Lily of the Valley Potpourri

A couple of years ago my aunt gave me a book called L’Art de Simplicité (The Art of Simplicity) that promised to declutter my life. After the first five pages, I felt like a failure. My bedroom is nothing like a room at a Zen monastery, my kitchen resembles a spice aisle at Kalustyan’s, and my living room with its overspilling bookshelves is more reminiscent of a public library during children’s hour than a space where two adults live.

lily of the valley potpourri

After reading much sensible advice on paring down and retaining only the essentials, I put L’Art de Simplicité down in my ziggurat of other books and haven’t picked it up since. You know what? I like having a bit of chaos in my life. It doesn’t stress me out that my perfume samples aren’t sorted alphabetically or that I have far too many bottles of flavored vinegar. What are the essentials anyway? What if I want to make salad with blackcurrant and rose vinegar today and try grilled chicken marinated in the juniper variety. I also can’t decide whether I want to wear a cologne or a voluptuous rose, so all options are around.

On the other hand, I love the idea of simplicity and budgeting. Spending time in Ukraine is helpful in this regard, because after a couple of weeks I begin to think in terms of the local economy. A bottle of Frédéric Malle Une Rose ($345) is more than my grandmother’s monthly pension. A tube of my beloved Sisley Flower Gel Mask ($140) can put 7 students through our state art school for a whole year. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge feeling a pang of guilt over the cost of my beauty kit. Most other women around here make do with much less, and you should see the gorgeously turned out beauties strolling down the streets of our small town.

So while I’m reflecting on my state of affairs, I’m picking up plenty of great tips. It’s hard to generalize about a country of 45 million, but Ukrainians are fabulously chatty. A word exchanged with a perfect stranger on the bus, and you’re hearing their whole life story and their thoughts on world events. The other day I sat next to a woman, who upon observing my bouquet of lily of the valley mentioned that her grandmother used flowers as potpourri. “She kept them in all enclosed spaces like armoires and closets. Just make sure they are not getting crushed and have space to dry properly, and you will have naturally scented sheets and clothes,” she said. “As a kid, I loved sliding open the doors of my grandmother’s cupboards to get a whiff of lily of the valley. She kept flowers for the whole year and replaced them with fresh ones each spring.”

I thanked her and shared a few stems from my bouquet, and we parted pleased with each other. At home, I did exactly as the lady recommended. I separated my bouquet in small bundles and arranged them in glasses in our cupboards. A week later, the aroma is strong, and the dry flowers look like ivory carvings. I already have fantasies of trying this homemade potpourri with roses, sage, verbena and other scented plants. The art of simplicity indeed!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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130 Comments

  • rosarita: What a great idea! The LotV patch will be blooming shortly and I will definitely do this. Your comments on the price of cosmetics and how those compare with the real income of daily life is a good reality check; I routinely think of my fun purchases in terms of groceries, utilities etc. The conscious observation and enjoyment of the beauty that surrounds us (as perfume lovers we are all senualists) brings such great, no cost satisfaction! May 8, 2015 at 8:22am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not that I ordinarily feel guilty about my spending on beauty products. After all, I earn my money, I can afford it, and it gives me tremendous pleasure that helps sustain me in difficult times, major or minor. But it’s a reality check nonetheless.

      By the way, around here I smell much more perfume on people than I do in the US. May 8, 2015 at 9:28am Reply

      • The Scented Salon: I agree. If I do smell perfume on someone in the US as they pass by, it is usually the overly sweet synthetic kind. May 8, 2015 at 9:54am Reply

        • angeldiva: Quite a generalization. May 8, 2015 at 12:29pm Reply

          • The Scented Salon: No it is a statement directly based on experience. May 8, 2015 at 1:26pm Reply

            • Petunia: I agree with Angeldiva… not very ufriendly May 8, 2015 at 4:00pm Reply

              • The Scented Salon: If you mean not very friendly then I get it but that is all I have smelled. May 8, 2015 at 7:00pm Reply

                • Petunia: Yes, I meant not very friendly… Another typo. May 8, 2015 at 7:33pm Reply

        • Karen: I must be fortunate, as when women wearing perfume pass me by it is usually something that smells quite nice! Usually ask what they have on and it varies, but so many workplaces are fragrance-free that many women and men I think just get out of the habit of wearing any scent. May 8, 2015 at 5:29pm Reply

          • Petunia: Beautifully said Karen. Perfume is such a pleasure. It should inspire unity not disparity.

