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Ready, set, unclutter: Marie Kondo has Tampa Bay cleaning up

Goodwill reports a surge in donations after Netflix show inspires people to go through closets, drawers and memories.
Diana Blinkhorn cleans out her bedroom closet Marie Kondo-style on recent weekday.
Published Feb. 12

She opened the closet in her upstairs bedroom and stood, hands on hips, surveying her clothes.

On the left, dozens of dresses she'd worn over the last decade. On the right, a row of blouses, another rod filled with skirts and slacks. Shoes in the center. Plus, a pile of purses.

Diana Blinkhorn took a deep breath, then pulled everything out and threw it on her bed.

Just like Marie Kondo says.

"I did it three years ago, after a friend gave me her book," said Blinkhorn, a Tampa mom who writes a blog and home schools her three young daughters. "But I just can't keep up with all our stuff. The new Netflix show inspired me to go around again."

So on a recent weekday, while her husband was at work and her parents were downstairs watching her girls, Blinkhorn started sorting.

"This time," she said, "I'm going full-blown KonMari."

***

Marie Kondo's best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," encourages people to go through their possessions and discard everything that doesn't "spark joy." She wrote in her native Japanese, and it was translated to English in 2014. Since then, it's been published in 30 countries.

In January, Netflix debuted a series starring Kondo who, through a translator, helps families control their clutter.

The eight, half-hour episodes each have millions of views. The show sparked a deluge of before-and-after photos on social media, people documenting their attempts to follow the Kondo method. In the last month, more than 2 million people have mentioned her on Facebook. The site's Marketplace reports a huge increase in people selling things they no longer want.

Across Tampa Bay, Goodwill has seen a 3 percent increase in drop-offs throughout its 10-county region -- an additional 5 million pounds of clothes, furniture and other items in just one month. "Our donations departments keep getting calls from people saying they've been inspired to clean out their clutter," said Goodwill spokesperson Chris Ward. "At our Wesley Chapel store, donations have tripled."

***

Blinkhorn bent over her bed and untangled a web of hangers. Everything that was in the back of her closet was now on top of the mound. Some of the clothes, she hadn't seen in years.

That orange skirt was from college. She's 35. That striped dress she wore when she was pregnant. Her youngest daughter is now almost 3. She touched each item, just like Kondo says.

She didn't thank them for their service but savored the memories. That forest green dress used to make her feel so fancy. But it was pre-kids and doesn't fit anymore. It's got to go. That flowered sundress? She forgot she had that.

"I used to always think, what if I need this again? So I could never get rid of anything," Blinkhorn said. "Now I ask, 'Do I want to bring this into my future?' I don't think it's healthy to hold onto your past."

Her husband cleaned out the shed. She did the kitchen cabinets. Clearing the kids' room was hardest, she said. She didn't want to get rid of the crib, or baby swing, or even a pile of stained onesies. But she forced herself to "be intentional about what I kept" and allowed herself just one keepsake box for each of her girls.

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She sold some items on Facebook's Marketplace and made $400, which will help pay for gymnastics classes. Other things she donated to a women's shelter. "Getting rid of all this stuff makes me feel lighter," she said.

About an hour after she started, Blinkhorn hung the last dress back in her closet and closed the door. On her bed were two piles: One to give away, one to try on. Her oldest daughter, Lucille, walked in and started rifling through them.

"Hey, Lulu, don't create more mess," Blinkhorn said, picking up a sweater the 6-year-old had flung to the floor. "This all has to go to someone else."

While Blinkhorn folded unwanted items into a bag, her daughter stepped into a pair of silver heels, wrapped herself in a black shawl, pulled out every dress that sparkled. When she found a peach one whose bodice twinkled with crystal beads, she stepped into it.

"I wore that the night your dad and I got engaged," Blinkhorn said. "Look how tiny it is. I'm sure I could never fit in it again."

She had planned to give that dress away. But now her daughter was wearing it, dancing in front of the mirror.

Sparking joy.

Contact Lane DeGregory at ldegregory@tampabay.com. Follow @LaneDeGregory.

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