With just two days to move in before we needed to start working, we had no choice but to furnish a flat FAST in England! We landed in the UK to live for a third time recently. But, with one difference – we had a pet in tow. Unfortunately, in our experience we didn’t find that securing a place to live with a dog was as straightforward as we’d hoped.
But, eventually we scored the right place at the right time. It came unfurnished, and it’s the first time we’ve ever chosen to furnish from scratch!
Furnishing a flat fast in England
Since we had the opportunity to design our own space, we put together a checklist of key pieces we needed:
A double desk or two minimalist desks for working from home
Office chairs that prevent RSI and back problems
Some sort of compact dining table and chairs
Sofa, TV, coffee table and TV unit (could be inexpensive and compact)
Bed and [comfortable!] mattress
Microwave, kettle, toaster (as these were not already included in the kitchen)
We do not have transport so needed to rely on some conveniences of England in terms of furnishing a flat fast.
Walkable options e.g. cheap stores like Poundland or Primark
Next day delivery services – will share our favourites below
Vintage / second hand / outlet stores we can reach on foot, as well as Facebook Marketplace if we could access on foot.
Our UK flat walkthrough: the reveal!
Find out how we furnished our flat fast in 48 hours without transport:
Our top 7 resources for furnishing a flat quickly and on a budget
A few of the places we mentioned in the video included:
Argos – next day delivery available at a timeslot you choose
Amazon – next day delivery available but sometimes difficult to track
B&M – nice quality homewares at a great price
Primark – seems to have a renewed focus on ‘home’ since we last lived in the UK; nice items that are cheap
Poundland – an awesome resource for gathering all the usual cleaning and household products that we usually take for granted because things like detergent are usually ‘just there’!
Vintage or charity stores e.g. British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Marie Curie shops
How to rent in England: tips for first-timers
We’ve rented five properties in eight years (across three different stints) in England. Some of these were private rentals found on Gumtree. Others were via real estate agencies. I wouldn’t say the task of finding a flat ever gets easier. However, if you’re a foreigner (expat) and you haven’t got a lot of [recent] history in the destination, you may face an administrative nightmare.
My recommendation is that you prepare. Have as much of the following information to hand as possible. This will mean you can jump on applications quickly and successfully:
A UK phone number/SIM
Have a temporary address handy, as you’re usually asked where you’re staying ‘now’
Proof of who you are (e.g. passport, drivers licence, bank statements)
Reference information (either pre-prepared written references and/or details of recent rental property agents who can attest to you being a good tenant)
Evidence of employment, particularly recent payslips and/or a contract or something official validating your income will mean far less hassle trying to secure a rental agreement
Alternatively, details of a guarantor may also be accepted
A UK bank account* – particularly so you can have funds ready to transfer as your deposit and first few weeks’ rent. Waiting for funds to transfer internationally is possible, but will take extra days which may mean you are held up on your plans to sign a contract or move in.
If you are new to the country, this can be a sticky point. Many banks will ask for an address to set up a bank account, but you almost need a bank account to secure a residential address! HSBC is known to support expats in England, although it’s my understanding that they charge a hefty fee for the privilege. Barclays let us set up an account initially when we first arrived, but I believe Santander is ok too.
The best way to seek help is to jump on an expat page on Facebook (e.g. ‘Aussies in London’) and ask for recent experience and advice. It’s a resource we wish we had have had when we first arrived in 2010!
A final note on renting a flat: furnished or unfurnished
If you’re turning up to the UK to live and work but you don’t have a job yet, or a pet, I’d advise not rushing into the rental process. Book an Airbnb to stay in for a few weeks, or a non-committal flat share. Find your feet, get a job, discover an area or two you love; get your bank account sorted and then seek an official residence.
We LOVE the UK but you need to find “your place” otherwise your experience might be less than happy which would be a huge shame. You’re far better off if you can live within an easy commute of where you work, and designing your life to optimise your experience abroad.
If you can give yourself some space and time to do that, definitely take advantage of it. We’ve learnt the hard way, and this is what I’d do differently if we had our time over again. Also don’t buy into the scaremongering around not being able to find a place to live. You will be ok. Plan ahead, ask questions and keep your cool. You’ve got this :)
Do you have additional advice to add, or a question? Let us know in the comments below.
Back at home in Australia sometimes you’ll find us engaged in banter at the pub with our neighbours from New Zealand. We’ll give each other a little good-humoured grief about our accents and get into heated debates about who boasts the best cities.
We can make fun of each other at home, you know? But overseas when we run into an Antipodean on our travels we more often than not stick together.
