Thursday, 28 October 2010

Widow's Oil Worries And Will I Wear The Wearings Challenge?

Ever since reading this disturbing post by Kevin of Now Smell This here, in which he sets out a highly credible method for calculating the projected lifespan of one’s perfume collection, I have been intermittently haunted by the all too real prospect of my sloshing fragrance lake outliving me by a factor of...oh, too many to contemplate.

A current nightly habit has only served to confirm me in my pessimistic outlook. Yes, from the end of July I have taken to spritzing on Agent Provocateur edp from my 5ml miniature. This was originally prompted by a mild concern about the age and condition of the scent – the animalic notes have become more pronounced of late – but it soon developed into a regular bedtime ritual. You should know that this mini was by no means full when I started wearing it to bed, and although its opaque design precludes inspection of the fill level, the light splishing sound I hear when I shake it suggests it isn’t approaching empty either. Though I have been wearing it every night (pretty much) since July 27th. That’s about 95 days, give or take! To use…what…3ml, maybe? Admittedly I am only squirting it on my neck area and not on my wrists, which must easily be halving my rate of consumption, but still...50 days at full spray rate equivalence remains a sobering statistic.

Given the gourd/amphora-like shape of the AP mini, I am worryingly reminded of the Biblical prosperity parable about the widow whose tiny remaining quantity of oil miraculously stretched to filling lots of other jars, thanks to the prophet Elisha's timely intervention. She was then able to sell the surplus oil and pay off her late husband’s debts. (For anyone for whom the tale is a fuzzy Sunday School memory, read it again here.)

My dismay is compounded by the fact that in my case I didn’t believe I only had a teeny bit of perfume in the first place. I knew I was awash with the stuff – and yet it still seems to grow exponentially, as fast as I try to consume it...And the other difference between me and the widow is that I would much rather the perfume wouldn't mushroom in this manner, on the basis that freshly conjured oil is an easier commodity to offload than perfume that has been around the block a bit...

To get a proper handle on this consumption rate issue, I decided to devise my own measuring method. You see, Kevin actually took a number of empty perfume bottles, refilled them with water and sprayed them till they were empty again. (I am not sure I would have the stamina for that.) Then he divided the total number of sprays in the bottle by the number he favours on a daily basis for that style of scent, to come up with an estimate of how long his various bottles will last. That is probably a more sophisticated method than I require, as I spray all perfumes the same way, unless they are very weak, in which case I might reapply them in the course of the day. That might explain the distinction between Kevin’s 10 spray-ers and his 5 spray-ers (ie the 5 spray-ers sprayed twice), although there is no 6 to go with his 3 spray-er category, which would have equated to a top up application.

So anyway, I thought I would take a 1ml vial (standard Perfume Court issue) and wear that and only that for as long as it takes to drain it. Armed with the this key fact of the "number of days to empty" (not unlike the fuel gauge on Mr Bonkers' Ford Focus, come to think of it), it just remains to tot up how many ml I own across the 60+ full bottles, dozens of decants and hundreds of samples, and multiply one figure by t’other.

All very well and good in theory...However, problems began to surface as I surveyed my collection of samples to find the perfect 1ml candidate. Clearly I want to use up a 1ml vial I already own – decanting something specially into a clean vial seems wasteful, even if there might be a particular scent I feel I could wear for days on end that is not currently in a 1ml format.

It is also important that the 1ml vial is not my only example of that scent, otherwise I won’t have any left for reference once the experiment is over. And it shouldn’t be one which I had earmarked to give away, which knocks out several more.

And the fill level must be exactly 1ml, and not something that might be 0.9ml or 0.8ml, like so many vials in my sample collection. That’s the tricky thing, because the vast majority of samples I own I have tried once or twice already. Then there are the manufacturer’s samples and others gathered in swaps that are more than 1ml but not a precise figure either - 1.5ml or 1.2ml, 2ml even - again mostly partly used. Then there were some other 1ml vials which might have been contenders, were it not for the Luckyscent or Posh Peasant label obscuring the fill level. Of the few where I decided to rip the label off, none was an exact 1ml measure either.

And finally, assuming all other criteria are met, the crunch question is whether I am prepared to wear this particular scent day in, day out, for as long as it takes to use it up?

Extraordinarily, out of hundreds of samples, only Safran Troublant and Perfect Veil were left standing at the end of the screening process. Oh dear - I am going out tonight to dinner with friends and don’t think my companions would appreciate spicy sillage, but at the same time I would like to make a bit of a statement with my chosen perfume. And Perfect Veil is, well…too veil-like really.

Right then, in order to conduct this test, it is clear to me that I will have to pick a week where I am not going out socially. Now believe me when I say that I am no gadabout, no glad rag-clad girl about town, but on balance I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for this experiment to happen any time soon...

Photo of widow from, photo of Agent Provocateur from, photo of a bottomless well from, photo of samples my own.


Unknown said...

Good luck with your experiment. Having too much perfume and what will happen to it all has begun to trouble me as well. My husband recently looked into my perfume cupboard and declared I have more than i will ever wear, and it's getting crazy. It's true, I will never wear all that I own, but there are still bottles I have on my wish list, and I've only been collecting for a couple of years, I know I'll be getting even more.

I think the solution is to get some decanting supplies and start swapping more. But do I have time for all that decanting and list making and post office visiting?

lovethescents said...

This problem has been bothering me as well and in my attempt to remedy it, I've been applying more perfume more frequently. DH is also being covered in fragrance on an evening-ly basis. It's scary, isn't it??? At least my wishlist is a lot shorter than it used to be and I'm no longer tempted by those new LS sample packs :-)

Ines said...

