Streamlining your perfume collection

As long as it gives you joy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a collection, be it stamps, coins, books, dolls, or in my case, and probably yours – perfume. But how do you know if your collection is getting out of control, and how can you manage it?

This year I have been trying to simplify my life, aiming for a more minimalist way of living. Minimalism to me is not about just having enough to survive; it is all about possessing only the most essential things, the things that you need and/or add joy to your life. As everyone’s life is different, everyone’s definition of what is enough and what is essential will be different. For many people the act of collecting is a valued pastime and owning a collection brings a sense of pride and joy. It doesn’t matter what your collection is. Someone who plays video games as a hobby might consider my perfume collection a ridiculous waste of money. I would likely consider their stacks of games and consoles to be nothing more than ugly electronic clutter. If both sets of items are loved and used, however, it’s irrelevant what someone else thinks about your collection.

However, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed with your perfume collection, if you don’t feel comfortable with being in the space which is used to house your collection, or if you feel your fragrance bottles are starting to take over your life, it may be time to get a hold on the situation.

With my perfume, realizing I had to get a grip came one day when I noticed that my scent collection was not only beginning to look cluttered and take up a lot of valuable real estate in my cabinet, but also when I became conscious that I was overwhelmed with the choices I had each morning I reached for a spray. That very day I sat down and calculated how long it would take me to get through the entire collection should I use a few sprays everyday from the next day forward, and was shocked to discover how many years that would take. It was not easy to let go of my treasures, especially since I had invested so much in them, but I ended up making compromises that I am happy with. Here are some guidelines you can use to get your fragrance collection under control, and these tips will work for any collection, actually.

1) Recognize when your collection is getting out of control.

This is actually the hardest step for many people. If not recognized, collecting can potentially turn into hoarding. Are you really a collector, or are you simply an acquirer and a keeper of similar things that do not serve you? Recognize that there’s a lot of conflict, guilt and sentimentality invoked by pastimes in which much time, money, and emotion were heavily invested, and it’s normal to feel this way.

2) Find out what fragrances in your collection are of real value to you.

Go through each scent in your collection to find out which ones are of particular value to you, and those whose stories are not ones you care to have around anymore. This means taking inventory, and going though your fragrances one by one. If you find you love every single scent but are determined to declutter, rate them in importance. Be honest with yourself and donate, sell, give away, or even trash what you can do without. Apply the 80/20 rule – Determine the 20% of perfumes you use 80% of the time, and ditch (or decant) the rest. In the case of my perfume, I found I actually used a great deal of them equally, but I still managed to get rid of 25% of my bottles in this phase. If your collection has become so big that the mere thought of this is overwhelming, enlist the help of a friend or two, and create a scheduled plan of attack. The process need not be completed in a day if more time is really needed.

3) Find out ways to have your cake and eat it, too.

In my case, I am more interested in the precious liquid held in my perfume bottles than the bottles themselves, so I transferred all the perfume I wanted to keep into very cheap 5 to 20 ml decanters. Though plastic is not an ideal container for perfume, I wanted the containers to be light, unbreakable, portable, and cheap (so I could recycle them in some way after use), so I bought some atomizers from the 100 yen shop, then went about transferring perfume into them and making some labels to identify them. I sold or gave away the remaining contents in their original bottles. Now I feel comfortable in knowing that when I move house again (as an expat who changes jobs and location every few years, I will!), my culled perfume collection is now lighter, smaller, cheaper, and safer to transport. Of course, I admit that I also still have full bottles, and there is still that massive box of samples I have, but they all still definitely bring me joy. Sometimes I go through my samples just to literally have a sniff at them, not necessarily to use them right away.

Of course, if the bottles are really much of the joy in your collection, you may need to adapt your strategy. There is nothing wrong with taking pictures of your bottles, for example, and only keeping that 20% that really gives you great pleasure to hold and look at.

4) Organize your fragrance collection.

Now my collection literally takes up 1/10 the space it had originally in my cabinet, and is well-organized, though it is not quite as easy to identify on first glance which perfume is which. The collection is small enough, however, that I can pretty much tell which container contains which fragrance based on the colour of the decanter alone. Can you easily access by memory all the items in your collection? If not, perhaps more culling is needed. Some people create elaborate digital organizing systems for their collections. However, I feel that the best way to organize is to have just the right amount for you such that it’s painless to manage. As you can see from the picture above, I have an transparent acrylic container in which to house part of my downsized collection, and it has its place in my home – my cabinet (now a shelf, actually).

5) Control future collecting.

I will now not be purchasing any more full bottles of perfume unless I am willing to swap out a decanter or two. I am happy with the downsizing progress of my liquid treasures for now, and though it was tough, I’m glad I got rid of so much. I don’t intend to stop buying perfume, but in the meantime I am limiting myself to sample sizes and decanters. This way my collection will slowly decrease even more in size. To manage a collection once you have downsized, I recommend following the one-in-one-out rule; don’t buy a new bottle of perfume unless you are willing to part with one already in your collection. Well, I am practicing what I preach now, but… 😉

Have you ever tackled your fragrance collection?  How did you deal with it?

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