It’s hard to open any publication or social media channel and not see the impact of the KonMari Method, the brainchild of Marie Kondo and her #1 New York Times best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
Her worldwide following is “Kondo-ing” (yes, it’s become a verb), gleefully tossing out piles of “stuff” just as they see her doing with clients on her Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”
The decluttering craze has some experts wondering what treasures might be camouflaged as “junk.”
“Just this morning, I pulled out two mid-century mirrors from a Swedish designer. They sell for about $500 each,” explains Melissa Cooperson, an appraiser with nearly 20 years of experience, who now appraises items for Community Forklift.
The Washington, D.C.-area nonprofit takes donated furniture, household goods and architectural salvage and sells the items to fund initiatives in the community. “We bring in over $2 million in revenue [annually], selling what most people consider trash.”
Appraiser and TV personality Reyne Hirsch, who appeared in 13 seasons of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Antiques Roadshow,” knows first-hand that something you don’t want can be worth a bundle.
“One person’s trash is truly another person’s treasure. I’ve had people with lamps that weren’t their style that turned out to be worth thousands of dollars,” she says of her years of filming. “Some walked in with Tiffany lamps that were worth tens of thousands of dollars. You never know.”
If you want to declutter with Marie Kondo’s radical approach, leverage these savvy steps to make sure you’re tidying up without regret.
According to her website, the KonMari Method “encourages tidying by category — not by location.” Then, it says, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy.”
Once you’ve identified things you’d like to purge, rather than simply loading them into a trash bag, organize them into piles for further evaluation.
Do you research
Don’t just write your unwanted items off as worthless. Just because they may not spark your own joy or a sense of nostalgia doesn’t mean the items in question might not be in demand for certain collectors.
“There’s no excuse for not knowing [if something has value] these days since you can just google,” says Cooperson, who points out that many pieces of jewelry, china, pottery and furniture bear some kind of identifying mark that can help you value it.
However, if a particular piece doesn’t have a maker’s mark, it’s still wise to research. “You might have some inherited costume jewelry. A lot of people think that if it’s not diamonds or gemstones it doesn’t have value,” Hirsch explains. “Some costume jewelry can have a value of $100 to thousands apiece, depending on the time period and who made it.”
Additionally, older pieces of gold and platinum jewelry weren’t always stamped and diamonds cuts can look different than modern stones. “It’s also possible that a ring has been sized and the stamp cut out,” Hirsch says.
Other valuables could include early editions of books, autographed sports and music memorabilia, vintage tennis shoes, antique perfume bottles, advertising, automotive collectibles, antique toys and more. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Cooperson. “There’s probably someone out there looking for it.”
Ask for help
If you’ve done your online research and still need answers, don’t assume you have to shell out cash to get information.
“You can always take your jewelry into a jewelry store and they can take a look and test it on a diamond tester, which takes five minutes or less,” Hirsch says, adding that there is typically no charge for the service.
For other items, if you live in a city large enough to have thriving antique stores, most have resident experts with enough knowledge to give you a ballpark figure on the value of older items. They may even make you an offer.
Alternatively, seek out auction houses that handle similar items to those you want to off-load. Find the person on staff who handles that category and email them photos. “Auction houses also tend to have appraisal days where they’ll appraise for free,” Hirsch says. “They do this because they’re always looking for their next consignment. Hidden treasures show up all the time.”
Make a plan for profit
Once you’ve decided to sell some valuables, the options for getting it done are nearly endless.
There are less specialized sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, as well as more specific outlets like Everything But The House, that behave like an online auction.
Local consignment and antique stores can help you sell without needing to bother with shipping or meeting strangers to pick up your wares. Finally, auction houses can be a great option if you have a robust collection or high-ticket items.
If you still want to donate, find an organization whose mission you support. Many local nonprofits have services where they’ll pick up items directly from your home, minimizing hassle.
“You can get a higher tax write off because you’ve done the research and know what it’s worth,” Cooperson says.
Be kind to the environment
If what remains from your KonMari sweep is truly junk, make sure as little as possible ends up on a landfill.
Many unexpected items like old eyeglasses, wine corks, building materials, sneakers, batteries and more can be turned into functional items if you drop them off at the appropriate facility.
“I think people get swept up in purging and are in too much of a hurry to let go,” Cooperson says. “The whole time I watched her show [“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”], I kept thinking about all of the usable stuff that was going in a landfill. I think her method could use a few more steps at the end.”