Category Archives: Home and Garden

Christmas Tree Recycling

IMG_5538It’s always a bit depressing taking down the Christmas tree and packing away holiday decorations, but it’s even sadder when you have to plop your tree by the garbage bin and wait for it to be carted off to the landfill, droopy branches and all. But, just like last year, the city of Paris can save your tree from this gloomy fate. Now through mid January,  the Mairie de Paris has set up dozens of locations throughout the city where you can take your tree (minus any and all decorations) to be recycled. The recycled trees will be used as compost and mulch in the Parisian gardens. The list of recycling points can be found here.   (Scroll to the  bottom of the page.)

Laundromat Matters

When you’re living abroad, the most simple tasks can sometimes be the most complicated. Seemingly easy things, like shopping at the grocery store or getting money out of a cash machine, take on a new level of complexity. One such task is doing your laundry at the self-service laundromat or laverie. Getting your clothes cleaned isn’t rocket science, but figuring out how to work the washing machine and what products to use is trickier than it sounds, especially if you don’t understand French.

If you’ve got dirty laundry spilling over your hamper, use our mini guide to get your pile of whites and darks washed and dried. After your first visit to the laundromat, you’ll get the hang of it. You may even end up doling out help to puzzled Parisians who sometimes have trouble figuring out the laundry machine directions themselves!

(If you have clothes that need dry cleaning or you’d prefer to use a laundry service, read our earlier post here.)

Useful Vocabulary

laundry le linge
wash la lessive
washing le lavage
laundromat la laverie
washing machine la machine à laver
detergent la lessive
to wash or scrub lessiver
softener l’assouplissant or l’adoucissant
stain la tache
stain remover le détachant
bleach l’eau de Javel
to dry secher
dryer le sèchoir
dry sec (m), sèche (f

(For information on international fabric care symbols, visit this link.)

Typical Laundromat Signage

Fire Safety

Despite several highly publicized fires in the City of Light, it was only recently that French legislators passed a law mandating smoke detector installation. By January 2016 all living facilities in France are required to have smoke detectors (détecteur de fumée). Paris’s beauty makes it easy to forget that Haussmann didn’t have safety codes in mind when renovating the city. Nor did medieval architects consider how difficult it would be for a firetruck to race down a narrow, cobblestone street. Several hundred years later, despite the services of the city’s brave firefighters (les sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), many of Paris’s buildings remain not only fire hazards, but fire traps.

Whether you are moving to Paris permanently or relocating for the long term, it is important to check if where you’re staying is equipped with at least one smoke detector. When you’re planning a move and packing your suitcases, smoke detectors aren’t the first thing you think of, but they might be the most important thing you pack or buy on arrival. Paris brings to mind baguettes and bistros, not fires, but the reality is that such dangers can occur anytime, anywhere. Considering a fire breaks out every 2 minutes in France, a smoke detector is an essential purchase. For as little as 20€ you can make your space fire safe. Even though smoke detectors aren’t mandatory yet, they are relatively easy to find. Major home stores, local hardware shops, and even some bigger grocery chains sell smoke detectors. For a sure bet though, visit one of the stores listed below. These stores also sell everything you need for a quick and easy installation.

Mr. Bricolage  (Click here to see the store’s presentation on installing smoke detectors. The slides are in French, but a website like Google Translate can help you get the most important information from the presentation.)

166 Rue St Maur, 75011 Paris

21 Rue Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris

Castorama

C C Les Arcades 1/3 rue de Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris Clichy

11 Cours de Vincennes, 75020 Paris

119 Avenue Flandre, 75019 Paris

BHV Rivoli

55 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Donating Goods to Charity

Spring cleaning or planning for your next move?  Either way, it’s the time of year for cleaning out closets and getting a fresh start.  If you find that you have too much stuff, here are some ideas of how to shed yourself of unwanted clothes, books, and household items.  And you may help someone in need at the same time.

The city of Paris offers free curbside pick-up of bulky items in the different arrondissements and greater city area. The service is generally offered twice each week with varying times for each area. Before placing any items curbside, please call 01 55 74 44 60 for direct information and scheduling. Note that it is not lawful to place oversized items on the curb without pre-authorization. For pick-up details in your area or to make an appointment on line, visit the city’s Web site and fill out the online form.

Emmaus Communautes will come to your apartment and pick up bags of clothes, shoes, toys and/or furniture that are in reusable and resalable condition.  They are similar to what many Americans know as the Salvation Army.  They will not come for just one bag, so if you call, be sure you have enough to make their trip worthwhile.  Be prepared to tell them how much you have for pick up.

