By now, you’ve almost certainly heard of international sensation Marie Kondo, whose organization methods have earned her multiple bestselling books, late night appearances, and, most recently, her own Netflix show. Snippets of the show feature hoarding Americans who tearfully convert to cleaning their own homes. If what I’m describing sounds vaguely cultish, it is: Stephen Colbert’s highbrow satire was no match for Kondo kneeling on his stage, hands folded in her lap. Even the storied Metropolitan Museum of Art has made the unorthodox decision to hire Kondo to sort through their artifacts. (It will be interesting to see whether Kondo feels the Egyptian sarcophaguses spark joy or not.)
Kondo’s influence doesn’t stop at just books and media hits. Her Instagram page – boasting an impressive 2.8 million followers – is a primrose path of neatly folded clothes, her two adorable children, and organized closets. (You’ve been warned: follow her at your own risk.)
Kondo’s core principle – keep the things that spark joy, discard everything else – has resonated to the point where retailers and marketers have sat up and taken notice. So much of sales and marketing has been geared towards priming consumers to buy as much as possible. But thanks to Kondo, that may be changing, forcing marketers and salespeople to do two things: be prepared for an influx of returns in their sales cycle, and to craft messaging convincing would-be consumers that their products indeed spark joy. This may be necessary, even required, as brands not only compete for dwindling attention, but shrinking closet space.
For starters, consumers are showing a proclivity towards purchasing organization products, which is an expanding market for stores that sell these types of products. Sales of stackable drawers went up 17 percent year-over-year, which is music to the ears of companies like the Container Store, which has 90 locations across America.
Additionally, as consumers find more and more ways to divest themselves of clutter, other brands that focus on repurposing are noticing the impact on their bottom lines. The online secondhand store ThredUp saw requests for their preservation kits increase by a whopping 80 percent. As more consumers pare down, brands who have not learned how to reallocate items in the event that a consumer has changed their mind risk being pegged as a company that wants to saddle them with unwanted stuff for the sake of a profit.
Because Kondo is relatively new on the scene, it is possible that her organizational principles are just a passing fad. But it may be too soon to know that for sure, and Kondo may be embedding herself quite deeply in Americans’ consciousness. Aside from boosting sales, Kondo has proven to be a formidable brand in her own right. Her fans leave gushing comments on her social media page, and her books fly off the shelves. It may be because her message is so simple and actionable: throw things away! No surveys to fill out, no trial periods that charge your credit card after 14 days, no irritating emails or ads to clutter up your inbox. Kondo represents an anti-brand in a sense, encouraging consumers to take a deliberate, mindful approach to what they are purchasing. There is research that supports that cleaning things out can reduce stress and boost mental health, so there is plenty of incentive to adopt her principles. And since decluttering is relatively inexpensive, the onus is now on marketers to encourage consumer participation aside from opening their wallets.