Thursday, 17 April 2014

O is for ventes d'Occasion

What to do with all our unwanted stuff? That's the crucial question.

Its that spring cleaning time of year when so much accumulated detritus comes to light. In the UK, we bag it all up in black bin liners and take it to the charity shops or, if it is unsaleable, to the tip. (Apart from the Christmas when I made the mistake of storing our four year old son's presents in a bin liner - came home from work to find the husband had taken them to the tip.)

Here in France, the charity shop doesn't exist. So what shall we do with the jeans that no longer fit, the shoes bought in an extravagant moment that are never going to see the light of day, the purple vase we were given a few Christmases ago?

There is the déchetterie, the repository of all waste. Huge skips line up to receive your rubbish but woe betide you if you put the wrong substance in the wrong bin. There is a man in uniform, who looks not unlike a Camp Commandant in corny war films, who watches over we dumpers with an eagle eye.

It amazes me what people will throw away. Serviceable furniture, pots and pans that have plenty of life left in them, decent curtains and household linens. I once saw a man about to chuck a selection of large terracotta flowerpots. I caught him just in time and they are now gracing my garden (see J is for Jardin) with tulips and geraniums.

I wasn't so lucky with the double mattress. As we are currently desperately in need of one, the pristine mattress that arrived in the back of a little fiat caught my eye immediately, but the tip was busy that day and by the time I had edged my car into the only available space I was too late. The Camp Commandant was cheerfully helping the little old man heave his exceptionally good quality mattress into the mouth of a skip. I still wake in extreme discomfort in the middle of the night, springs digging into my back, and think of that mattress, languishing somewhere in a waste disposal unit or down at the bottom of a very deep hole.

The other option is to sell your unwanted stuff at a Vide Grenier. Much like a jumble sale or car boot, the vide grenier is taken very seriously. Legally, you are entitled to participate in two in a year; any more and you are obliged to pay tax on your earnings.

I did one last year at my son's school. A fabulously sunny day, there were plenty of stalls there offering a whole variety of tat. In amongst the fellow parents and local householders, there was a coterie of professional brocanteurs, those perennial bad lads who flog antiques and 'collectibles'. On the stroke of midday, they set out a table and got out the vin rouge. They continued drinking throughout the afternoon, culminating in a game of 'who can throw the valuable paperweight the furthest'.

But by far my favourite repository for unwanted items is Leboncoin, the online classified ad service. You can literally sell anything on it from a donkey to a child's bicycle. It works on a regional basis, so you can narrow your search down to find that elusive mattress in a town near you.

I will now log on and do just that!

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