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil
40, rue La Fontaine, 75016 Paris,
Tel :  01 44 14 75 20

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil is a Catholic-run  orphanage in the lower 16th that has a second-hand shop to help fund the home.  According to the web site they sell the following :

  • clothes and shoes for all ages
  • costume jewelry, silverware, dishes, artwork
  • linens such as sheets, towels, tablecloths, curtains
  • books, records, toys

You can leave things in good condition, Monday through Saturday from  9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sales take place on Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. and then again from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm.  Saturday hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  There is parking available on-site so you can unload without fear of blocking traffic or being ticketed.

You can also find drop boxes for clothing at several locations in and around Paris:

8th arrondissement: St. Philippe de Roule, at the intersection of rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Franklin Roosevelt

12th: La Halte des Femmes (Coeur de Femmes day shelter) 16-18, passage Raguinot, M: Gare de Lyon

13th: La Maison Coeur de Femmes, 77, rue du Château des Rentiers, M: Porte d’Ivry or  Nationale

A list of 300 collection boxes managed by the organization, Le Relais, can be found on-line.  In addition,  these organizations may also accept secondhand clothes and shoes:

La Croix Rouge at 01.44.43.11.00
L’Armee du Salut at 01.43.62.25.00
Le Secours Catholique at 01.45.49.73.00
Le Secours Populaire at 01.44.78.21.00

Yahoo hosts a bilingual online recycling group called Freecycle Paris that not only enables you to donate your items (clothes, furniture, appliances, etc.) to other members who need or want them, but also allows you to browse for items that may be of interest to you.  The group is free to join.

Finally, both the American Library in Paris and SOS Helpline will accept used books, CDs, and DVDs in good condition

You Call That Furnished?

Every post here at Posted in Paris usually begins with a flurry of e-mails looking for information.  The one we got back from Susan Karp, a relative newcomer to Paris, was so well-crafted that we asked her to write the post.

by Susan Karp

I am sure that somewhere in Paris there exists a mythical, beautifully furnished apartment or two just waiting for some expatriate family to move into.  But we didn’t see any of those.  The furnished apartments we were shown were – as I said to my husband – fine if we could just get rid of all the furniture.  As we probably should have expected, the furniture in these apartments was old, tired and very much like my grandmother’s circa 1972.  I very definitely remember avocado and gold.

Before we found the place we now call home, we first stayed in two temporary apartments, the kind rented on a (very expensive) monthly basis, and these were equipped — as I always assumed furnished apartments would be – minimally but adequately.   There was a bed for everyone, a couch, a coffee table and a television that we could never figure out how to turn on.  One pillow, one set of sheets and two towels for each member of the family.  A dining table and chairs.

There were anywhere from four to six – often mismatched, sometimes chipped — plates, bowls, and salad dishes, cutlery and glassware for a family of four, two pots (rarely more) and a frying pan, maybe two.  Interestingly, there was always a knife block and usually a salad spinner.   To round it out, there was a motley assortment of serve ware (salad bowl, a platter), and the minimum of kitchen gadgets (spatula, wooden spoon) almost always purchased from Ikea (as were the plates and glasses.  In fact, I’m not really sure what people here did avant-Ikea.)

There was always a coffee pot (a Nespresso, even if there were never any pods left in the apartment), usually a microwave, and often a toaster.  The windows had curtains, the cabinets were left in place — now that’s an interesting and unexpected Parisian twist, how an unfurnished apartment often has no kitchen — and there was usually some kind of cleaning supplies, be it a mop or a vacuum. 

 It was enough to get by, certainly for a vacation.  But for a year, especially with kids?  No way.

With the help of a couple of other Parisian expats who’ve gone the furnished route, here are some ideas of what your future home may still be missing.  Whether you bring these items with you from home, purchase them here or forego them altogether will be a function of your personal tastes and budget.

What Makes a House a Home

  • Framed family photos, especially digital picture frames
  • Pillows and throws
  • Vases
  • Candlesticks
  • English language books
  • Board games, playing cards
  • Musical instruments
  • Sports gear

For those of you with kids:

  • Art supplies, including crayons (Art supplies – even colored paper — are ridiculously expensive here and while it is easy to buy colored pencils and markers, it is impossible to find good ol’ Crayola crayons)
  • Toys and costumes
  • Scooters or bikes (and don’t forget your helmets!)

