LEWISTON — No event in Lewiston proves the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” quite like Bates College’s Clean Sweep tag sale. 

Every June bargain hunters flood Underhill Arena, the college’s ice hockey rink, to buy secondhand goods ranging from clothes to mini-fridges. The twist: all items are from Bates College students and all proceeds go to charity.

Rather than throw their unwanted possessions away at the end of the school year, students are encouraged to donate them to the sale, Assistant Director for Sustainability Tom Twist said. The items are likely to find a new home because the sale is wildly popular with Lewiston-Auburn locals.

The sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Underhill Arena.

Bates College rising senior Nimco Jama checks out mugs Friday afternoon on a table ready for Bates College’s Clean Sweep tag sale on Sunday at Underhill Arena in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Some shoppers start showing up as early as 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and the line to get in stretches all the way out to the Commons, Bates’ cafeteria, from Underhill by the time the doors open, according to Twist. 

“It’s like Black Friday,” he said. 


Twist said the sale is so popular due to its affordable prices. 

The event’s popularity is also due to the items themselves, which range from designer clothes at bargain prices to quirky one-of-a-kind gems. This year’s sale features at least two Tommy Hilfiger jackets for $10 each, a handmade drinking board game entitled ‘drinkyland,’ a painting of a parrot enjoying a margarita, a treasure trove of Halloween costumes, a generous number of Nike and Hoka tennis shoes and wigs for $2 apiece.

One of the goals behind Clean Sweep is “to hold a pretty reasonably priced sale for Lewiston-Auburn folks” where shoppers can get quality products for cheap, Twist explained. 

Bates College Director of Media Relations Mary Pols, left, and Bates College rising senior Abdul Rafay check out books Friday before Bates College’s Clean Sweep tag sale on Sunday at Underhill Arena in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Another reason is sustainability. Twist estimates the sale prevents roughly 16 tons of perfectly good items from being thrown into a landfill. 

Even the few goods that are not snatched up by buyers are donated to local nonprofits such as pet shelters, Catholic Charities and organizations supporting New Mainers. 

Clean Sweep has been rooted in environmentalism from the beginning. Shocked by the astonishing number of undamaged belongings students threw away at the end of the year, Lisa Heller, then a student at the University of Richmond and later a two-year debate coach at Bates, started Dump & Run in 2000.


It’s an annual yard sale that repurposed college students’ unwanted possessions and donated the proceeds to local charities. Soon Heller’s student initiative at the university became a nationwide craze that spread to Bates College in 2001, according to a Sun Journal article from 2003. 

Like its predecessor Dump & Run, Clean Sweep donates all proceeds to a local nonprofit. The recipient is John F. Murphy Homes, an organization providing essential services to individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

The Navigators, a program initiated by John F. Murphy Homes, has taken over organizing nearly the entire event. Navigators helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities grow their confidence, learn self-resilience and connect with the community through activities such as volunteering and the Special Olympics.  

From lifting heavy furniture out of dorm rooms to sorting through about 5,000 items, setting up Clean Sweep is a “not so easy” feat for the 21 members of Navigators, their family members and the John F. Murphy Homes staff, member Nate Davis said.

But, as Ryan Bouchard, another member put it, “Work hard, play hard!” 

Hundreds of pairs of footwear are arranged Friday in preparation for Bates College’s Clean Sweep tag sale Sunday at Underhill Arena in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

In this case, Navigators’ hard work allows them to use the proceeds to fund activities such as trips, art classes or even go ax-throwing, new experiences they would not have without the money raised from Clean Sweep, according to Navigators Administrator Michelle Roy. 

But for Navigators, Clean Sweep is about more than just raising money. It’s an opportunity for them to connect with members of the community such as the Bates students and Hannaford Supermarket employees who have been helping with the set up. 

“It’s also a way for them to give back to the community,” Roy pointed out. 

Reflecting on why Navigators keep choosing to take on the mantle of organizing Lewiston-Auburn’s beloved Clean Sweep yard sale, Roy said it’s “a labor of love.”

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