The Turnover Shop — Cleaning out ‘sparks joy’

Jeannette Ross photos

A wave of decluttering seems to have taken hold of late, thanks in large part to Netflix star Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of home and personal organization, whose show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has a loyal following.
Kondo’s mantra — if it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it — has been playing out at Wilton’s Turnover Shop for years as the place people have gone to lighten their personal loads through donations and consignments. And the show may have given the thrift shop business a bit of a boost.
“My sense is that we have more consignors than we usually do on a cold January day,” store manager Sharon Sobel told The Bulletin last week.
“I do believe that is so, but I can only base that on anecdotal evidence,” she added. “Certainly, a lot of customers, consignors and donors are talking about her and we even had a sign up for a while that said ‘If it doesn't give you joy, bring it to the Turnover Shop!”
But decluttering is not the only reason a dozen or so people will line up during consignment hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the thrift shop, as they did in subfreezing temperatures last week. It’s also a social hub where consignors and volunteers have formed friendships.
Dina Keefe of New Canaan is one of the Turnover Shop’s regulars. “Cleaning out, reusing and repurposing gives me a sense of joy,” she told The Bulletin at last Thursday’s consignment session. She has heard of Kondo’s philosophy and said “I do look at things differently,” as she considers her possessions.
“I use that — does it make me happy — so there is a little bit of that mentality.”
Another New Canaanite, Bianca Romano, said she watched three or four episodes of Kondo’s show in a row last weekend.
“Then I went through my whole closet and color coordinated it for the first time,” she said. “I tried everything on and a mound in the hallway turned into a mountain.”
Kathy Gibson is the volunteer in charge of donations at the thrift shop and said it’s either “feast or famine” for things coming in. “It’s probably some of Marie Kondo’s influence,” she said, and probably people moving and downsizing. … We’ve talked about it back here.”
“Back here” is where donations are sorted, priced and readied for the sales floor. While there is a large section devoted to clothing, store manager Sharon Sobel said hard goods — such as kitchen ware — furniture and jewelry are the biggest sellers.
As Romano and Gladys O’Neil prepared a trio of decorative geese for sale — an example of those hard goods — Romano said she travels from New Canaan because “it’s friendly here and things move. We love it here. Consignment time is a social hour.”
O’Neil seconded that thought. “Clients love us,” she said. “In many cases they’ve lost a spouse and we give them a place to come and relate. Once they realize what a warm and welcoming place this is, they come back. It really is a hub of the community.”
One first-time consignor added her thumbs up: “This is my first time here and I feel like part of the family already,” she said.
Part of the appeal of a thrift shop is you never know what you will find. Last week, the shop had several fur coats, two Prada bags, and vintage Barbie dolls with their original cases.
The Turnover Shop donates about $100,000 each year to Wilton charities. The two biggest recipients are Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County and Wilton PTAs, which recently received checks for $46,000 each. Smaller amounts are given to Stay at Home in Wilton, the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Meals on Wheels, and others.
Other nonprofits may set up a consignment account with the Turnover Shop to benefit from peoples’ generosity. People may then bring in consignments and specify that 60% of the sale price goes to the charity of their choice, with the remaining 40% going to the shop.
Eventually, just about everything that makes its way to the shop finds a new home. What isn’t sold may go to the Salvation Army, a women’s shelter and Special Olympics. For example, the towels one person used to wrap a donation of china will go to the shelter.
A fur coat that doesn’t sell will be given to a wild animal rehabilitation center that cuts them up as blankets for baby animals.
“Everything moves on to another place,” Sobel said.
For information on hours, what the shop accepts and more, visit