Hmm, I don't mean to make your experiment invalid but it seems to me that applying from a sample vial cannot count as the same 1ml as you'd get from spraying from a bottle (I think spray inadvertenly spray more stuff than you'd put on by applying from a vial). But all this is beside the point as I already have more than I can possibly wear and I KNOW that what I have is not nearly enough of what I need. I'm scared that I don't even own a third of bottles I'd like, but I don't need bottles, decants do just fine but are still more than I can wear. Which is why I give a lot to my friends (who all seem very happy with the deal) and then I proceed with acquiring more. I am an addict, I admit.

Vanessa said...

Hi kjanicki,

Sounds as though we are in a very similar situation - both collecting for two years, and still with an eye on a few other things out there... I know I feel I should have drawn a line under it all by now.

Swapping does help keep the number of lemmings down and must have saved me a fair few FB purchases. However, it is time-consuming and fiddly and sometimes I go along with swaps when my heart isn't really in them, because I don't want to thwart the swapper's wishes.

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I really should try upping my spray rates in the light of what you say, though the scope to perfume Mr Bonkers is limited as you know.

My wishlist is fairly modest now too, at least, and The Perfumed Court and Luckyscent get next to no business from me these days!

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

You are quite right to point out that spraying should use up more than dabbing from a 1ml vial - though I can get quite carried away upending vials on my fingers and a fair bit comes out sometimes. Now the AP mini is a spray bottle in fact, though because of its diminutive size it may not have had the same trajectory as its full size equivalent.

So I really need to "waste" a standard sized bottle to be scientifically accurate, or possible a spray decant of 2ml where the swapper has been careful to deliver a precise measure.

Even allowing for the flaws inherent in miniaturisation, I sense that the 50 day timespan to lose an estimated 3ml of AP (and that is being generous!) does not bode well...

Like you, I give a fair bit of stuff away, and like you, I acquire more. My name is flittersniffer and I am also an addict!

ScentScelf said...

Oh, my...a scintillating scented scientific adventure in statistics! This is hobbying, erm, serious inquiry, at its best. (I am not being mean there; scientists in their lahBOREatorys are also there as a result of passion, but somehow the beakers and the lab coats bring gravitas to the operation. It's the methodology, not the subject, that makes it For Realz as far as I am concerned. You are all over that, like white on rice...or Safran Troublant on your skin? :)

This could be interesting. You're right; the water element raises some questions of extrapolation. OTOH, Ines has a point...and I'd add that I spray different 'fumes in different amounts, depending on their concentration, lasting power (re-spritz!), and my own sensitivity to them. Plus, the parfums and oils don't get sprayed, and the colognes never get dabbed (that's either a spray or a splash), so blah blah blah.

Nonetheless, I think we can develop an algorithm to account for that.

I kind of like the idea of repeated mass sprayings as a kind of perfume cage match...which contender remains standing at the end of the day? ;) (What, me volunteer to be a carrier? Um, did I mention my migraine tendencies?)

It feels kind of good to come out, doesn't it? Hale fellow addict well met.

:) :)

Vanessa said...

Hi ScentScelf,

I do know what you mean about differential spray amounts, and I expect the reasons you give may also be behind Kevin's calculations. That said, I may be a slightly more homogeneous sprayer, given my preference for lighter, more easy-going scents, plus I don't own any parfums or oils. So I guess the computations only have to take account of vial dabbing tactics and median spray rates.

I love your image of a "perfume cage match" - that is exactly how Kevin's trial must have gone. : - )

And of course all the foregoing is academic if I can't bring myself to knuckle down to the task!

ScentScelf said...

We need a new term for when/if you put the nose to the grindstone and knuckle down. What say you...will you need to "wrist up"? ;)

Vanessa said...

That would do nicely...or perhaps "to roll down your collar and put your salt cellars into it".

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I already have more than enough scent stored in the wardrobe for my lifetime so I'll be interested in your experiment results when you commit to doing this.

Now, what does "put your salt cellars into it" mean? I know "put your back into it", "nose to the grindstone", "shoulder to the wheel", etc. (and other yoga-like contortions), but I haven't seen this "salt cellars" one before. More info., please.

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Ah, well "salt cellars" is also a slang term for the area immediately above a woman's collar bone, which is a prime site for spraying, and which, like the wrists, should be pressed into service during such an experiment...

: - )

Hebe said...

Good luck!

I recently dedicated 3 weeks to only wearing samples, and wouldn't want to do it again. I tried to wear just one sample a day, rather than my more usual 2 or 3 at a time. I learned how much I really love my full bottles, I think there were only 3 or 4 samples that I loved out of about 24 or 25 tried.

Vanessa said...

Ah now that is interesting, and exactly what I think I am afraid of, though I do love both the scents that made it to the final cut. But to wear samples generally on an ongoing basis would be tough, just as you found it.

Martha said...

I have chosen to treat each perfume bottle as a device that will produce a given smell forever. As I see it (OK, as I actively and determinedly rationalize it), you don't go out of your way to wear out a videotape or a DVD or even a book or an old-fashioned vinyl record, right? You accept that it will have utility forever, and won't be used up in your lifetime.

So that's how I choose to see perfume. Until I find a rationalization that works even better.

Vanessa said...

Hmm, interesting theory. My concern is though that the perfumes will go off, thereby losing their utility. Whereas a vinyl record will hopefully still be playable, as long as you haven't thrown out the record player, which you probably have. Or spilt beer over it, which happened to my copy of Thriller.