June 25, 2019
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Mainers looking to declutter like Kondo should donate, not toss, unwanted items

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Katy McGrath, supervisor at the Salvation Army's thrift store in Bangor, organizes jeans to hang on the racks Thursday morning.

The decluttering craze has hit Maine full on thanks to a new Netflix series. Organizations that rely on donated items say it could not have come at a better time.

The Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” launched Jan. 1. Since then, some Maine viewers have been organizing their homes while binge watching episodes.

“I have been watching it,” said Holly Hardwick of Eagle Lake. “But it will take me years to thank my stuff I no longer need and donate it or trash it, [and] I like her technique to thank the opportunity to have the item [because] that in itself is a blessing of prosperity in my opinion.”

Part of Kondo’s system involves holding or touching an item and, if the decision is made to get rid of it, thanking it for the joy it has brought.

Kondo recommends attacking clutter by category, not by room and breaks it down to clothes, books, papers and documents, miscellaneous items — which she terms “komono” — and sentimental items.

Her system, called the KonMari system, is the topic of her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” released in 2014. In the Netflix series, she puts her advice into action helping folks declutter and transform their lives.

“We can tell the [KonMari] method is really popular right now,” said Amanda Fisher, manager of Catholic Charities’ Threads of Hope thrift store in Portland. “I’ve seen a few episodes myself, and we are definitely seeing more people coming in.”

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Chynna Brooker, store manager at the Salvation Army’s thrift store in Bangor, hangs clothes on the racks Thursday morning. Since the Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” was launched Jan. 1, donations have increased around Maine.

The Portland store is one of the organization’s four thrift stores in Maine that sell donated home furnishings, household goods, toys, books and other items. Proceeds from these sales helps fund Catholic Charities’ programs such as food pantries, child care, counseling and elder care.

The impact of the show is particularly noticeable since donations are bucking trends this year. The first months of the year are typically slow in terms of donations, Fisher said, often because the cold weather is keeping people inside cleaning but not necessarily venturing out to donate items.

“Right now we are seeing about the same number of people coming in, but the quantity they are bringing in is larger than in the past,” Fisher said. “Normally people don’t want to schlep out in the cold with things.”

Fisher credits the Netflix series with this uptick in donated items.

“It’s been a really good thing for us,” she said. “There is a need for donated items year round.”

It’s the same story at the Salvation Army’s thrift store in Bangor, where they are ready to help simplify the decluttering and donating process with tote boxes they sell for 99 cents each.

“People come in, buy a couple and then go home and use them to sort what they are getting rid of and bring those items in to us,” store manager Chynna Brooker said.

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
A customer enters the Salvation Army's thrift store in Bangor Thursday morning. Since the Netflix series "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" launched Jan. 1, donations have increased around Maine.

The Salvation Army totes, Brooker said, are an excellent way to separate out the unwanted items along with providing a handy container in which to transport the donations, but the totes are not required to donate items.

The option of donating items is a great incentive for people looking to declutter, said professional organizer Dawna Hall, owner and founder of OrganizeMe based in Portland.

“People definitely find it easier to let go of things when they know it can be donated,” Hall said. “I try to help clients keep as much stuff as I can out of landfills.”

What to donate where

Organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, Catholic Charities and Habitat for Humanity all have Maine service areas have a need for donations.

Items such as clean clothing, furniture, small appliances and household items are accepted by organizations including the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Catholic Charities.

Larger items such as appliances, cabinetry, doors and windows are also accepted by Habitat for Humanity Restores.

Clothing items including socks, new underwear, towels, winter gloves, mittens, hoodies, jeans, rugged pants along with razors, deodorant, soap, shampoo, backpacks and duffle bags are accepted and needed by Preble Street Resource Center.

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Skis are one of the many sporting good items for sale at the Salvation Army’s thrift store in Bangor.

“In the immediate, the donations we receive help people experiencing homelessness and to stay warm and dry, take care of their health and get to tomorrow,” said Dan D’Ippolito, Preble Street community engagement director. “But these donations can do so much more — for instance, people who access services can be hesitant about telling their story, and not only do socks — the most-requested garment by people experiencing homelessness here at Preble Street and at shelters nationwide — get people healthy and keep them healthy, but a simple pair of socks can help create a connection with a caseworker and start the journey from homelessness into opportunity and hope.”

Have shampoo or soap that’s opened? Salvation Army accepts “health and beauty items as long as there is still a usable amount in the container,” Brooker said.

What can’t be donated? Soiled items, for instance. “There is the issue of hygiene,” Fisher said. “We don’t take things like soiled socks or undergarments or appliances like old humidifiers that may contain mold.”

Threads of Hope also does not accept cribs, child car seats or bicycle helmets, which may be damaged or have specific consumer or government safety ratings that may be expired.

At the Salvation Army, the organization does not accept outside children’s toys that are broken, rusted or unsafe to use.

If people have questions on what to donate where, Hall’s website at www.organizemaine.com contains a list of organizations and their wish lists.

“When you donate you are not only getting rid of things you don’t need, you are helping someone else get something at a good price,” Fisher said, “It’s a real win-win.”

 



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