It’s a little like how in your family you can make fun (within reason, obviously) of siblings or cousins, but if someone else tries to, we’ll automatically defend the other.
A lot of this mateship goes back to war times, and on 25 April each year our nations commemorate Anzac Day to observe when our troupes landed at Gallipoli in 1915.
Today Anzac Day still stands as one of our nations’ most important occasions and is marked by a public holiday each year, as well as moving dawn services and daytime military marches.
Incidentally, it’s also my birthday.
Indeed, many of us make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey for special dawn ceremonies.
And, there are always services in London including a dawn service at the Australian War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner which is – you might be surprised to know – usually overflowing with attendees.
If you have spent any time travelling or living abroad, you’ll appreciate that the sense of patriotism is often stronger when you’re away from home.
Add that to an emotional national day and you’ll usually find a hive of expats huddling together flying their flag.
On Anzac Day, Aussies and Kiwis unite, and being this far away – just as our men were 102 years ago – it’s a poignant moment to be part of.
It’s for this reason that I jumped on an opportunity that a colleague at work – a lovely lady from New Zealand – told me about.
Each year our High Commission offers passes to special ceremonies, and those with an Australian or New Zealand passport can apply.
You can try this link from the beginning of each year (or if it’s not working, Google ‘Anzac Day London High Commission’).
You must apply for passes to attend this special service, held at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, and followed by a church service at Westminster Abbey up the road.
Here’s a sample of what we experienced:
The day was moving and memorable. Highly recommended – add the task to your diary from February next year. We’ll definitely do this again.
We’re about to do something insane – again! It’s the same crazy manoeuvre which actually brought to life this space, originally named, “Sarah’s blog: Cool Britannia”, launched to share our expat experiences in London. For the past few months I’ve been bursting to announce something but needed to wait for one piece of paper – a very important document – the visa. It FINALLY came, and so here we go on another life-changing adventure. Honestly, it is overwhelming and not a decision we take lightly; but our hearts are in this big move, and the approval of my visa sparked a happy dance in the front yard. Fortunately the neighbours already know I’m a “unique character”.
We’re going back to England! Yay! And it’s no insignificant “yay” either, but a, “I’ve-been-waiting-since-the-day-we-left-London-to-go-back” kind of “yay”.
The move this time isn’t so straightforward though, with a more specialised visa requirement which had to be fulfilled (rather than the youth mobility visa which is fairly accessible if you’re under 31). My head’s already there, and my heart never left, but there’s been an anxious period this year – while this is what we want, it’s still really difficult telling loved ones and nice employers/clients/friends that you’re leaving. We’re so lucky to have people who don’t want us to go, but even though I feared the worst prior to each of these conversations, everyone’s proven to be supportive and kind. Not to mention most were not surprised – it seems my unconventional reputation precedes me.
It’s not so easy having your dream be so far away (“home” being Australia), and pursuing our various goals does come at a cost, which at times causes me quite a bit of anxiety, and even guilt. It’s a tough decision to move so far away – it’s not like a move from Cairns to Sydney, Edinburgh to London or even Vancouver to New York, for that matter (and they are big changes); there’s a reason people carefully consider trips to and from Australia – it’s a bloody long way from anything! It would be remiss however, to not follow the advice that I give others every day – life’s too short to not do what’s in your heart, particularly if you have the opportunity to do it, and with the support and companionship of your best friend. I’m lucky and extremely grateful.
I can’t wait to move back to London. The moving part this time is probably the easiest – we know where we want to live, what to do or not to do and with a second chance at it all, we’ll be sure to make the very best of it. We have to, you see, in honour of the goodbye tears that will be shed over the coming weeks.
On the exciting side of things, I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you too, as I secretly (or not so, now) harbour a desire to become a London expert. They say do and share something you’re passionate about – well, fellow fans and future fans of one of the greatest cities in the world – get ready to share the ride with me. It will be filled with colourful places, culture and vibrant people who also call London home; but aside from anything, the story and this space will be abundant with love and passion – for life, for opportunity and for adventure. Thanks as always for your support. Be true to yourselves regardless of how weird or unique you and your aspirations are. Remember, if you’re stuck on a life mantra, you’re free to adopt mine: Travel. Live. Learn.
Have you gone through this roller-coaster ride on your path to expat life? Or are you considering taking the leap but apprehensive? I’d love for you to drop a comment below -Sarah
Welcome! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London. We like to inspire on how to travel for longer and to live and work from anywhere. Our most popular content here is about seeing the world with your pet, remote working & digital nomadism, and house + pet sitting. Create a global life of your dreams at any age! Subscribe to find out more :)
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