Over the next few weeks I’m going to be showcasing guest posts on topics ranging from downsizing and minimalism to how to have a fab wedding on a budget. I’m so thankful to those who have offered to write for my blog whilst I spend time with my newborn son. If you would like to guest post please get in touch – details on the Contact Me page.
This week Tammy from Bonjour Adventure shares her story of downsizing for love. Part 2 will be published next week – stay tuned!
How it all Began
In August a year ago, a French friend of mine was getting married in the South of France and I went to spend two weeks with the family at their pool surrounded by vineyards and charming country homes. A favorite cousin of my friend caught my eye, and as life would have it, I caught his. One week together in this serene environment, and we were head over heels.
I came back to the US with dreams of moving to be with my new love, but how could I leave my life, my friends, my family in the US? At the time, I had a very strong professional network, a ton of friends, and – after 7 years in the same 3-bedroom house – a TON of stuff.
Three months of long-distance dating, and I was ready to take the plunge. I was going to move to France! In December we were engaged, in April we were married, and the following July, I was bound for France.
But, this is not only a love story. This is also a story about downsizing. My fiance’s apartment came furnished, and the idea of taking a bunch of my second-hand Ikea furniture across a big broad ocean did not make any sense. Perhaps I should keep my favorite (non-IKEA) furniture, though? Especially my couches, and a few other items I was attached to. It was time to do some research.
I checked out loads of shipping options: cargo on airplanes, shipping containers, a shrink-wrapped pallet, and even sending large Tupperware storage containers by FedEx. Some friends with family in Africa recommended large shipping cylinders, but while this is a really great deal financially, apparently it is only available for shipments to Africa. Nobody seems to ship this way to Europe.
For European shipping, I want to alert you to the most expensive per pound option: FedEx and UPS. Never ever use them to ship a household of stuff overseas! Those companies charged about $8 a pound, whereas the myriad of cheaper options cost just under $1 per pound.
For a whole house of irreplaceable or simply high-value stuff, the shipping container was a great option at about $7,000 for the whole kit and caboodle. That’s a super rough estimate, and quite frankly I didn’t need to know any more, because that was entirely outside of my budget. I hoped to spend about $1000 to $2000 max. However, for folks who have kids with lots of gear and expensive furniture, this is definitely the best option.
I didn’t have a ton of stuff I wanted to keep, so a partial container could have been a good option for me. I could have shipped a few pieces of furniture, and almost all of the really important stuff. The price came to about $3000. Again, this was entirely out of my ideal budget, so I needed to think even smaller!
At this point in my research I came to understand that my budget would not allow me to ship all of my belongings to France. This is when my dreams met the reality of my budget, and I became acutely aware of the extreme downsizing that lay ahead.
In the end, the shipping option that best fit my budget (at about $1 per pound) was a shrink-wrapped pallet of boxes. The pallet would haul 8-10 boxes, and might even accommodate a couple of small pieces of furniture if packed correctly. The cost was about $1000, so it was just inside my budget. Perfect!
Then I discovered a new challenge: storage. We had no space in France for all of that stuff.
After researching storage options, I couldn’t swallow the cost, at about $1000 per year, especially in addition to the eventual shipping cost of a shrink-wrapped pallet. It was outside of my budget, and my stuff just wasn’t worth that much.
Storage at a family member’s house in the US was the only option, but the amount of space available to me was very limited. We faced a similar situation with my future in-laws in France.
A plan started to take shape: I could bring over the essentials in the short-term, which could fit in the small, furnished apartment in Paris, and leave the heavy bulky stuff to be shipped over later. But how would I ship only small amounts at reasonable prices? There must be a cheaper option than FedEx and UPS…
The Final Plan
In my research on shipping, I had included in my comparison the cost of bringing my belongings over to France on the airplane. To calculate this, I would take the total pounds an airline would allow me to take for free, and add the pounds of one extra piece of luggage. Then, considering the cost of one extra piece of luggage, I found that the total cost per pound. On certain airlines, the cost was only $1 per pound, which was right inside my budget!
By purging most of my belongings, and bringing over only small amounts at a time, I could keep the shipping costs low. The less essential, and heavy objects like books, would stay at my parents’ house until we had more space and perhaps a bigger budget.
The Plan in Action
In April, when I flew to France to get married, I brought over my inexpensive wedding dress and DIY party favors, and all of my winter clothes. I knew I wouldn’t need them in the US anymore, so they were the perfect first shipment to my new home. During that trip, I also brought my baskets that I love dearly and winter shoes and kitchen supplies that I thought were essential.
After the wedding I had to return to the US to request my visa from the French Embassy in order to be a legal immigrant in France. I changed my name with all the important administrative offices, continued to sell the stuff I wasn’t storing or bringing to France, and got my visa in about 3 weeks.
My new visa for living in France began in July, and I flew over to spend the summer with my husband and my in-laws. Again, I brought over one extra piece of luggage filled with clothes, shoes, books, favorite bags, etc. I had planned ahead and had amassed a good number of credit card reward points for international flights, so the flight was nearly free. (Of course, I paid off my credit card every month, as the financial gurus advise!)
Little by little, with a few more international flights, my clothes and most dear objects came over in suitcases by plane. The storage in my parents’ house being free, my international move to France has come in under budget thus far at about $400. When it comes time to empty the storage space in the US, we’ll try out the shrink-wrapped pallet, and I’ll finally have my US cookbooks with me at long last! 😉
So, you want to know how I decided what to keep and what to ditch? Check in next Tuesday for Part 2: Downsizing from a House to a Few Suitcases.