            Victoria, Beautiful post. I’ve been drying flowers since I was a school girl. I remember pressing flowers from my prom into the pages of my yearbook. Each fall, I clip the huge blossoms from my hydrangea bushes, form bouquets and arrange them around the house to enjoy during the winter months. This year I’ll be sure to include lily of the valley as well. May 8, 2015 at 7:12pm Reply

            • Victoria: Hydrangea dries beautifully and I also remember my great-grandmother making opulent dry floral arrangements with this flower. She grew a variety called “boule de neige”, which we pronounced as buldonezh. Only after I started learning French did I figure out that the flower was called “a snowball.” 🙂 It certainly looks like it. May 9, 2015 at 5:15am Reply

              • kayliz: Your buldonezh reminds me of German Renekloden (greengages) — it took me forever to realise that this is from the French reines-claudes.
                Victoria, you mention putting the flowers in glasses — I’m thinking jam jars here — something like this is important, right?
                So many roses coming, and this very simple idea hadn’t occurred to me. Thank you! May 9, 2015 at 7:02pm Reply

                • Victoria: Renklod in Ukrainian. Yes, it also took me some time to figure out that it was the reines-claudes. There are some other words too, especially in Russian, which absorbed plenty from French.

                  You can put flowers into any open container. As long as you don’t pack them full, it will be ok. The idea is just to let the flowers dry naturally. If your cupboard has a glass door, the dry bouquets look pretty in crystal glasses. May 10, 2015 at 11:44am Reply

        • Petunia: The Scented Salon, The USA is immense. There are cultural differences between the North, East, South and West as well as from state to state. You are implying is that a being native of the USA is to be equated with bad taste, which is how I read your denigrating comment. May 8, 2015 at 5:38pm Reply

          • Petunia: Sorry I am typing on a tablet… Can’t seem to type without error. May 8, 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

            • The Scented Salon: I only wrote what I have experienced myself: people who have walked by me have smelled of clouds of synthetically sweet perfume. Generalizations and denigrating comments would have been if I had said “everyone in the US wears cheap perfume.” May 8, 2015 at 7:03pm Reply

              • Petunia: I respectfully disagree. i was offended by your comment. May 8, 2015 at 7:15pm Reply

                • Victoria: I didn’t take The Scented Salon’s comment as a sweeping cultural generalization about the US tastes in perfumes, rather her day-to-day experience. As I mentioned earlier, with the hair products becoming more strongly scented (not to mention the laundry products!), and people getting hesitant in invading the space of others with their perfumes, I also notice lots more functional smells on people, hair spray, shampoo, fabric softener. This applies equally to the US and France/Belgium (two other places I’m most familiar with). One time I Febreezed my coat after visiting a smoker friend in Paris, and I have been received a couple of comments on my “perfume.” 🙂

                  Of course, the last time I was in New York, I was amazed to smell lots of tuberose perfumes on women, and I counted 5 encounters with Frederic Malle Carnal Flower. That’s Manhattan for you! May 9, 2015 at 5:09am Reply

                  • Petunia: Hi Victoria, I enjoyed your Fabreeze story. It made me chuckle. I have several varieties of hydrangea including the snowball variety which grows prolifically here in New England. I appreciate your point of view. I usually ignore these types of comments but the response to Angeldiva really caught my attention. Sometimes it isn’t what you say but how you say it. Thank you for your kind words. Your blog is a tremendous source of pleasure for me. May 9, 2015 at 4:30pm Reply

                    • Victoria: I also understand that you can water hydrangea in such a way as to make them change colors. I recall my step-grandfather growing blue and pink kinds on the same patch.
                      Internet communication is rife with such small misunderstandings, because we lack the visual cues. Wish we could all meet in a real brick & mortar place and chat! 🙂 It would be so much fun. May 10, 2015 at 11:38am

          • kayliz: Oh my goodness, I didn’t read it that way at all. More than anything, I picked up that Scented Salon didn’t often smell perfume on people. May 9, 2015 at 7:05pm Reply

            • The Scented Salon: I wish I did smell more perfume on people, even if it was fabric softener, because it would make my nose train: I would start figuring out what that specific smell was or which perfume the person was wearing. But where I live we don’t ride the metro with thousands of people nor do we walk the streets like in New York so it is hard to get a whiff of anyone! My guilty pleasure is the smell of Gain: I get the fabric softener, the detergent and the dryer sheets and sometimes even those little balls that make the clothes smell even more. May 10, 2015 at 11:30am Reply

        • Victoria: I suspect that most of the time we smell someone’s hair or laundry products. At least, that’s what I notice a lot in Paris and Brussels. Women do wear plenty of perfume, but if I ever went around jotting down scents, hair spray and shampoo would predominate. May 9, 2015 at 3:37am Reply

          • limegreen: One of my somewhat guilty indulgences is spraying perfume in my hair. A long time ago, I treated myself to the Carnal Flower hair mist (lower concentration, thin milky mist). It’s a less invasive projection of CF. 🙂

            Simplicity and orderliness are in the eye of the beholder, some of it is relative! A friend in retirement downsized to a smaller house and it’s still larger than my house.

