We have reason to believe you’ve been to the Container Store recently. Don’t worry — we’re not trying to pin anything on you just yet. But, just so you know, on our end it looks like you might have been to the Container Store recently, and it looks like it could be because you were spurred by a Netflix show.
Tidying expert Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up launched on January 1, 2019. The conceit is that Kondo works with people to declutter their homes. Over a timespan of weeks or months, she instructs the formerly cluttered on how to tidy their space — purging items that don’t “spark joy,” and treating the items that remain with respect.
Some on Twitter have suggested the show’s popularity has caused a surge of customers at the Container Store; the cluttered masses eager to purge and organize until they are finally, please, for the love of God: happy. But is this true? Are there more people at the Container Store now, because of Marie Kondo? Or could it be the rolling over of the new year that got everyone interested in organizing? Or could it be that the Container Store is simply a popular shopping destination regardless of new years, or tiny women?
It’s an interesting question. (Please nod.)
Kondo herself is, in fact, not an advocate of the Container Store. In the opening chapter of her first book, 2012’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she warns against hanging onto joy-sucking clutter — even if that clutter resides in organized boxes. “When I finally came to my senses, I saw that my room still wasn’t tidy even though it was full of magazine racks, bookshelves, drawer dividers and other storage units of every kind,” she wrote. “Why does my room still feel cluttered when I’ve worked so hard to organize and store things away?”
The anti–Container Store message caught the eye of Sharon Tindell, the Container Store’s chief merchandising officer. It was the focus of a gently incredulous memo she wrote to employees in 2015, explaining that Kondo’s message — while nice, sure — is maybe not for everyone. “I embrace Marie Kondo’s philosophy and encourage everyone to read her book, as the trend towards simplicity and minimalism continues to grow,” she wrote in the memo’s closing lines. “Do we need to dispose of things that may not spark joy, but still evoke emotions? No. Can we learn and be inspired by her? Yes!”
Another wrinkle here is that in the summer of 2018, Kondo, through her Bay Area–based company KonMari, began selling boxes herself. A six-piece set of boxes — for organizing, not storing — were sold for $89 on her website. (At what point does money stop actively sparking joy?) Noticing these boxes seemed to be no longer available, I reached out to Kondo PR and asked where they went. “The Hikidashi Box sets were a limited-edition collection inspired by Marie’s love of boxes,” they told me. “Although the collection sold out, Marie and her team at KonMari are using their learnings from this launch to inform their product development plans for the future.” Huh.
Still, Kondo drives people to the Container Store.
Or does she?
Of course, I had to take a trip to the Container Store to find out. I visited the store on on Sixth Avenue between 18th and 19th streets in the late afternoon on Tuesday. Admittedly, the late afternoon on a Tuesday is not equivalent to the first weekend of the new year, directly after the premiere of the show. But it would have to do.
It was my first time at a Container Store and, indeed, they sell containers. Containers for food, containers for clothing, containers for your child’s toys, containers for dog stuff. “Hm … do I need any containers … ?” I found myself wondering, but no. I mean, yes, I do, but, wait, do I? Hm. No. I don’t. Anyway, no — I was there to work.
The store was not overly crowded, but there were a good amount of people lingering and a persistent five-person-deep line at the checkout. My first target, an older woman shopping with a cart full of containers, was minding her own business in the animal-related-goods container section. I asked: Was she here because of the Marie Kondo Netflix show? “No,” she said. “I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t seen it.”
Okay. How about the man looking at little tiny containers, was he? “No. I’m a makeup artist, so I have a lot of makeup. I’m just trying to figure out how to make it less crazy.” He suggested the customer surge might be due to the new year rather than Marie Kondo.
Okay. How about the young woman looking at the food-related containers who started shaking her head before I even stopped talking, I think because she’d already heard me tell my whole spiel to somebody else? “No.”
Okay. How about the new mom with an adorable baby, to whom I gave a more condensed version of my spiel (“I’m a writer working on a story about Marie Kondo’s effect on customers visiting the Container Store …”) due to my growing shame? She gasped: “I didn’t even know she was here!”
Oh no — I’d condensed the spiel too much.
(After I explained that she was not there, she offered her answer: “No. I’ve heard of it, though! Sorry to disappoint you.”) (No! I’m sorry!!) Okay. How about the two women who I’d guess were “my age” but who probably were, in fact, at least five years younger than I am? “Oh, the Netflix show?” one said, using Netflix as a pejorative but not in a particularly mean way. “No, we’re just killing time. Feeling disorganized about our lives.” The other said, “My mom used to work here actually.”
Okay. The next woman? “No.” The next woman? She did not hear me, or at least feigned not being able to hear me in order to avoid talking to the annoying person bothering everybody at the Container Store.
Fine. But what about Emmy, a young woman who worked at the Container Store? “I think Netflix probably timed the show to be released when it was because people are looking at New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “Marie Kondo has become, like, a big sensation, and having it as a show is a lot more accessible than just the book. So I feel like it’s all timed perfectly to happen, all together.” Yes, that sounds right to me. But has she noticed an uptick in people since the beginning of the year?