Having only posted three times since August, I’ve been noticeably absent from the blogging world. This absence didn’t start off as intentional– coming back from a month-long stay in the USA to jumping right back into a new school year had taken its toll on me, and there was also a lot (A LOT) of things going on behind the scenes in my personal life.
But frankly, it’s also taken me awhile figure out if I want to continue blogging as intentionally as I once did– it’s been a lot more difficult than I thought to get back up on the blogging horse. (For the record, I think I do want to continue writing, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that my blog is never going to be what I once dreamt I wanted it to be, in terms of how expat or travel or lifestyle blogs rank and thrive.) But I’m okay with that.
The biggest reason for my absence is that I’ve recently moved out of my house share (colocation) and into my own apartment. I’ve obviously written in past posts about my desire to plant roots and nest a bit more since I’m planning to stay in Lille for the foreseeable future (and by that I mean maybe the next three years, but who knows really), and this move was the first step. In terms of emotions, it was difficult because I’ve lived in this house since first moving to Lille in 2015, and I’ve always lived with good friends. But now that I’ve moved out and I’m settled in, I’m realizing just how necessary this move was for my overall wellbeing.
As of November, I am now the proud tenant of a one-bedroom, 34 square-meter (365 square-feet) flat. My rent has almost doubled, but my apartment came equipped with almost all the essentials I needed (a washing machine, an oven, a fridge with a freezer, a wardrobe, shelves, a double bed, a coffee table, a kitchen table and three chairs, a walk in closet, a living room chair…) Nonetheless, I’ve since invested in a brand new IKEA L-shaped couch, a small desk, a floor lamp, a living room rug, throw pillows, knick knacks, sheets, dishes, a Nespresso machine, wine glass, Moscow Mule cups, and kitchenware (my goodness, moving is SO expensive!) I’m also finding it therapeutic to be able to decorate my place in a way that is so “me.” In fact, last week I was strolling along the Seine in Paris and found myself really looking at local artists’ work and imagining where I could hang them on my walls, in my apartment. It’s funny that just a year or two ago, I was the girl who couldn’t imagine spending her money on anything other than travel. (Perhaps this comes with age?) Regardless, it’s been so much fun re-purposing all of my belongings that were once all crammed into my bedroom, and instead placing them all throughout my flat. Now, when I come home from work, I really feel relaxed and “at home.” It feels so cozy, and grown up to have an actual space that is mine. I thought I was going to be extremely lonely living on my own, but so far, I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. There’s a lot to be said about enjoying your own company. (Plus, one can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.) As a neat freak and holiday-lover, I am super content to have an immaculately clean and organized space in which I can blast Christmas music.
With that being said, I now have a spreadsheet budget for the month, and have gotten super serious about saving and investing money. (And I will admit I have been having a very, very difficult time with staying disciplined, although I am hoping it will get easier now that most of my big-item purchases have been paid off.)
One thing I have been so grateful for are helpful and supportive friends and colleagues. When you’re living abroad it’s hard when you cannot just call up your parents to help you move. I am so thankful to have had three amazing friends help me move with their car and manpower (Ciaran, Florine, and Victor!), six friends help me build my furniture and hang up my decorations on the wall (Paul, Jeff, Rebecca, Didier, Nicky, and Nico!), and an amazing friend who took me to IKEA to buy everything I needed (Nicola!) Others have donated various items to my kitchen or apartment in general– a TV, pots and pans, silverware, a landline phone (Amber, Florine, Nicky!) My friends Denise, Sharon, Paul, Catie, Andrea, and Rashida, Amber, Jo, Michelle, amongst other colleagues– Heather, Tim, Michelle, Madolyn, Sadie, Lyndsay, Nick, Tommy, Sid have also been super, super supportive along the way as well and deserve a personal shoutout. I am so grateful to have such a group of supportive people so far away from home.
For fun, here are a few pictures of my new home:
This is the view when you walk in…
I bought the white table for 10€ on LeBonCoin.
The fall decorations are from Dollar Tree, and the decorative gold quote is from Kirkman’s, both in the US.
The candle is just blue salts and a re-purposed glass jar, bought with the mat from a junk store in Lille (Fabio’s.) The frame is from Hema, and the decorative glass piece holding my keys is from Maison du Monde.
The candles were a housewarming gift, and the blue tile was bought from a street vendor in Lisbon.
Also the view from the front door.
The white desk was purchased by me from IKEA.
The desk accessories were gifts from my friends Megan and Erin.
The frame is from HEMA, and the lamp is sitting on another tile bought in Portugal.
The chairs were all included in the apartment.
The white chair, coffee table, and TV table were included with the flat.
The clock was a gift from my mother when she visited in 2015. My friend Jeff also gave me the pink landline phone.
The couch, pillows, floor lamp, and white tray were all purchased from IKEA. The photo frames are from HEMA, the decorative box is from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.
The rug and the white bird are from Maison du Monde.
The fall decorations are from Dollar Tree in the US.
The brown picture frame of my grandparents on the right window is from my Uncle Dan.
Now, I just need to get a TV, and some curtains! Eventually, I would love to find a big piece of artwork for above my sofa.
My long photo frame was bought at Tati.
The kitchen is a bit 80’s, but we can’t always have everything, can we? Most of these things were included with the flat.
All dishes and wine glasses were purchased from IKEA or HEMA or Carrefour. The butterflies were included with the apartment and will be coming down eventually (seriously, the last tenant took the curtains but left the butterflies?)
The photos on the shelf were from the junk store, Fabio’s. The candles were re-purchased old jars, and the decorative lantern is from my friend, Megan. The wine rack was a gift from my friends Jeff and Paul. The fruit bowl was from my friend Libby. (Seriously guys, when expats leave, they regift you with awesome stuff they can’t take with them!)
I’m hoping to eventually add some hanging wine glass racks, a spice rack, and some shelving above the oven.
This is my bedroom, and the view is fabulous! All this furniture came with the apartment. I found this bedspread on Amazon. The fairy lights were a gift from my friend Rebecca, and the other knick knacks are mostly items from Kirkman’s, Maison du Monde, and my travels in Japan and Morocco. The heart-shaped box is engraved and from my grandmother. The white shelves are from my friend, Megan. The comforter inside the sheets was from my friend Joe.
Eventually I want to add a headboard, or a piece of art to serve as one above the bed. On the wall just opposite, I’d like to add some photos.
My friends Denise and Triin gave me this photo when I first moved to Lille, which had been previously passed down to them as well. The flowers are a small gesture from my grandma, and the candle is from my Aunt Kelly. The bathmat was left behind from my friend Joe.
As I write these captions, I realize how much of my travels and how many small parts of my friends reside in this apartment. I am truly very lucky and thankful this holiday season.
I’m looking forward to adding more artwork and decorative touches as time goes on.
Onwards to the next chapter!
Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans celebrating!