Creature Comforts

Bedding:  European beds have different dimensions than American but enough people complained about sheets being too scratchy or stiff, or musty blankets that this really bears repeating.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my son’s Star Wars sheets in his Parisian bedroom.  And I’ve found it very difficult to find those kind of sheet sets in Paris. If you’re past the stage for that, consider bringing a down comforter, pillows, and flat queen sheets.

Towels.  Oh how I wish I’d gone to Target or Macy’s and stocked up on fluffy, absorbent American towels and bath mats.  I believe I am the proud – if humbled – owner of Paris’ most expensive bath mats because I like the rubber-coated American ones.  But bear in mind, if you don’t have a dryer, even the fluffiest American towel will be crunchy in Paris.

Slippers and comfy clothes for hanging around the house:  We very carefully weeded through our clothing, leaving behind anything that we considered too schlumpy for Paris.  But some Sunday mornings, I’d give up every pain chocolat in Paris for my favorite, too-ugly-to-leave-the-house-in sweater and a pair of sweat pants.  And when you’ve seen what’s on the streets in Paris, you’ll be happy to leave your shoes by the front door and step into your slippers.

In the Kitchen

Cooking – always hard in an unfamiliar kitchen – is even more difficult when you don’t have the right tools.  To be blunt, the knives are …. well, blunt.  Bring your own (paring knives, chef’s knife, bread knife) or be prepared to buy them.  Your furnished kitchen will also certainly be lacking American measuring cups and spoons, as well as: 

  • a pot large enough to make pasta
  • mixing bowls
  • resealable containers
  • baking pans for special purposes such as cake pans, muffin tin, loaf pan
  • ice cube trays
  • cutting board
  • many gadgets that most cooks consider essential: tongs, grater, peeler, garlic press, whisk, zester
  • meat thermometer

 Practical

 It’s all the little things you need to make life a little easier. 

  • Laundry basket or hamper
  • Electrical transformers and adaptors
  • Hangers (Do you know where wire hangers go to die? Parisian furnished apartments)
  • Storage of any kind:  Under the bed for out of season clothes, bins for toys, etc.
  • Door stops for when the windows are open
  • Small step ladder
  • Assorted tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers (all those things that you actually need right away, especially if you’re putting together Ikea furniture)
  • Hooks for coats (invest in 3M removal hooks before you come)
  • Picture hangers
  • Alarm clock
  • Kids backpacks: I cannot tell you how much money we spent on backpacks at BHV because I thought it would be “sweet” to get the same thing the European kids carry (which turn out to be Eastpaks at 75€).
  • Lunch thermoses:  impossible to find here.

You will probably find out that you need to buy:

  •  Table and floor lamps
  • Hair dryer and if you use them: curling iron or flat iron
  • Fan
  • Hand mixer
  • Tableware:  glasses, dishes, bowls
  • Flower boxes
  • Space heaters
  • Cell phones
  • A market caddie

 A final note:  Your camera, laptop, Ipad, printer, Ipod, and Ipod dock may become your most beloved possessions when you are far away from home.  These are incredibly expensive in France, about 50 percent more expensive than in the U.S..  If you are American, buy these before you leave.  Most new gizmos are dual voltage (that is, they run on both North American and European current) although you will likely need a plug adaptor.

Resources

Already on Posted in ParisFrench Electricity Explained, What (Not) to Wear in Paris and Don’t Forget to Pack The…..

Some suggestions for shopping:

Casa (housewares, accessories)

Castorama (hardware, appliances, some housewares and furniture)

Darty (appliances)

Ikea (furniture, bedding, houseware)

La Vaissellerie (dishes, glasses, cutlery)

 Susan Karp moved to Paris with her husband and children for – as she puts it – “no good reason.”  But even this cynical native New Yorker has been wowed by the city of lights.  A longtime freelance writer, Susan has contributed to Consumer Reports, USA Today, Newsweek International and is the author of the now-sadly-out-of-print Smart Guide to Profiting from Mutual Funds.

Help for the Do-It-Yourselfer

If you’re an expat living in an apartment in Paris, chances are that a) something needs fixing, and b) you don’t have the tools to take care of it. If you have some do-it-yourself know how, though, there’s an alternative to the expense and hassle of finding someone else to do the work for you. Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of the always helpful resource, Secrets of Paris,  has the details on how to rent tools from the city of Paris at one of its bricothèques or from Zilok.fr.  Check out what she has to say:  http://www.secretsofparis.com/heathers-secret-blog/borrow-or-rent-tools-electronics-stuff.html .

