Living a low-fragrance life

As my asthma has gotten more fickle, and my efforts to reduce costs have resulted in more home-made solutions, I've found myself avoiding artificial fragrances more often. I knew that strong artificial fragrances could be a migraine trigger, but I'm not sure I realized before recently just how much I'd arranged my life to avoid them.

My trip back to Michigan highlighted to me just how far I've come in removing excess fragrances from my life, when I discovered that for some reason there were 13!! "air freshener" things in my grandma's guest bedroom. I spent the first two days thinking I was suffering the worst jet lag of my life, until I finally got over the real jet lag and was still miserable. I finally had the energy to do something about the air fresheners, found more tucked away in hidden places than I had originally accounted for, collected them all and put them in another room with the door closed. With the window open, the air became less oppressive and it took barely more than an hour to get rid of the headache.

I ran out of laundry quarters after the bank next door had closed, so I had to borrow a friend's dryer for a load of laundry. Even without using the soap and dryer sheets she had, my towels STILL ended up smelling overpoweringly like laundry soap, and it's a similar problem using communal or laundromat machines. I'd been hoping to score an apartment with our own washer & dryer, so I could clean them out once (vinegar really seems to do the trick) and not have to deal with it as often. Alas, it was not to be.

My favorite anecdote along these lines is the doctor's office. They have a sign up requesting that patients respect the fragrance-free policy of their office, forgoing perfumes and colognes or other overpowering scents when coming into the office. Ironically, the alcohol-based hand sanitizer in their dispensers has the most disgusting, alarming, and in my case hive-inducing "baby powder" scent. I usually avoid industrial hand soaps because of the same hive issue, but had to risk is to get that baby powder scent off me as soon as possible. Thankfully, their soap wasn't horrible, and the nurse happily wrote "NO HAND SANITIZER" on the front of my chart folder so people knew to wash rather than sanitize when they come in to see me. The office manager promised to check into a fragrance-free version of the hand sanitizer for their next order, but of course, who knows when that will be or if they will remember.

As a former candle lady, I remember being trained to recommend lemon- and citrus-scented candles for "those annoying kitchen odors." It struck me at the time that this seemed counter productive. Rather than covering up unpleasant odors, why not clean them up instead? Oh, your kitchen smells like fish because you cooked fish? Air it out. Clean the pan. Don't just cover it up and ignore it! I've lived my entire adult life with this philosophy, and that may only be 12-ish years but I can say it's served me well. Unpleasant odor from the trash? Take out the trash! Unpleasant odor from the litter box? Clean the litter box! Offending item cleaned but the smell remains? Air it out! It is that simple, and that complicated. But I'm thankful that I have a partner who is completely on board with that attitude.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the odd scented candle or incense stick, and I wear some nice perfumes occasionally, but I'm conscious not just for my own sake not to go overboard with the fragrances. The last thing you want is to be sniffing your waiter's deodorant when you're trying to eat your food. Similarly with the cologne from the next table over. That perfume is for the enjoyment of myself and my partner, and no one else should be forced to smell it.

I didn't spend a lot of mental energy removing the excess fragrances from my life, since fortunately most of them require active effort to include them in your life to begin with. But I will say, simplifying in other ways has had a direct impact on the number of artificially fragranced items I've brought into my home, and I'm quite pleased with the results.


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