The first time I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful-smelling something, I was about 7 years old. I had a friend from Japan whose school bag was filled with really cool stuff I’d never seen before. Like erasers that smelled of sweet hay and almonds. And lemony Chapstick (which, after the first grim attempt to smear it on my mouth, I learned was solid perfume). I couldn’t believe ordinary objects could smell that good. I WANTED THEM—and I guess I didn’t hide it well, because one day she handed me my very own (slightly used) Luctor et Emergo-ish scented eraser and Fresh Sugar-ish scented perfume stick.
Is there anything better than being given a fragrance?
So a perfume addict was born, and along the way my perfume collection grew. (And grew—you know the drill.) Although I loved many of the scents I owned, occasionally I’d realize I made a mistake (CK One, bought unsniffed in mid-air from the duty-free catalogue on a long, boring flight) or that a perfume I only liked mildly (Jo Malone French Lime Blossom) was beloved by someone else. In those instances, I gave the bottles away. Over time, I bought, and I gave, and I was given, and I bought.
Then, almost a decade ago, I moved abroad for a while. I got it into my head to give away almost everything I owned before leaving. Start fresh. Downsize. Dive headlong into a new life. So, along with books and clothes and more shoes than I’m comfortable admitting, I gave away my perfumes. Not all of them—I carefully wrapped 8 or 9 scents* in bubble wrap and jammed them into a Tupperware container, which I then shoved into the bottom of my suitcase. The rest, my vast hoard of lovelies, were given away. I started by inviting over my best friend; she selected about 10 scents, mostly Goutals and L’Artisans. Next, I brought a box of perfumes into the office. People were free to sniff and snatch what they liked (though no one sitting near me thanked me for the fug that lingered in the air for days). Eventually, just a day or so before leaving the country, I met an old friend for dinner and handed her two enormous shopping bags crammed full of fragrances. She was bewildered but willing; I was excited about my new carefully edited existence.
Except—of course, after a while, I started buying perfumes again. And you know what? I bought decants and bottles of a lot of the ones I’d owned before but had given away.
With time, I began giving away perfumes again. Bottles bought (unsuccessfully) unsniffed, or things I was indifferent to (like Narciso Essence, which did little for me but acted like a drug on a friend of mine, who kept “just dropping by to say Hi” while, coincidentally, drenching herself in the stuff). I loved the idea of giving someone a perfume they wanted, especially on an ordinary Tuesday (as opposed to a birthday), especially when I had it on hand and didn’t much want it anyway.
Except—yes, now I want some of them back. What smelled dull to me three years ago intrigues me now, lent mystery by my shoddy memory, or made newly desirable by someone’s blog post. So tell me: is it wise for a perfumista to give away samples, decants, bottles we think we don’t like? Or should we keep in mind that someday we might want to go back for another snort of that Chanel Beige we’d tired of?
What do you do? Give? Hoard? Embrace the perfume future—or look back on a scented past?
*I don’t remember perfectly, but I think the bottles that made it over the Atlantic with me were L’Artisan’s Tea for Two, AG Eau de Camille, Caleche (extrait), Cristalle (EDT), Creed’s Royal Water, JM Black Vetyver Café, a tiny bottle of Diorissimo parfum, and Bvlgari’s Omnia. Most are long gone, though the Tea for Two, Eau de Camille, and Cristalle sit on my dresser still. The only one I regret letting go of? That lovely mid-90s Diorissimo extrait.