TV show on cleaning has begun running on Netflix, we took in a month’s worth of books in 2 days,” wrote Ravenswood Used Books in Chicago. “The good news is, we have a LOT of new books. The bad news is, we need a nap! Phew!”
For many local thrift stores, the donations are turned into shelter, health care, employment and more for Idahoans.
Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and the Idaho Youth Ranch all rely on donations to stock their thrift stores. Sales at the stores help fund their social services and other charitable work in the community.
With more donations than usual coming in now, the nonprofits won’t have to deplete their inventory in the next few months as they wait for the spring surge.
Cline, who runs the Youth Ranch retail operations, says that if you find yourself binge-watching “Tidying Up,” then having an uncontrollable desire to jettison all your stuff, remember: what doesn’t spark joy for you, might set of fireworks of joy for a thrift store customer.
And that means “more money for programs for kids,” Cline said.