• John
  • Felde
  • University of Maryland
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • USLHC
  • USLHC
  • USA

  • James
  • Doherty
  • Open University
  • United Kingdom

Latest Posts

  • Andrea
  • Signori
  • Nikhef
  • Netherlands

Latest Posts

  • CERN
  • Geneva
  • Switzerland

Latest Posts

  • Aidan
  • Randle-Conde
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Belgium

Latest Posts

  • TRIUMF
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Canada

Latest Posts

  • Laura
  • Gladstone
  • MIT
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Steven
  • Goldfarb
  • University of Michigan

Latest Posts

  • Fermilab
  • Batavia, IL
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Seth
  • Zenz
  • Imperial College London
  • UK

Latest Posts

  • Nhan
  • Tran
  • Fermilab
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Alex
  • Millar
  • University of Melbourne
  • Australia

Latest Posts

  • Ken
  • Bloom
  • USLHC
  • USA

Latest Posts

Susanne Reffert | IPMU | Japan

View Blog | Read Bio

Lessons from a Life on the Move

One consequence of pursuing a career in science is moving house (often changing town, country, or even continent) several times, about every two to three years. While moving is always a hassle, one can also take it as a step towards a more essential lifestyle.
I had gone to university in Zurich, where I had grown up. When preparing to move to Berlin for my PhD, I had to face a giant closet full of clothes and stuff I had owned for 15 years, but likely not worn in the last 8. After I had thrown out a huge amount of things, I packed my boxes.
In Berlin, I started out with my first mistake. I went straight to IKEA and furnished my flat with just about everything I had seen in my mom’s house. I later discovered that the household of a grad student has different needs than that of a family. Most things I had bought (especially kitchen stuff) I have never used a single time.
What was a bit special in my case, was that after only one year, I had to move again, since my advisor moved to Munich. Given price levels for housing in Germany, my next flat was only half the size of the one I had had in Berlin. Consequence: most of my new furniture remained in Berlin and about half of the (still too numerous) clothing went to a second hand shop. Yet my new landlord claimed that no one had ever moved into their one-room flat with so much stuff. I became an expert in storing things in improbable places, like on top of cupboards, and under the bed.
Only two years later, I moved to Amsterdam. Another part of my furniture was left behind. I also realized that it was better to just stick with one kind of shampoo, conditioner, or body lotion, because moving five half-used bottles of each is a bit a waste of space. I learned to only buy new stuff when I actually needed it. And I learned to sort through my clothes regularly and give away what I don’t wear anymore.
After two years in Amsterdam, I moved to Japan. And it seemed smarter to use my moving allowance to actually buy what I needed new in Japan, instead of dragging my own (cheap) stuff to the other side of the globe. All remaining furniture and the last of my poor unused kitchen utensils found new owners in Amsterdam.
We arrived in Japan with four suitcases, and had three boxes shipped, that’s all. And this time, we did not make the same mistakes. In Japan, my husband and I only bought things for the household we actually found we had a need for. We know that we’ll have to move again in less than two years. So we bought inexpensive, but decent looking kitchenware and other household items that we can easily let go of when we are leaving. Of course we bought also some nice things that we will keep, for example our beautiful Japanese tea cups. But I think we’ll be leaving with almost as little as we came with.
All my moves, and the moves ahead, have taught me not to be so attached to stuff, because it weighs me down. I actually need rather few things, and the ones I do need for practical reasons, I am happy to use and then pass on. Like this, moving, and life in general, has become a little less troublesome.

Share