If you’re anything like me, you are not moving to a new country (or city) with your entire household in tow. You pack your things, your clothes and essential items plus those things that are not replaceable, and start from scratch at your new place.
Having done this three times now (so far) in my life, I consider myself somewhat of an expert and in this blog I will share all my learnings with you. If there are any tips and tricks I have missed but you know, please send me a message and I will add them!
In this article I won’t be covering topics like finding an apartment or the moving process itself, we’ll begin where you already have the keys to your room / apartment, and want to get set up. Depending if you are renting a furnished or an unfurnished room / apartment, you’ll already have some things in place.
Furnished or unfurnished, here is where you can procure items at any price point:
Having a laptop and internet is essential for this option because you’re going to have to not only hunt for free items, but be the first one to strike. Finding free items is possible in several places online, and any social media that offers a marketplace (like facebook, for example).
The top destination for free items is leboncoin.fr, the craigslist, gumtree or eBay Kleinanzeigen of France. At the top, you can select what items you are looking for, and then at the maximum price you add “0€” or “don (gratuit)” which means donation. You will find a plethora of items, the only catch is that you have to collect them yourselves (99% of the time). On leboncoin.fr you can also set an alert, so list what you want and then receive an email each time there is a hit.
Another popular website is nextdoor.com, where you can post an ad if you’re looking for something specific, or respond to ads from people who are giving away their things. Local facebook groups, reddit forums or even on vinted.com (sort by 0€) can turn up results without you having to pay money for the items.
Working with a small budget is made very easy in France because of the wonderful secular charity Emmaüs, founded by Abbé Pierre in 1949 in Paris, to combat poverty and homelessness. They have chapters all over the country, and in these locations you can purchase all items at a low price point. Emmaüs sells everything, from furniture to dishes, cutlery to pots & pans, clothing, shoes, picture frames, electronic items, mirrors, board games, records, mattresses – really, everything you can imagine. You can find your nearest chapter by searching on this map.
There are different types of Emmaüs locations, from huge warehouses to small shops in city centres, depending on what items you need, make sure you choose the right location. They also have an online shop. Transporting the items back to your place is up to you, some Emmaüs offer a delivery service for an extra fee, alternatively you can try your luck on public transport (I’ve done both metro and bus to move furniture by myself) or ask a friend who is lucky enough to have a car.
If you prefer new items in your budget have a look at H&M Home, Hema, or consider your local supermarkets, most Carrefour, Monoprix and Franprix have some basics available. In most neighbourhoods there will also be local stores, family-owned businesses, that offer most of the items you are looking for – have a wander around and see if you can find any near you!
Ikea. If you have some money to spend, most cities have an Ikea nearby. If you don’t, there often will be an Ikea shuttle that will take you there (and back) free of charge, google “ikea+shuttle+city”” and you should find a good result. I’ve used this service both in Toulouse and Paris, it worked great if you plan well. If you plan to buy large furniture this shuttle is not for you, you can either hire a man with a van (on leboncoin.fr or yoojo.fr) or just wait at Ikea, there usually are a bunch of people offering their services. Be sure to negotiate a price before getting in the car, usually it is around 50€ – 100€.
Another option that I personally love is Selency, an online flea market. You can find unique pieces from all over the place and have them delivered directly to you – there are options for every price point (except for free). A great alternative to Selency of course are real flea markets, each city has them and you can check your city on Vide Greniers or Calendrier des Brocantes. If you want new items, look no farther than Zara Home, Maisons du Monde, Muji, Casa,or La Redoute,
A third option available is to find people who are dissolving their households and are trying to find a buyer for all of their things – especially if you are starting with nothing and need everything, this can be a great solution for you! You can find these listings on expat facebook groups, expat forums, and soon also on Urban Index!
If money is no object and you want to avoid the previous two categories, there are several options to choose from. The most popular store is Habitat, not only do they have a decent selection of items, but their sales are very generous and you can find a good deal. If you like their basics, it’s worth getting “la carte habitat” as you can save money on deliveries and access their private sales events. Another very popular store is Roche Bobois, the items purchased there are unique and usually fall into the luxury category. If your budget is uncapped, you can head to the Galeries Lafayette, La Samaritaine, La Grande Epicerie de Paris and other similar department stores, they’ll stock what you are looking for from various designer brands.
I hope this will make the prospect of setting up shop less daunting and you feel equipped on how, and where to get started once the time comes!