Furniture and household furnishings

A big hassle and expense of relocation is getting furniture and house hold furnishings. If you are arriving somewhere then you need lots of stuff. If you are leaving then it’s often a question what to do with the things you can’t take with you. Sometimes people think getting a furnished place is the answer for a limited stay and then they realize that the cost even for just a few months is often more than simply buying things and leaving them behind.

There are chains that specialize in such things like Möbel Rieger and the standard bearer Ikea. A difficulty in Stuttgart is that one has a choice of the Ikea near Lüdwigsburg or in Sindelfingen – both about 20 Km north and south of the city. One can get to them by public transportation but cannot take sizable furniture along. They have delivery but it usually cost 10 to 15%. Yet both tend to have good prices and quality.

Another phenomenon is Spermühl. This referrers on larger objects that are not allowed in the normal garbage containers. There are special recycling and disposal places where one can take such things but they are to be separated into different categories and one usually has to pay depending on volume and the type of material. There is also a city pick-up service in Stuttgart. Years ago, the pickups were done on a neighborhood basis. Everyone around put stuff out at the same time. This gave people a good opportunity to look through lots of things and often had a carnival atmosphere.

When foreigners hear of this they often respond with; “OMG I wouldn’t pick through the garbage”. But in Europe we tend to have much smaller living spaces than say in America. With less space for storage, a LOT of perfectly good furniture and household things simply get tossed. The system has now changed in Stuttgart although it’s used in other cities. Now, each household is allowed a limited volume of 2 pick-ups per year for general things like furniture, wood, metal objects. One registers online a pickup date from in front of your house.  For the pickup crews they tend to organize the pickups in clusters. So one will see a number of piles of stuff within a few blocks but it’s no longer a whole neighborhood thing.

Of course a lot of stuff tossed is simply junk but undamaged stuff just gets compacted and recycled which is a waste. In America there are organizations like Goodwill that take donations and sell cheaply or donate to people in need. This is less common in Germany but it does exist. On the official Stuttgart website they list a couple of charity organizations that do this:

Caritis … pt/138748?

And Sozialunternehmen Neue Arbeit gGmbH - … pt/139290?

There is also a special Stuttgart area website for people to list things they have to give away or conversely things they are looking for. Sales are not allowed on this site but one often needs to pickup things given on your own. 

Their motto is give away instead of throw away.

This is a good solution for people who have objections to collecting things on the street. For others, just taking things from the Sperrmühl is preferable because it is anonymous.  Paradoxically, some people will prefer to look at the occasional second hand shop than taking things off of the street – ignoring the reality that most of the things there were probably acquired in this manner by the shop  owner.

One thing that is not supposed to get thrown out with the Sperrmühl street pickups is cloths. There are organizations and the occasional metal donation box set up for this. But inevitably one sees a lot of cloths tossed. Even when I don't want anything for myself, I sometimes stop at a pile of Sperrmühl and take the cloths along and donate them in the proper places rather than see them go to waste. Something to think about for the socially conscious.

Spermüll (this is the proper German spelling!) is a great thing and I have picked up numerous perfectly usable things from it - sometimes real antiques (Remember: One man's trash is another man's treasure!). But to furnish a home on arrival isn't possible this way: Things just don't show up if and when you need them.

There are several charity-run second hand shops in Stuttgart, run by Caritas (again this is the proper spelling), Neue Arbeit gGmbH, Arbeiterwohlfahrt. You can donate unwanted (but usable) stuff to them, they will sort, sometimes restore and then sell them cheaply, with all work done by disabled, socially disadvantaged or difficult-to-employ people and the proceeds being used for charity purposes. This is a great way to furnish a new home if your social consciousness is greater than your urge for new or branded stuff.
There are also a few private second-hand and antique stores that do a similar business, minus the social aspect. Look for "Haushaltsauflösungen" or "Entrümpelung" (household clearance) to find them.

Flea markets are another good source for cheap household goods. The best known one, on Karlsplatz every Saturday, is quite commercial and pricey, but there are occasional smaller ones in the suburbs (look out for "Flohmarkt" posters!) and two very big ones on a Sunday in May and September all over the city centre - check local events listings to find the dates (Stuttgarter Frühjahrs and Herbstflohmarkt)!

And last not least, a lot of good stuff is available in classified ads - and are the perennial favourites here!

I disagree with Tom on the cloth collection part: Most of these are for-business organisations who sell the textiles and just donate a (sometimes minor) part of their profit to good causes (to be allowed to write their promotional material as if they are a charity). If you want to donate old clothes, rather than allow somebody else to earn from them, make sure the container you throw things in is owned by Caritas, Red Cross or another well known charity. Do not participate in street-by-street textile collections (of which you'll find leaflets in your mailbox frequently)!
You can also bring usable clothes to the abovementioned second-hand charity stores or some refugee homes (but do check first what they need - they are often flooded with the wrong items and lacking others!).

A wise saying in Germany : "Drei Mal umgezogen ist wie einmal abgebrannt" - it basically means by the third relocation furniture value equals a burnt contents of a household.

We give clothes, that are too small for kids or us ;) on to families , with the message to pass it on to others , if they can't  find something worthwhile in a pile. 

We were surprised, in Bonn , that some expats from UK&US  (military base) frowned upon everyone eyeing the sperrmüll like mini-treasure-hunts. But then a visit to UK flea market revealed a stand that sold second-hand undergarments (never thought I'd see that day). Now ,I know , it just cultural insensitivity if one judges common local behaviour , from an isolated viewpoint.

For all three relocations in Germany , we moved into a furnished dwelling for a limited period , to see the "wood from the trees"- because there are many other things to sort out- that gave us time and comfort to prioritize - and avoided making rushed decisions on furniture,( that doesn't fit together)- or thats a sore eye on month 2. for me with relocations the adage hold : penny wise pound foolish- whatever you believe in saving by quickly acquiring furniture - will come around and bite you (a salesperson can see that hectic decisioning look and be less willing to haggle).  some specials comes rarily - and furniture has the lowest long term investment value - hence require prudence.

Thanks to Beppi for catching some misspellings in my post.

His point about the clothing donation boxes is well taken. One needs to read which organization they are run by since there are ones that are commercially run rather than from charity organizations. The metal donation boxes are huge beige-ish things often out in the public. Close to my apartment is one on the property of a Catholic Church which goes to their secondhand shops, emergency and refugee help and overseas missions.

Another I often use is in the courtyard of the EVA, (Protestant Society Organization) in central Stuttgart. They provide a lot of social help including advice for people with handicaps, AIDS, drug problems, marriage counseling etc. They have a program that provides street people with hot meals 5 days a week and the occasional shower and chance to do laundry - plus clothing. So most of the clothing donations go to this or other local programs like providing for refugees - rather than some overseas’ mission.

Some may prefer to thus help locally but others might find it strange that the panhandler that approaches you on the street might be wearing something you donated... I would like to add that many of the programs to help people in trouble are church affiliated. I'm not religious myself and am often skeptical of religious based groups that I have seen elsewhere focusing on pushing their dogma. Yet, I've found the German Catholic and Protestant organizations, in Stuttgart at least, to help people of any or no faith without proselytizing.

The EVA does so many things in addition to what I mentioned that it should get its own article but for now I will just post a link to it's website:

TominStuttgart :

I would like to add that many of the programs to help people in trouble are church affiliated. I'm not religious myself and am often skeptical of religious based groups that I have seen elsewhere focusing on pushing their dogma. Yet, I've found the German Catholic and Protestant organizations, in Stuttgart at least, to help people of any or no faith without proselytizing.

This is exactly my opinion/standpoint as well!

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