One of the biggest things that happened to me this year is something you might have noticed in my Instagram photos, if you’ve been paying close attention to the backgrounds. After 10 years in my little Paris apartment, I have moved!
I’d been wanting to move for a while already, because while I loved my neighborhood, and my building, and my neighbors, and my apartment was very cute and charming, it was really small. It supposedly measured 27 sq. meters (290 sq. feet) in total, but as a former deux-pièces (one-bedroom apartment with a living room) converted in some decade past into a studio, it was composed of a main room (the former bedroom) of about 13 sq. meters (140 sq. feet), plus a kitchen, bathroom, toilet room and hallway. The original living room had become part of the apartment across the hall and a wall was put up in an inconvenient spot at the end of my hall. Due to the way things were laid out and the actual usable space, it was really more like a 13 sq. meter apartment with some extra little rooms and spaces, all of them too small to spend time in, tacked onto it.
I liked being there in general as it was quiet and my one window looked out over a calm inner courtyard (so, no street noise), but with all my worldly possessions crammed into it, it’d become so cramped that I’d given up years earlier on inviting people over for dinner, and setting up food photos was a big challenge. It was also badly insulated, and only half of the place had any heating, so winters there were very cold. I wasn’t actively looking for a new place, however, since housing is so very expensive in Paris, and the longer I stayed in that apartment, the better deal I was getting since my landlord was allowed to raise my rent by only a small percentage every year. So before I knew it, I’d been there nearly 10 years, which is longer than I’d ever lived at a single address before, even during childhood since my family moved four times while I was growing up.
After the pandemic set in, I’d actually begun to think about moving back to the US to be closer to my family, although the trouble and expense of moving my stuff back was a discouraging factor. Then one fine day a friend called to say he knew of a place that might be perfect for me… to buy! I hadn’t even been thinking about buying anything, for the financial reasons alluded to above, but as it turned out this new place was in a suburb of Paris, far enough away from the city that it was actually affordable for me with my meager freelance translator’s income. It was 47 sq. meters (506 sq. feet), had a bedroom and separate living room and got lots of natural light (compared to the rather dungeony darkness of my old place), which is great for taking food photos and also not being depressed! Furthermore, as someone who worked from home, I would often go several days in a row without setting foot outside, especially in the winter, so why pay so much to live in Paris? From the new place, Paris would be just a 10-minute train ride away.
Long story short, I ended up buying it and, after an extraordinary amount of paperwork, administrative hassle and interminable waiting that I won’t even try to go into, I moved in at the beginning of this month.
One of the things I like most about the new place is the view from the kitchen window. From it I can actually see green things, like trees and bushes, and also the sky! While in my old place I could see only the brick and windows of the building across the courtyard from mine, and never knew who might be looking at me (of course, that’s what curtains are for, but still…). There’s even some ivy growing past the window, and I love it. The new kitchen is super spacious, with lots of cupboards, counter space and even room for a table! Being able to work or read at a table with a window that looks out onto some type of nature has already changed my life for the better these past several weeks.
Moving day was still tough for me emotionally. I had so many memories in that old place, and I’d been there so long it was hard to believe it didn’t actually belong to me. Above left, you can see my main room with the boxes and things halfway moved out, and then all of my stuff grouped together on the ground floor of my old building, waiting to be loaded into the moving truck.
My new living room upon arrival… sooo much space waiting to be lived in and decorated!
Above: the main room and kitchen of my old apartment. I’ll really miss that marble fireplace! Although I never used it (it was in working condition but I would’ve had to pay to have it professionally swept before and after), I loved having it there, and the mirror above it was another beautiful feature. The kitchen in this place was small and cramped by the standards of most other cities, but for Paris it was actually really big. I was very lucky with this when I moved in, back in 2011, as this was the same time that I was starting to really get into cooking and food photography. Before leaving I had to remove and dispose of the (very old and rickety) cupboards, as they did not belong to the apartment but were considered part of the furniture. I had purchased them from the previous tenant. I negotiated with the owner to leave the custom-built countertop and shelves above the sink that the previous tenant’s dad had made for her, as it would have been a shame for the next tenant not to have them.
My last glimpse of my beloved old place, right after the final inspection with a representative of the owner to see if I would get my security deposit back (I did!). I still do miss it, and have fantasies of winning the lottery so I can go back and buy it to have a pied à terre in Paris.
Although I’m still mostly living out of boxes, and have a lot of furniture to buy, having the extra space has been really nice, and mentally liberating. After so many years in a tiny space with those physical constrictions, I’d begun to feel a bit constricted in my mind too, viewing life from a perspective of limitations and lack, sometimes making poor choices in consequence. So now I’m experiencing an unfurling of new possibilities and freedom that I’d almost forgotten could exist.
Once things are furnished and decorated, I’ll be sharing more photos of the new place.