Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?

Source: "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo - Official Trailer - Netflix
Feb 12, 2019
Tom Ryan

The hit Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” has led to a surge in donations to thrift stores since its debut on New Year’s Day. Some speculate that the de-cluttering trend may pose a threat to fast-fashion and rash purchases in general.

On the show, the Japanese organization expert helps homeowners with overly-cluttered homes put their belongings in better order and in turn bring some peace to their lives. Using the KonMari method, she teaches people to divide their belonging by category, conscientiously dispose of things that don’t “spark joy” and “thank” any items they choose to dispose of.

Ms. Kondos’ best-selling book caused a similar ripple of donations when it was published in the U.S. in 2014, but Netflix’s broader reach has led to countless articles on the boom thrift shops are receiving as well as “Does it spark joy?” memes across social media.

The movement adds to existing sustainability and better-quality trends being championed in food and other sectors. A few articles suggested that the trend could impact fast-fashion with Millennials already focused on “experiences” over “buying stuff” and showing concern over the eco-damage of disposable apparel.

“I really scrutinize an item when I go shopping and I pick it up and I ask myself if it’s really going to make me happy or if I really need it,” Natalie Taylor, who’s been practicing the KonMari method for three years, told Canada’s CBC News. “I realize just how many things I was buying that I didn’t need or wasn’t using.”

Of course, the trend suggests opportunities elsewhere.

The Container Store attributed its bounce-back to near double-digit comps in January in part to the show’s debut. Said CEO Melissa Reiff last week on her company’s third-quarter conference call, “We just love Marie Kondo and we love the KonMari method because it just fits with right with organization and what we’re all about.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why has “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” struck a chord with the public? Do you see the de-cluttering trend having a near or long-term impact on shopping habits or driving the overall sustainability trend to another level?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"It opens the door for retailers and service companies to provide curated assortments and personalized experiences that inspire joy."
"If there is a positive impact of the “declutter” movement on retailers, it is the potential break from the “overassortment” mindset making many stores unshoppable."
"Over-assortment has been a tremendous burden at retail and a perpetual market basket killer rather than builder."

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23 Comments on "Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?"

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Neil Saunders

The bottom line is that we have too much stuff. We fill our homes with items that we don’t need. Yet the continuous acquisition of goods does not bring joy. This has been the case for quite some time and has stimulated some consumers into cutting back. This is why retail volume growth has struggled, especially in categories such as apparel. Marie Kondo has tapped into this shift and has taken it one step further by encouraging consumers to unburden themselves of excess product. That’s a windfall for thrift stores, but less so for conventional retail.

Dick Seesel

My thoughts exactly (as you’ll see when my comment posts). If there is a positive impact of the “declutter” movement on retailers, it is the potential break from the “overassortment” mindset making many stores unshoppable. Case in point: JCP’s decision last week to “declutter” its major appliance and furniture businesses.

Dick Seesel

Without stereotyping Millennial or Gen Z shoppers, there has been evidence for awhile that many of them would rather spend their disposable income on experiences than “stuff.” The Marie Kondo movement plays into the growing desire to simplify and declutter our lives, not just our closets. And the trend will spread as more Boomers decide to get rid of all that “stuff” via the downsizing process.

The question is whether the KonMari movement impacts any retailer trying to sell discretionary vs. commodity goods. There may be an impact on fast fashion vs. thrift retailers, but there may be a bigger threat to department store and specialty apparel stores.

Art Suriano

No doubt Netflix has made a significant impact. We do have too much of everything and even George Carlin back in the day would joke about all our “stuff.” Too many of us buy things we hardly or never use and it’s smart to take notice. Whether “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” long-term will be a game changer is yet to be determined but for now based on the millions of subscribers Netflix has there is an excellent opportunity for many viewers to catch on to this concept and learn how they can become more efficient with their purchases and wiser with the money they spend.

Cathy Hotka

Americans have stuff. Lots of it. We move it, clean around it, and defer addressing it. I watched this quirky Netflix series twice, and now second-guess every purchase I make…until I go back to my old ways.

Charles Dimov

It’s one of those things that just nibbles at the back of your mind. Consumers are busy. And they want things. And they end up accumulating more than they need, or use. Decluttering definitely feels like a good trend.

Shopping needs to adjust. There is a huge opportunity for companies like The Container Store to let people feel they are at least better organized. This should be a big boon to furniture retailers like IKEA and JYSK (with creative organizational furniture). There is no reason why just about any retailer cannot add an “organization” section to their stores (online and physical). Cater it to what you sell. For example, a sweater, tie, or shirt organizer at fashion stores. Shoe organizers at footwear retailers. The options are endless.

