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COMMON SCENTS

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By Kimara - Posted on 05 February 2008

            Close your eyes…think of the smell of your elementary school cafeteria…the ocean…a baby’s neck. What about your grandmother’s house, a bonfire on a cool October evening, or your first boyfriend (or first girlfriend if you are a Renaissance Man reading this blog…btw…kudos to you!) Helen Keller, blind and deaf since near birth, once said, "Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.” Smells are some of the most intense memory joggers and the first, and sometimes the last, impressions we have of people and places. To me, HOW your house smells is just as important, maybe even more so, as how your house looks. The smell of your house can make people hungry, put them at ease or make them wish they were wearing a gas mask. Do you bring an objective nose to your house?

 

            Truth be told, I have the nose of a bloodhound. “Can you smell something?” or “What is that smell?” are as common colloquialisms for me as “Have a nice day.” or “Gimme a call.” I truly believe it was my overactive olfactory nerves that saved my life and the life of 3 of my friends. (Actually, 1 boyfriend, 1 brother and 1 future sister-in-law…but meaningless distinctions for the purpose of the store, so…) Before retiring for the night I kept asking everyone, “Do you guys smell something?” to which I got weird looks and dismissive comments. Later, snuggled on the floor in a makeshift bed, I was running through my mental data base of catalogued smells. As curious as concerned, I couldn’t quite place the smell, but couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something “Not quite right”. Finally, I turned on the lights and went on a quest to track down the perplexing odor. Ah, so that’s what smoldering foam rubber smells like! Apparently, a fugitive spark from the fireplace burrowed into the cushion of an old armchair. By the time I made the discovery, it had melted through the foam and was igniting the wooden frame. My brother and boyfriend (my boyfriend, not his) were able to successfully throw the antiquated chair into a snow drift just before it burst into flames! Frankly, I think my nose should have received some accolade for superior sleuthing, when in fact all it got was a bad cold…probably from standing around outside barefoot, in the middle of winter, watching an evaded disaster burn! If only we had had a Singapore Sling. (Sorry, inside joke here!)       

 

            I suppose I’m overly sensitive to smells, but it’s amazing the mood altering effect scents can produce for most people. Understandably, we want our houses to smell appealing, but how do we get our houses to smell, well “homey” and inviting? Have you ever gone into a store and asked a clerk, “What smells so good?” Chances are she’ll tell you it’s this potpourri, that candle, or those essential oils. You expectantly purchased “it” with the hopes of creating the same aroma in your house. You are delighted on the car ride home because you’re slathered with wafts of fragrance, producing a delightful aromatic ambience. But, upon getting the new scent home, it only takes minutes before the scent is lost. What happened to the fragrance you bought? To answer that question, let’s back up. Put your candle back in the bag, get in the car, drive in reverse, and walk backwards into the store. Take a look and smell around! First, you know that candle that smelled so good in the store? Well, they have 20 of them on display, each giving off a small amount of fragrance! And, right next to it is 30 bags of potpourri. And, oh, look over there, sachets and aroma therapy diffusers are pumping mega doses of aromas in the air. Your sense of smell is on overload, and your brain is unable to discern individual scents, and, in reality, that jumbled smell is what you are trying to duplicate.

 

            Let’s state the obvious…you cannot afford to buy out the store’s entire scent assortment. So, given that fact, how can you replicate a good smell that doesn’t disperse in 5 minutes or empty your wallet? Here are a few suggestions:

 

§         I have found scents activated by heat pack the biggest punch. My preferred method is using wax tarts and an electric “melter”. There are many on the market, ranging from small ones that heat 1 tart at a time, to larger ones, which I use, that can hold 3 or more at a time. There are also potpourri pots that use liquids, warmers that you can set whole glass incased candles in, and “diffusors”.

§         Learn to “reuse” scents. For example, after I’ve “used up” the scent in my tart warmer, I pour it off into a candle mold. Because I melt different scents, they are usually in different colors, and this creates a beautiful striped pattern. And although the fragrance is not intense, it still gives off a lovely, subtle scent. (My eldest son has absconded with these candles for years!) When dried potpourri’s fragrance has waned, simply add a couple drops of essential oils, mix, and ta-dah, good as new. Throw room satchets into clothing drawers when they’ve lost their punch. Although they can no longer influence an entire room, they can still produce a lovely effect in a small, closed in area like a drawer!

§         Location, location, location. Place your fragrances in areas most commonly used and in areas most likely able to contain the scents. Rooms with high ceilings seem to lose their fragrances easily…I’m sure they have a tendency to drift upward, enhancing the ambience for domestic ceiling spiders, but doing little for visitors. Also, stay away from open windows, and other areas that can draw the scent away from the room. On the other hand, a basket of dried potpourri, placed near a heat register, can throw the scent into the room whenever the furnace kicks on.

