Garage sales popular for making or saving money

EVERETT — Nick Benenati wants a new bike.

Julie Ronken wants to help send her niece Courtney to college.

And the women behind “Coug Boobs and Husky Hooters” want to donate more money to breast cancer research.

No, these aren’t Christmas wishes. They’re garage sale dreams.

On any given weekend in Snohomish County, hundreds of people haul old treasures out of their closets and basements, pile their unwanted possessions in their yards and begin the time-honored tradition of holding a yard sale.

Yard sales — and garage, moving and estate sales — have been gaining in popularity around the country. Listings of garage sales on popular Web sites like Craigslist have doubled over the last two years, according to the Associated Press.

The yard sale craze hasn’t passed Snohomish County by.

On Aug. 1, the Northwest Neighborhood Association organized the “Mother of All Garage Sales” event for north Everett residents. Hundreds of families participated in the Saturday sale. For many, it was their first-ever garage sale. Mobs of garage sale shoppers streamed up and down the streets.

In a rough economy, people hold garage sales to make a few extra dollars and perhaps spare themselves from a trip to the dump. Shoppers hope to find bargains on back-to-school clothes, baby gear or household items.

Donnie Tworkowski of Marysville brought some baby goods and housewares to her mother’s home in Everett for the “Mother of All Garage Sales” event. Tworkowski isn’t new to the garage sale scene. She generally holds sales at her home a couple of times a year.

But “yard sales take a lot of time,” Tworkowski said.

Multi-family or neighborhood sales like the one in north Everett cut down on the strain a sale puts on an individual’s time, spreading around the responsibility of putting up signs and taking out advertising.

Before she became a stay-at-home mom, Tworkowski said she used to go to garage sales more frequently. She was looking for items to clean up and flip at her own sale or to sell on eBay.

In a small garage across from the hospital, Julie Ronken was watching over a sale organized by her niece. Items there ranged from the advice-giving 8 Ball, which sold for 50 cents, to young children’s books to bed pans. The family had pooled together their goods in Ronken’s garage.

“All the money is for my niece’s college fund,” Ronken said.

Her niece, meanwhile, was out looking at other people’s garage sales for her college needs.

People aren’t just turning to garage sales to pad their pocketbooks. Yard sales have become a popular method of fundraising for charitable causes. On the same day as the Mother of All Garage Sales, at least a dozen fundraising sales were posted in the county.

Down near Silver Lake, Tiffany Church and Heather Schweinfurth posted pink signs around the neighborhood to steer garage sale enthusiasts their way. The two women were holding a yard sale as part of their fundraising for the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk. Their team, dubbed “Coug Boobs and Husky Hooters” for their college alliances, has pledged to raise $5,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure trust.

Although this year will be Church’s fifth event, it was the first time she’s used a garage sale to help her meet her fundraising goal.

“Fundraising can be tough,” Church said. But she was confident the team would make its commitment.

On the front lawn of a south Everett home a few days later, Shelly Benenati and Leann Everts’ yard sale had gotten off to a rough start. A few of the items the women had piled outside the night before had gone missing before the sale began.

And that might mean Benenati won’t make enough from the sale to buy her son, Nick, a new bicycle. In fact, the items stolen – mostly baseball bats – belonged to Nick, Benenati said.

Like Tworkowski, the two find that holding garage sales to be a lot of work. But Benenati and Everts’ hours at a QFC bakery have been cut recently. So both hoped to make up part of that difference by holding a yard sale. Everts says she already goes to sales as a way to cut expenses.

“You know what they say, ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,’” Everts said.

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