Sunday, 27 September 2020

'Be more Undina': another full juice count and radical 'reorg' of my perfume collection - Part 1

I am confined to barracks at the moment, for reasons which will become apparent in a later post (in case you are wondering, no, I'm not ill ;) ). I would challenge the notion that staying in - whatever prompts this - is the new going out, and I soon began to feel a little odd and 'not myself', as evidenced by uncharacteristic flurries of decluttering. On a whim one day I decided to move the half dozen or so full bottles which had somehow insinuated themselves in my decant drawer and store them with the other bottles. Then before you could say "leaky atomiser", I had knuckled down to a comprehensive reorganisation - or 'reorg' as they say in the aerospace company where my friend works - of every bag, box, and tray containing every bottle, decant and sample I own. This took all day, and even the cat wearied of it after a while, and she does like boxes as a rule.

It is six years since I undertook anything comparable, so I have scurried back to look at that post and see how I approached things last time. It seems the theme of it was more about 'fantasy collection whittling' than the process of reorganising per se: 

"...following a recent massive reorganisation of my perfume collection - the tedious and largely illogical principles of which I will spare you - I kept coming back to the idea that I would really love to own far fewer full bottles - maybe around 30, say, instead of well over twice that number. I couldn't quite face sitting down with a blank piece of paper and compiling a list of which scents should be in the 30, so I decided to approach the question from another, more intellectually - and emotionally - forgiving angle. I took a long hard look at my current collection of full bottles and asked myself which ones I would buy again if I had my time over...I decided to strip price out of the equation and focus purely on which perfumes I would wish to hold on to for themselves, and not because - when considered in the round - they represented 'good value for money'."

Six years on, I reckon I could easily be happy with a collection of 20 full bottles rather than 30 - perhaps as few as 15. But we will see...I'd like to come back to that later in Part 2 and see what has changed in my collection itself and my preferences within - and outwith - it.

So the focus of this post will be the 'tedious and largely illogical principles' of my perfume reorg, for though I agree wholeheartedly that it has been just as illogical this time round, I think its very illogicality might conceivably be entertaining. Well, you can be the judge of that, hehe...

Step One - Remove full bottles from boxes, and store boxes in a separate container

Except, that is, where the footprint of the box with bottle in it is minimally extra (Crabtree & Evelyn Iris), or where I am especially drawn to the box for some reason (Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge and those novel-looking Tauer tins), or I want to keep the box and bottle together as I might sell the perfume in question soon (Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel), or I have an irrational fear that the bottle might fall over on its own (no examples, due to aforesaid irrationality of the idea). In short: 'Store some boxes in a separate container'.

Step Two - Group all full bottles together, whether or not they are still in their boxes

Except, that is, the ones I wish to disown, because I don't like them, or because they are in some way not worthy of being counted as 'proper perfumes' - these will be stored with the boxes and not included in the final tally. (I am trying to give them away to charity, but it is hard to get charity shops to take donations these days, if they are even open.)

For reasons of discretion, I shan't name names, as most were gifts or PR freebies. The remaining two bottles are vintage Lancome Magie Noire, my visceral attachment to which in the 1980s I am at a complete loss to explain, and Lidl's Suddenly Madame Glamour. Sure it is a great dupe of Coco Mademoiselle and all that, but at £3.99 it is without question much too cheap to count. In case anyone is interested at this point, the tally (excluding pariahs) is 62. This includes a nearly finished 30ml bottle of Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise, and another of vintage Rochas Femme parfum. So if I got a wiggle on, nostril-wise, the total could be down to a round 60 in no time.

NB The keen-eyed observer may spot that there is a sub-set of bottles grouped together by square or rectangular top design.

Step Three a) - Divide the 'book-shaped' carded samples into thematically meaningful categories

This is interesting...and further evidence that packaging format is 'shaping' up to be a key driver in determining where a perfume ultimately lives. The three way split turned out to be:

Designer / Niche / Samples in the little blue cards from Les Senteurs ;)

Step Three b) - Keep all other carded samples of whatever shape together 

To this I added 'samples in paper bags from meetings of Perfume Lovers London', as they didn't fit anywhere else.

Step Four - Throw away empty or leaky vials, and any I vividly remember being disagreeable 

This was hugely satisfying - you wouldn't believe how many things had evaporated in the four years since I last inspected my collection up close! NB If I couldn't remember clearly whether a perfume was disagreeable or not, it got a last minute reprieve. I did not venture to retest it..oh no...

Step Five - Isolate vials with just a tiny bit of juice left in them

The aim here was to keep this set of nearly finished samples to hand in my bedroom to encourage me to 'thunk' a sample a day until further notice. I should move the Jo Malone and Femme to join them really.

Step Six - Bag up big collections of samples by brand and keep in a box

The thinking behind this was logical, while appearing somewhat arbitrary...for while small bags of samples such as those belonging to En Voyage Perfumes or Vero Profumo could be comfortably housed in little compartments in my wooden drawer divider, the bigger bags needed to go elsewhere - the likes of Papillon Perfumery, 4160 Tuesdays, and Geza Schoen, who kindly donated lots of samples to the band when he memorably attended a gig in 2018.

Staying with the system (I use the word loosely) for the wooden drawer divider and beyond:

Step Seven - Group decants by colour of metallic top(!) 

Step Eight - Keep miniatures and Travalos broadly together

Step Nine - Group atomisers by body material - glass / plastic - and by length (in any material!)