Paula Rosenblum
This is crazy! I accidentally stumbled on Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix and thought I was nuts for watching a half hour. I commented to some friends, and apparently it’s a thing. Now, she’s everywhere. It strikes me she is mostly about mindfulness and thinking about what “brings you joy” more than just de-cluttering. I do know that I, who generally throw away too much stuff, am now fixated on two closets and a dresser because I hear or read the name “Marie Kondo” at least six times a day. It really is a little crazy-making. I have a friend who works for a library out in LA, and she said she is buried in used book donations thanks to Marie Kondo. I actually think it comes back to the search for meaning, and moving away from being a “throw-away” or “pack away” society. All this “stuff” that people seem to accumulate isn’t making them happy, apparently. It’s also probably the logical follow-on to the Millennial “focus on experience, not on things” paradigm. Now that… Read more »
Brandon Rael

The Marie Kondo trend is on fire and every couple in the country is questioning whether every item in their home sparks joy, or if it has any meaning. There is some merit to Kondo’s philosophy, as clutter and disorganized lives lead to stressful relationships and chaos in your home. It’s always hard to part with your sentimental stuff, but Kondo does have a point.

This trend does indeed contradict the mass merchandising, fast fashion consumption trends that have dominated our society. It opens the door for retailers and service companies to provide curated assortments and personalized experiences that inspire joy. Less is more, however if you have the right products, clothing or home goods that inspire joy, then this could be the paradigm shift you have been looking for.

Let’s see if Kondo’s philosophy has some staying power.

Dave Bruno

The KonMari philosophy, without question, will impact retail. While Netflix viewership numbers are notoriously opaque, “Tidying Up” has reached millions of households. She has sold over 11 million copies of her books. Marie Kondo is impacting the way we think about possessions, which inevitably affects how we think about future purchases. I am not convinced that the impact will be more heavily felt in fast fashion versus other categories, however. I believe we (and I include myself as a KonMari disciple – I love her show and yes, her joy!) will be more selective across all categories, which will impact retail unilaterally.

Carol Spieckerman

The second wave of fascination with KonMari and all things Marie seems to be a case of “always right, sometimes early.” When the book first came out, it caught fire as a kind of dare. How-to videos popped up everywhere as women tried to wrap their heads around Ms. Kondo’s methods. In the meantime, tiny homes and other minimalist movements gained traction and along came the Netflix series. Brilliant timing on Ms. Kondo’s part and one can’t help but speculate that Kondo-endorsed products are on the way. But only ones that spark joy (of course).

David Weinand

The lives of Americans have become so complex that providing a way to simplify and lessen the complexity is a big deal. There is a lot of evidence that simplifying the environment, whether it be home or office, provides a more productive way to live. The retail model has been built of the concept of emotional or impulse buying so if mindsets change, this will definitely have an impact.

Liz Adamson

The rise of the middle class, the increase in disposable income and the growth of the retail industry over the last several decades have all led to the fact that many of us just have too much stuff. The reality is that a cluttered house and abundance of “things” does not bring us joy and Marie Kondo is bringing that to our awareness. There has been a movement towards spending money on experiences instead of things which can go further in providing long term joy and contentment.

Ryan Mathews

It strikes a chord because we have too much stuff. As to impact, short-term, it is certainly something to be recognized. Long-term, the jury is still out.

Ed Rosenbaum

Looking at the headline and before reading it, my mind was drawn to The Container Store and what a boon it could be for them and others. Yes, clutter is an issue. But I am hard pressed to think this show will become the next “Diners, Drive in & Dives.” Using our home as an example, it is neat and orderly. Once, maybe twice a year we decide to discard and give away items we no longer use. Except for the garage, that is a different story. It is cluttered. My wife wants to get in there and throw things away. “Wants” being the key word. I admit she tries. My point of view on the garage is to leave it for the kids to decide what to do with it when I am gone.

Doug Garnett

Marie Kondo has struck a chord with how much of the public? A small percentage — at least from what I’m seeing in my ad/marketing related Twitter (where she’s pretty present among those paid to trend watch) and my Facebook feed (where discussion of her show is non-existent – the place where trends should show up).

I’d recommend assuming she strikes a chord with 15 percent to 20 percent. Then work the math from there – assuming she has a long-term effect with those.

As a point of rebellion, let me note what DID show up on my Facebook feed yesterday: “… the lovely Japanese concept of tsundoku, the guilt-pile of books acquired with the intention of reading but left unread.”—Maria Popova, quoted in NYT Book Review

Hence, my own personal bias – I’m more in the Popova than Kondo realm.

Rich Duprey

I wonder how much it is really a result of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show and not just a broader trend that was already building a groundswell of support. It seems she is merely riding on the coattails of others who blazed that path. I’m pretty sure they were called “professional organizers” back in the day.