            What you said about money that one works hard to earn and spend on things that give us pleasure (perfumes, books, delicious food) resonated with me. Thank you for a thought-provoking post, Victoria.

            (And I put fresh lavender buds in my closets — it’s also a moth repellent. The buds do get messy, I like your LOTV approach better, except no LOTV here. Maybe rosemary.) May 9, 2015 at 10:24am Reply

            • Victoria: I also love the old-fashioned lavender sachets. A friend from Provence described how she and her sisters used to make them for sales on her uncle’s flower farm, and it sounded so idyllic and exotic to me.

              Is the Carnal Flower hair mist still around?

              Rosemary and bay leaves also repel moths, as do horse chestnut fruits. All three smell great. May 9, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

              • limegreen: I didn’t know about the moth-repelling part of rosemary, I have lots and lots of it, will try that! Love smelling it, and cooking with it. A biologist I knew would take the wines that were not to her liking and add rosemary and peppercorns, sealed it up, and make flavored vinegar. 🙂

                CF hair mist is still around but as with everything, price has gone up considerably! May 9, 2015 at 4:31pm Reply

                • Victoria: Rosemary tea is also a great hair rinse, but it works best if your hair is dark (blond hair might get a slight cast from it). I was told that it makes hair grow really well, but I mostly use it for a nice scent. May 10, 2015 at 11:39am Reply

      • Natalya Baranova: In the US, for whatever reason, there are way more allergies than, say, back in Ukraine. It is a matter of elementary politeness not to wear perfume in very public places, to doctor’s office, when at work, if you’re working with people, or at least to wear it in minimal amounts so that only you can smell it. May 10, 2015 at 10:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: In the US, only 1-2% of the population suffers from allergies, not much bigger than anywhere else in the world. So, I don’t think that this is the reason. But the other part of your comment is true; it has become the norm to worry about invading the spaces of others in all sorts of ways, perfume included. This is the same reason why Japanese women steer clear of overly strong, intrusive scents.

          Ironically enough, the laundry products have become so strongly scented that they can easily overtake your perfume. May 11, 2015 at 10:08am Reply

          • Joy: It is almost painful for me to walk down the laundry aisle in a supermarket. The smells are so strong. I only use unscented soaps and cleaning products so that I can enjoy my own fragrance. Cleaning products clean just as well without cheap fragrance. May 12, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

            • Victoria: I know what you mean. I like some scented laundry products, especially Le Chat brand that smells of milky almonds and flowers. Thankfully, it’s very easy to find in Brussels and inexpensive. May 12, 2015 at 4:41pm Reply

  • The Scented Salon: Good for you, you discovered a new way to scent cabinets even after all the ways you already know and have shared with us.

    I personally have a special place in my heart for lilly of the valley, which is so common in Russia and Ukraine but not common at all in my part of the US. The last time I visited my grandpa, he came to greet me at the airport with a bouquet of lilly of the valley. The little flowers were starting to droop because he brought them all the way from home on the bus to the airport and that was the most touching thing of all. He is gone now but that flower will forever remind me of him and his wonderful spirit.

    Unlike you, Victoria, I cannot function unless I have perfect order in my house. I have a lot of things, like you, but they must be organized in precise order, otherwise I cannot relax.

    As far as the price of cosmetics and perfumes goes, I too feel very guilty about how much money I spend on such things but honestly, perfume is my only hobby where money is involved and I get a whole lot of enjoyment out of perfumes, using them every single day and selling them when I get tired so none go to waste.

    Yesterday I spilled a whole bottle of Geisha Rouge but it landed into my underwear drawer so it was not really a waste. May 8, 2015 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: The story about your grandpa and muguet is so poignant and touching. Lily of the valley around our house were planted by my great-grandmother, so it’s a reminder of her. As is pretty much the whole garden. She loved flowers.

      My work table needs to be ordered, otherwise I can’t concentrate. But I have my own idea of order. For instance, clothes not in their proper places (or heaven forbid, someone’s sock on the floor)–total impassable chaos. Books all over the floor–normal way of things. 🙂

      Organizing my perfume collection, on the other hand, is somewhat I’d consider a waste of time. I know where to find everything, and nobody else sees it, so it’s ok. May 8, 2015 at 9:25am Reply

      • Victoria: P.S. I completely agree with you. It should be a pleasure without guilt. There always have to be a balance, but it goes without saying. May 8, 2015 at 9:36am Reply

      • The Scented Salon: You once mentioned that you’d like to have an antique vanity table. I would love to see your full bottle collection on something like that.

