Moving internationally as an aspiring minimalist

I’m a decluttering hipster. I used to tell people that I was Konmari-ing before it was cool–way back in the ancient days of 2015. I prided myself on keeping an immaculately clean apartment and donating things that didn’t spark joy.

But then I had to make an international move.

And I was forced to confront just how much useless junk I had accumulated during my 6+ years in DC. Among the things I had to throw away were:

  • Tons of ugly, used headbands
  • A cheap head massaging tool I barely used
  • Tattered underwear and clothing with holes
  • Expired dry goods, like sea kelp and noodles

And I had to donate, hand off to friends, or freecycle quite a few things that I liked, but couldn’t justify keeping in storage at my parents’ house knowing that they’d just be sitting under a layer of dust forever, such as:

  • A sewing machine
  • All my hair stuff — texturizer spray, hairspray, old curling iron, hair straightener
  • A cute Beauty and the Beast-themed blanket
  • Bialetti moka pot
  • Tea bags and a tea pot

After discarding ALL of that, I shipped three 20×20 boxes to my parents’ house, AND sent two large Target crates of stuff via the car of a family friend. Things I sent my parents included:

  • All my winter stuff — coats, sweaters, scarves that I’d need them to bring to me for Christmas
  • Sentimental items, like stuffed animals and travel souvenirs that were too bulky or fragile to carry
  • Books

Since I own my place in DC and opted to rent it out, I left all my furniture and cooking utensils for the new tenants to enjoy.

Ultimately, I only took three bags with me to Geneva.

Prior to unpacking at my first Airbnb

In my blue backpack, I packed:

  • Personal laptop
  • Legal documents like my passport, employment contract, etc
  • Kindle
  • A small bag for liquid toiletries
  • Reusable utensils
  • EU and Swiss adapters
  • My trusty Anker portable charger
  • Eye glasses

In my green carry-on roller suitcase, I packed:

  • Work laptop (I continued to work remotely for my old job until the end of July) and related accessories
  • Socks, underwear and intimates
  • Light summer clothing (shirts, dresses)
  • Makeup
  • Dual-voltage curling iron and hair brush
  • DSLR camera
  • Sentimental items like handwritten cards from other people and postcards I’ve collected from my travels

And finally, in my red checked suitcase, I packed:

  • Pants and shoes
  • Light rain jacket, umbrella, rain boots
  • 4 bags (a tote for work, a mini cross-body bag for errands, a larger canvas tote for when the mini doesn’t cut it, and a duffel bag for weekend trips)
  • Large liquids (moisturizer, toner water, contact solution)
  • Reusable cloth pads

I also brought my thin blue blanket from home, because I had just bought it recently and didn’t want to donate it just yet. I was worried that they wouldn’t let me bring it as a carry-on item on the plane, so I wrapped myself in it like it was a fashion statement, and nobody seemed to care. And that was honestly a great decision: During my first couple nights in Geneva, when I felt really weird and homesick, I especially loved sleeping with that blanket. It gave me a sense of security that I didn’t expect an inanimate object could provide.


I stayed in this Airbnb studio for 4 nights. It was in a nice, central area in Old Town Geneva and immaculately clean and chic, with an amazing coffeemaker, but the downside was that there wasn’t a lot of natural light, and mosquitoes feasted on my flesh every night.


After that I stayed in another Airbnb studio for 3 nights. This one was in the Jonction neighborhood a little farther off to the east. The natural light was FABULOUS, but the cleanliness was subpar, and the host was sketchy.

I was extremely lucky and found an apartment literally on my first day in Geneva. It was furnished, too–I was thrilled to move in and immediately have access to basic amenities like sofas in the living room, a bed, a kitchen table and chairs, a microwave, pots and pans, and glasses and plates. I did have to buy some things myself, which so far have included:

  • New bed linens (2 pillowcases and a duvet cover that I’ve been using as a bedsheet)
  • 2 additional pillows for the bed
  • Yoga mat
  • A simple fabric container for storing intimates
  • Small pack of needles, scissors, and a roll of thread
  • Bath towel and face towel
  • Bath mat
  • Hand soap and soap dish
  • Shampoo bar
  • Electric kettle
  • Cloth napkins
  • Spatula/ladle/etc
  • A regular coffee cup and an espresso cup
  • Steamer/rice cooker

And then once I start receiving my new salary and have a bit more disposable income, I would also ideally like to have:

  • A nespresso machine (but not with the wasteful pods! I will buy a reusable pod)
  • Toaster oven
  • Full-length mirror
  • Blender
  • Wok
  • Cast iron pan

Everything is expensive in Switzerland, which is good for me because I need to be more intentional and thoughtful about the things I buy. It’s possible that I’ll move again in a year or two, so I don’t want to be tied down and drowning in material things again. I can’t call myself a true minimalist, but I’ll keep trying!