Step Ten - Keep vials in individual poly bags together

I am not sure why these samples were ever in poly bags in the first place, except where the perfume names were too long to write on a label on the vial itself - these being all 1ml.

Step Eleven - Bag up remaining spray samples, split by niche and designer

BUT don't bother doing that with the 1ml samples! - being of a lower order, on account of their size and lack of sprayability, they just got stuffed in bags with no theme, though to be fair in that size they are more than likely all going to be niche - eg from The Perfumed Court or Lucky Scent (ah, those were the days...;) ).

Step Twelve - Keep unlabelled / unknown samples together 

(Oooh, I came very close to chucking these.  For I will never run so short of perfume that I will need to resort to sniffing anonymous samples...though I suppose it could be fodder for a blog post some day.)

Hmm, a Twelve Step Programme, I see, hehe...

Yet one so haphazard as to make the comparison with Undina and her rigorously methodical cataloguing almost blasphemous. Though you could also say that the 'Be more Undina' injunction still holds for that very reason.

And I am not sure that this account of my sorting MO was even slightly entertaining after all. In terms of its illogicality, however, it was arguably right up there with some of the Covid guidelines.


Now, going back to the full bottles, out of the 62, 31 I bought; 13 were gifts from friends and fellow perfumistas; 13 were PR freebies, and 5 I inherited - quite literally - from a deceased person.

I only paid full retail on about 10 of the c30 bottles, and bought many on eBay, Amazon or discount sites.

Of the 62, I probably would only wish to own about 10 of them again, but I do have quite a few additional lemmings, which would take my tally to something approaching the 20 I mentioned. But that might be better explored in Part 2...

Do you have a more logical system to storing your decants and samples? It could hardly be less logical! I would be curious to know...


Anonymous said...

So wish I could follow your example. I still have not come to grips with my collection which is stuffed in boxes and bags which are then crammed at the back of shelves, behind spare pillows, in cupboards ..... no idea where anything is, and am reduced to using perfume from the bottles I kept out as I can't bear searching for stuff. I promise myself it will be my next job.

Perhaps you should run a competition to see who guesses the correct explanation for your being confined to quarters? Are you in isolation? Glad to know it's not because you are ill.


Tara said...

Excellent work V, though please chuck those unlabelled samples. You won't regret it.

I have zero systems in place but got rid of practically all samples when I moved. Most I gave to my mum but some I bit the byttlet and threw away. Weirdly difficult.

What was the methodology for separating the boxes? Is it to encourage you to wear the bottles more? In my mind it seems it would take up more space not less.

If you ever want to sell the Magie Noire, do let me know. I'm very curious about it.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I hear you on the disorganisation and things stuffed in cupboards. I was that soldier, though I am blessed with a photographic memory (up to a point) so was usually able to locate bottles and samples quite easily. It is good your perfumes are out of the light though, so give yourself a big pat on the back for that!

Haha, I think people might guess quite easily why I am stuck indoors...but more on the reason in a future post. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I should chuck the unlabelled samples, shouldn't I? I did chuck an unlabelled decant in fact, but that was more because it was leaking. ;)

It is weirdly difficult to throw stuff away, I agree, and by giving samples to your mum you have in a way moved the problem to another house you visit quite a lot, hehe. Still, you are no longer responsible for them, which is the main thing. I know I will feel haunted by and by by some of the oldest samples and decants, but with any luck they will evaporate or go off in time, helping me nudge them towards the bin.

Hmm, that is a good question about the methodology for the boxes. I think it was partly so I could keep the bottles *themselves* in fewer bins / containers, and partly to help with recognition - and encourage me to wear them more, yes. If I don't instantly know what something is I am less likely to firk about with the box to see what is inside.

I would be happy to let the Magie Noire go - it isn't as I remember it, even though it is from that era, or shortly afterwards.

Undina said...

You should definitely throw away unlabeled samples! There is absolutely no reason to keep them: why would you risk putting on something that you most likely wouldn’t like anyway, but if you do, there will be no way to figure out what it was. But knowing how hard it is to do, I can suggest a mental trick I do - not only with perfumes. Create a “retirement bin” - a box or a bag (not too nice!) to hold all the samples that you don’t plan to ever use/try but can’t let go yet - and retire those samples to it. In a year or two when you get used to the thought that you don’t have those any longer, just throw it out with the box.

I got jealous seeing Truffle who peacefully sleeps next to all those plastic bags and small packages: I can never do any “reorgs” with Rusty :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I hear you on the label-less samples! You are right I know, but they do kind of intrigue me even so...might I remember suddenly what one of them is? Okay, probably not. ;)

I may have unwittingly created a retirement box, actually - it is the one with lots of small sprayers and 1ml samples, from which I first extracted the ones I quite fancy trying again. Ooh, that might have been an extra step I forgot to mention. Once I finish the nearly used up samples, I plan to move onto the samples I want to smell again. That retirement box (with contents that vary slightly from year to year) has been 'a thing' for years in fact. Perhaps the box is too nice in itself, as I haven't managed to chuck it yet, hehe.

Anonymous said...

You could auction off unwanted bottles for charity...? --AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

I could, but I would worry that people might come back to me and say the top notes are off or the bottle doesn't quite smell as it should when new. Because it isn't new! I have had bother when trying to sell bottles within the fragrance community, so I would be wary of selling perfume on any basis.