The tiny house movement, for example, is one that got its start back in 2002, but really gained traction following the financial markets collapse and resulting recession some five years later. Downsizing one’s possession is an absolute necessity when moving into a 500 square-foot house (max). But while living in such small quarters doesn’t necessarily have broad appeal (I would love to build and live in my own tiny home; my wife, not so much), the recognition that we have accumulated vast amounts of detritus has gained much wider acceptance, and that’s what Kondo has tapped into.

I view her more as simply the cultural flavor of the month more than any trendsetting icon of a new movement.

Dave Wendland

Over-assortment has been a tremendous burden at retail and a perpetual market basket killer rather than builder. Here are a few retailers defying the odds with limited assortment … and did I mention they are thriving? Trade Joe’s, Costco and Aldi. Is de-cluttering the answer? YES! If the item is duplicative, if it doesn’t add value to the category or the shopper and if it’s a commodity that simply fills space, it’s time for some good old-fashioned house-cleaning. I believe thoughtfully-curated assortments make all the sense in the world — LESS IS DEFINITELY MORE!

Ralph Jacobson

I’d really like to think the days of excess shopping are waning. Having purged literally full-sized rental truckloads of “stuff” to donation centers in a recent move, my wife and I are feeling a fabulous sense of being cleansed.

I think the more this catches on, the more retailers can actually capitalize on the new opportunities like mentioned in the article.

Georganne Bender

Most of the things in my home do bring me joy, that’s why they are there. So, do I need to weed out closets? Sure, everyone does from time to time.

I watched the first episode of Marie Kondos’s show and quickly lost interest. I don’t think she will change retail; I think she’ll have her 15 minutes of fame and we’ll move on to the next thing, adding her book to our pile of stuff.

Kiri Masters

Who really believed that fast fashion was a sustainable trend? The havoc that the industry is wreaking on our environment both with manufacturing waste and landfill from unwanted product, we also have the often-dire working conditions of human beings involved in manufacturing … all of this is becoming more obvious to customers. Now there is an even more ego-centric reason to abandon fast fashion: the concept of joy and whether any of your $5 blouses from Forever 21 spark it.

We all may be in retail and love to see certain numbers keep going up and up, but you wonder when the party is going to stop when consumers can keep getting more and more stuff for lower and lower prices.

Lisa Goller
“The things you own end up owning you.” This famous line from the movie Fight Club reminds of: 1) Marie Kondo’s philosophy of decluttering; and 2) The fascinating contrast in consumption habits between the Silent Generation and younger consumers. After surviving the traumatic stress of wartime, the Silent Generation came to equate consumption and ownership with success. For them, more is more. Currently, several of my older relatives feel burdened by an urgent need to declutter their homes to proactively get their affairs in order. They also feel baffled: they can’t understand why their sprawling, treasured collections (from jewelry and crystal figurines to chinaware and antique furniture) fail to attract new buyers. By contrast, younger generations of shoppers have a more discerning approach to consumption, preferring simplicity, experiences and meaning (including sustainability). For them, less is more. Marie Kondo has struck a chord with global audiences because shopping behaviors and consumption mindsets have evolved over the generations. Now we’re considering the environmental impact of buying fast fashion, collectibles and especially excessive plastic packaging, which research… Read more »
Cate Trotter

I think the reason Marie Kondo has struck a chord is because we all like the idea of being in control — perhaps more so than ever. Most of us have things that we do not need or use and getting rid of those can give us a perception of being more organised in our lives (even if we are not!) Beyond that though it is part of a larger trend among some shoppers towards more “mindful” spending which includes buying products that last rather than lots of disposable items, shopping more sustainably and only buying things that add something to the customer’s life. I think retailers should be aware of this and how they can convey their own value in these areas to their customers.

Ken Morris
Consumers have a tendency to hoard or collect “things.” We all do it – at least for some things. The fascination with “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” resonates with many people as they aspire to declutter their homes, as it is a more calm and peaceful way of living. However, it is a daunting task for most people as it is extremely difficult to part with items, especially if there is an emotional connection. Maybe those are some of the items they keep, because it brings them joy. Decluttering is a hot trend. Similar to Marie Kondo’s mission, Margareta Magnusson, recently published a book on “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” It is essentially the same premise, only instead of ridding yourself of things that don’t “spark joy,” you get rid of things that other people won’t want to deal with after you die. While consumer may be shedding a lot of belongings to declutter, they will be still be buying other things to replace the things they donated or threw away. They will… Read more »
"It opens the door for retailers and service companies to provide curated assortments and personalized experiences that inspire joy."
"If there is a positive impact of the “declutter” movement on retailers, it is the potential break from the “overassortment” mindset making many stores unshoppable."
"Over-assortment has been a tremendous burden at retail and a perpetual market basket killer rather than builder."

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