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The 'Marie Kondo Effect' Could Be Doing Amazing Things for UK Charity Shops

Why Global Citizens Should Care
In 2017, the UK threw £12.5 billion worth of clothes in the bin, with an average of eight garments discarded per person, according to the Times. But with New Year resolutions still (just about) intact, a recycling revolution might be underway — and it could be down to a new TV show on Netflix. Take action here to reduce waste and protect the oceans. 

New Year’s Day was a confusing time: There were suddenly hundreds more people jogging in parks, paradoxically hangover-free; civilised society unravelled over a vegan sausage roll; and everybody was discarding old t-shirts they said didn’t “spark joy” on Twitter.

Three weeks later, and bleary-eyed runners have returned to the pub, while Greggs ran out of pastries. But across the world, bedrooms have grown cleaner, jumpers found themselves folded into satisfying bunches — and it’s all down to Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo becoming the next big thing on Netflix.

Basically, Kondo goes to people’s houses like a one-woman Queer Eye to declutter the lives of Americans with too much stuff (clean home, clean mind, and so on). But in Britain, there are stories claiming that her approach to self-improvement might have produced a surprising side-effect.

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Charity shops around the UK have seen a huge increase in donations in January, with many reportedly referencing Tidying Up With Marie Kondo as the inspiration.

The BBC reports that nonprofits Age UK, Barnardo's, and the British Heart Foundation have all seen increased donations since Netflix launched the TV programme on Jan. 1. Although it’s not unusual for more donations to come at the start of the year with Christmas clearouts, it’s been suggested through “anecdotal evidence” that Kondo’s TV show has played a part.

Indeed, a shop for palliative care organisation Sue Ryder in Camden, London, has seen double its expected donations.

"We normally see an increase in donations in January, but this year it's been incredible," shop manager Oya Altinbas told the BBC.

Other outlets have seen a recognisable increase in clothes that are folded according to Kondo’s “KonMari” method, first written about in her 2014 bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Read More: What I Learned About My Donated Stuff After I Got a Facebook Message From Tunisia

"I've had some really neat donations dropped off recently — immaculately folded," Maria Vicencio, manager at disability charity Scope's shop in Cambridge, said to the BBC. "I've spoken to a lot of friends and customers who are obsessed with the series."

And those donating seem to be repeating the same well-worn mantra.

"I tend to over buy so the stuff I'm giving away is still in good condition," said Anna Slawinska, 35, from Morecambe. "Even though for me it no longer 'sparks joy', hopefully someone else will love it."

"It was very enlightening for me,” she added. “I struggle with being very messy and I never know what to throw out. The idea of 'sparking joy' has helped me part with things I don't use anymore."

According to waste management charity WRAP, the value of unused clothes gathering dust in wardrobes around the UK is estimated at £30 billion, with £140 million worth hitting landfills every single year. 

Buying new clothes means more carbon emissions and water waste — which can exacerbate climate change and disproportionately harm the world’s poorest people — but getting to know your local charity shop can overcome some of these challenges as recycling clothes removes the harmful aspects of the global production chain.

So charity shops feel good, look good (especially if you’re shopping in Kensington, FYI) — and thanks to Kondo’s meticulous tips, supposedly can help people take back control of their lives too. Triple win!