Moving In

Ksam, who blogs at Totally Frenched Out, previously took us through the steps of finding your perfect Parisian apartment.   Today’s post takes the next step.  Fair warning: this post is not for folks moving from abroad into their first Parisian apartment.  But stick around.  You might learn something.

by Ksam

Step One:  Moving Your Stuff

There are a multitude of moving companies in Paris and across France.  Some of the more well-known ones are Demeco, Les Déménageurs Bretons, and LeDéménageur.com.   Most offer several service packages, going from only moving the boxes from place to place to them doing all of the work (packing, moving and unpacking).   Prices vary widely, so you should shop around and get several different estimates (devis) before making your decision.

There are also several companies, such as demenagerseul.com and  Je-déménage-seul, that cater to those planning on doing everything themselves (or with the help of a few willing friends!).  These firms sell boxes and packing materials and also usually rent moving trucks.

If you’re only in need of a truck (véhicule utilitaire) for the moving portion, here are a few suggestions:

ADA
Avis
Europcar
National/Citer
Rent and Drop

Step Two:  Getting Connected to Your Lifelines

Now let’s talk about are the hook-ups.  You know – electricity, water, Internet, etc.   Those of you already living in France have two options – you can either transfer your account directly if you are moving out of the old place and into the new place on the same day, or you can open an entirely new account and then close the previous one later.

For electricity, contact EDF.  There is an English speaking helpline: 05 62 16 49 08 or you can reach them by e-mail at simpleenergywithedf@edf.fr

For gas, contact GDF.

Water hookups and charges are typically included in your rent.

If you’re like most expats, you are probably concerned with getting Internet set up ASAP in your apartment.  If you don’t have an Internet provider, check out the previous Posted in Paris article on Connecting to the Internet.  But if you already have Internet access and would like to keep the same provider, I strongly recommend seeing if they will keep your current account open all the while opening the new one.  SFR, Bouygues, Free and Numericable all offer this service.

You can help this process along by giving them as much information as possible about your new apartment, including the previous renter’s phone number.  This can be found by plugging any landline phone into the outlet and then dialing any French phone number.  An electronic operator will then give you the previous phone number.  (Tip: review your French numbers before you do this!)  If it turns out there isn’t a phone line set up at your new place, doing it this way will also save you 50 percent of the cost of opening up a new France Telecom line.

Step Three:  Filing Your Change of Address

As far as the French administration is concerned, those of you with a carte de séjour have eight days to inform the préfecture of your new address.  Given that you often need an EDF or France Telecom bill to provide proof of address, it’s not always possible to do so, but make a note to go in as soon as you can.  If you have a French-registered car, you have one month do complete the change of address on your carte grise.

And it doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while the French government actually comes up with an idea to simplify its citizens’ lives.  And this time around, it’s in the form of a Web site: http://www.changement-adresse.gouv.fr/

Once you sign up for this site, you will be able to inform all of the following government organizations of your move with just a few simple clicks:

  • EDF
  • GDF
  • Pôle Emploi (unemployment services)
  • Tax authority
  • CAF (benefits service)
  • L’assurance santé (health benefits)

At the end, you will also have the option of signing up for mail-forwarding with La Poste.  If you choose not to do it here, you can also do it in person at your nearest post office, or online at http://reexpedition.laposte.fr/.  Expect to pay 23€ for six months, or 41€ for one year of forwarding.

La Poste also offers something called “Le Pack Ma Nouvelle Adresse”.  This special package offers several pre-stamped envelopes so that you can inform businesses of your move, as well as pre-written letters you can use to inform various agencies (EDF, insurance, etc) of your new address.  (These could be particularly useful for those with a low level of French).  In addition, you’ll get 10 “I moved – take note!” post-cards, as well as a  moving guide with moving tips and timelines.  Lastly, they also include coupons with special offers from their partner companies offering discounts on moving boxes or moving quotes, etc.  The cost for this service is 34€ for six months or 52€ for one year.

Here is a brief list of other companies you may also want inform:

  • bank branch
  • mobile phone company
  • mutuelle (health insurance)
  • insurance company
  • your employer
  • magazines/newspapers subscriptions
  • any stores where you have loyalty cards
  • any businesses in your home country using your French address

And the very last thing to do:  send out the invitations for your pendaison de crémaillère  (housewarming party)!