§         “Fragrances” can often be expensive. Become a “scent sleuth” and keep your eyes…well, your nose…open for the unexpected. For example, many common bath soaps have wonderful fragrances, but let’s face it, who wants to set a basket of Irish Spring in your living room? Solution...unwrap the soap, cover individual bars in a cotton print that coordinates with your room, and place in a decorative basket or bowl. For a fraction of the cost of designer fragrances, you’ve given your room a delightful “bath”! (As an added bonus, when the scent begins to fade, use them in the shower. Let’s face it, between your shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and perfumes, who’s gonna miss a little scent in their soap?)

§         Create “scentsational” environments. Although it is okay, even desirable to “mix” scents, your house should not be a nasal battleground. I like to use “families” of scents. In the fall I like to use “spicy” aromas that remind us of mulled cider and falling leaves. Around the holidays I lean toward evergreen and cranberry scents. Spring is the only time when I allow “flowery” fragrances in the house. I prefer jasmine and lavender, however, be careful not to allow the scents to become so intense that your house begins to smell like a French Brothel! Then, in the summer, I just look for soft, subtle, powdery scents; the idea is to create a “cool and calming” environment.

§         Finally, and this is certainly a subjective comment…don’t be a tease! Experience has taught me to stay away from scents that smell “good enough to eat”. Although “Buttered Cookie”, “Fresh Apple Pie”, and “Chocolate Brownie Fantasy” may smell yummy, that does little to console a hungry child or enticed mate, when they come home and start foraging for the delicious treat they are smelling! If you generate a hunger stimulating scent, make sure you can follow through with the food! BTW, nothing makes your house smell quite as good as the real thing! So, for the best scents, bake!           

 

            One day a friend told me, “Every time I go into a store that sells home fragrances, I think of you.” I took that as a lovely compliment! Although all scents smell a little different, there is commonality in all of them. We work hard at making our houses look good; we labor over paint and furniture selections. We clean, ah, usually, and rearrange, in hopes of making our houses not only lovely to look at, but comfortable. I believe “scent” is just as important as any thing else you do in your house. Take a good “sniff” around. How does your house smell?

 

Over the years I’ve used many different home fragrances. Hands down, my favorite has been Yankee Candle’s Home Sweet Home. Do you have a favorite scent or secret formula for bringing good smells in? Please share!


This is amazing and a good write-ups. I am so impressed and so amazed with what you shared here. - Nova Science Publishers

Thanks to everyone for this week's comments. I've always been big on home smells, but I became acutely aware of it after collecting 5 dogs! Ya have to be careful, tho, that you're not just trying to "cover up" a smell. For those with discerning "smell buds"...think there is such a thing?...we can smell "layers" of scents, uh, or odors...which ever the case may be! Anyway...Glad you found us Sarah, and welcome! Hope everyone shares the site with others that may appreciate it. I'm hoping it grows into a wonderful little community!

I'm not really a house-smell sort of person, but I sometimes wonder what people smell when they enter my house. It's hard to tell when you are in it all day since your nose gets used to it. They are hopefully not smelling my dog! LOL! I do agree with you though about the amazing connection between smell and memory. I can smell a rainy, chilly fall day and it still reminds me of living in London a decade ago.

Ahhh yes the scents… steeped in as much tradition as anything else in our household growing up. So much so in fact that I remember a time shortly after I was married that my brother came over and threw a fit. It was a cold, rainy August day and I had taken the weather as freedom to break from the breezy summer scents. I had lit a fire in the fireplace and chosen a potpourri with a spicier flare… most likely the above mentioned Yankee Candle Home Sweet Home. It smelled like late October. It was a moment of Brigadoon… time was warped and my brother was audibly upset. He couldn’t stand the “tease” of the fall. It was likely to be 90 and sunny the following day and I had misused the scents. But I ask you… is there anything that smells better than a rainy day, smoldering fire and the hint of cinnamon? Tease maybe… but ohh what a homey feel. It didn’t help that I had October Project playing as well. I’m guessing music will be covered at a later date ;).

I enjoy your page as well...thanks to Michelle telling us about it. I love those same scents for those seasons. Thanks for the wonderful tips. I just kept thinking as I read along this is a person who appreciates that smell matters. My hubby and I have called it a funk for years and when we say the 'so and so' family has a funk we usually mean bad, like dogs or smoke and such. I love to have the house smell nicely and its such a treat when people comment on it. Thanks for more great tips!!

I found your blog last week looking for the recipe for the snow candy in the Little House books. Your blog is great! This past week I've gone back and read all of them. I wanted to share something my mom did and I started doing too. In the winter whenever we ate an orange we'd save the peels and put them in a small saucepan of water. We'd put a cinnamon stick in there and whatever else sounded good at the time like cloves or allspice or vanilla. We'd bring it to a boil and turn it down to simmer. It puts a good smell in your house for cheap. Just don't forget about it. I did that once and burnt it. Talk about a smell in your house! I won't forget that one any time soon. Thanks for writing a great blog. You're so funny. I know my mom would like it if I could just get her to stop being afraid of the computer.