Posted by Vicky James
Three years ago we upped sticks from France and moved back to the UK. We intended to draw on experience to avoid repeating some of the curious decisions we’d made on the outward leg.
A worrying number of items we’d brought over had remained untouched throughout our time in France. A hand-me-down guitar with a broken string that no one had ever played (or was likely to), pictures that we’d never hung… anywhere… ever. An inherited china tea-set that was just “waiting for the right occasion”. Offloaded onto friends and neighbours, these items avoided being needlessly transported back to the UK as if they’d just been on a very dull, six-year continental holiday.
Cross-channel transport costs also helped us to exercise restraint when deciding what to cram into a box. The winding staircase in our French house (left) also effectively eliminated certain items. As newbies to the village, our predicament of how to bypass the stairs was kindly eased by a local farmer and his cherry-picker. Chests and wardrobes were all enthusiastically hoisted through the upstairs window to the admiration of the crowd gathering below, until a bed-base met with a sticky end. We decided when moving out to say 'non, merci' to the farmer and instead leave some bulkier, older and more expendable items behind.
Admittedly, our decision to minimise the amount of furniture we brought with us reflected the work that our lovely “new” old house in Crewe (left) would need before we could start decorating. Downstairs floors had to be pulled up and re-laid, electrics re-wired and the property damp-proofed throughout.
The added cost of storing our rickety old furniture didn’t appeal, so it made sense to have a fairly empty house to begin with, at least downstairs. The kids embraced our new minimalist lifestyle, enjoying the novelty of indoor camping – to start with, at least.
As the house gradually came back to life, we began to fill it with bits of furniture. Having had so long to plan (the work took over a year to finish), we had been able to take our time deciding what to look for. We had used Preloved for years for selling and buying bits and pieces, but now it really came into its own.
We found lots of great items, all fairly local, including two 1920s dressers (£60), an old dark oak wardrobe that just needed a rail inside (£50), a tumble dryer (£40), a child’s bed and mattress (£25), a piano stool (£20), and - our favourite – a lovely ornate sideboard (£50). Slightly more expensive, but still a bargain, was the Smeg oven that came in at £200. It would be fair to say that by buying and selling items, rather than hulking them across the channel, we made considerable savings.
As our rooms took shape, we continued to use Preloved, this time to find a home for things that weren’t needed any more - not just stop-gaps we’d acquired along the way but also bigger items such as our son’s bed, which we re-housed via Freeloved to make space in his tiny box room for a cabin bed, sold by a very friendly Preloved member who flat-packed it all away, provided full instructions and insisted on carrying it to our car!
Other sales included a de-humidifier, which had proved invaluable drying out our newly damp-proofed walls, a futon that we didn’t have room for and a surplus office chair. We still use Preloved for buying miscellaneous items like plant pots and kids’ clothes, and recently found a family tent for just £45 for our summer holiday in Wales, as the kids reckon they prefer outdoor camping!
Moving house or heading overseas? Vicky shares some great ways to keep costs in check.