        I recently transformed my writing desk, which I never used, into a sort of desk/vanity with a bunch of perfume bottles, books and knickknacks. Of course, not all of my bottles fit there but it is great to have some on display so I remember what I have and choose which one I want to wear. Otherwise, I actually forget what I own sometimes and feel like my perfume drawer is a perfume store where I choose forgotten scents. That in itself is its own pleasure, I guess. May 8, 2015 at 9:59am Reply

        • Victoria: The idea sounds nice, but I don’t like to display bottles, because the fragrance turns. So, I find it easier to store it in boxes, apart from a couple of bottles that I use regularly. Whatever I use for work, gets shuttled to and fro, so it’s in a clear plastic box. Then again, most of my collection is in storage in the US; I haven’t seen it for years, but I don’t even miss it.

          But I totally love seeing other people’s collections, loving displayed and arranged. I’d love to see a photo of your table. May 9, 2015 at 3:53am Reply

          • Hannah: I recently took a picture of my collection ~__~ https://instagram.com/p/1lGN42ACiz/ I don’t display mine, either. May 9, 2015 at 4:16am Reply

          • The Scented Salon: I love to keep the boxes too, and display them, but that takes up even more room! I hate when a perfume turns though so I have to be very careful. Once, two bottles of Guerlain turned at the same time. They were two of my favorites too: Bois d’Armenie and Tonka Imperiale. I am much more careful nowadays.

            As for a picture of my table, I used it as the masthead of my blog. But I’ve added too much stuff to it now so it probably looks more like your “chaotically organized” table.

            Let me get a new picture of it. May 10, 2015 at 11:42am Reply

            • Victoria: 🙂 A familiar story! I was just eyeing the work table in my garden hut, to where I escaped from the main house (mostly, because my darling cousin keeps leaving his socks on the floor, and this drives me nuts). It all started out with just a vase full of flowers and my notebook. Now, there are already 5 books–3 more will be added once I unload my latest book haul, a bag with my embroidery, a cup, and a tea kettle. May 10, 2015 at 11:50am Reply

              • The Scented Salon: I love tea. I wish we could meet in person somewhere and have these chats over tea and cake. I must visit Belgium.

                Well, I didn’t know how to copy an image on here so I posted it on my blog.

                http://www.scentedsalon.tumblr.com/ May 10, 2015 at 11:57am Reply

                • Victoria: How pretty! I love that it’s well-organized, but it still has personality and charm.

                  I’m spotting Barbara Hermann’s book there. 🙂 May 10, 2015 at 12:36pm Reply

                  • The Scented Salon: Yes, an informative and beautiful volume. I refer to it often. May 10, 2015 at 2:20pm Reply

                    • Victoria: I also like it very much. May 11, 2015 at 10:03am

  • OperaFan: Oh, what a lovely idea! I love these types of “chance” meetings. I met a lady at a nail salon in NYC a couple of months ago who turned out to be a freelance singer/actor. She and her husband have been in show biz for over 40 years and she told me all sorts of stories about his experiences, including a supporting role in The Music Man (for which he was personally asked by Meredith Wilson to play).

    Our LOTVs are late in starting this year, so this will give me a chance to try out the technique and infuse my clothes with natural fragrance.

    When my lavendar blooms are spent, I usually collect the flower spikes, pick off the pods and suck them up with the vacuum cleaners. They help provide a nice scent while I’m vacuuming around the house.

    Have a lovely weekend! May 8, 2015 at 9:55am Reply

    • The Scented Salon: Don’t forget the eternal practice of drying flowers in books. I’ve been spraying my books with perfume so it dries in the pages and the next time I open that book, the scent will surprise me. Now I must go back to the practice of putting the actual flower inside. I bet my heavenly-scented red carnations will work nicely. May 8, 2015 at 10:02am Reply

      • Victoria: I do that too, dry flowers in between pages of my favorite books. It’s great to open the pages years later and discover a little memento. May 9, 2015 at 3:54am Reply

    • Victoria: That must have been a fun encounter. I really love chance meetings like this, and it happens to me in other places too, but here talking to strangers on public transportation is not frowned upon, quite on the contrary.

      Love the lavender in the vacuum cleaner tip! May 9, 2015 at 3:39am Reply

    • kayliz: OperaFan, thank you for the great tip about vacuuming up lavender! Definitely going to try that later this summer. May 9, 2015 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Marge Clark: A dear friend just mailed me LofV starts from her garden… planted them in a shady spot here and hope they will take. My father grew them and they are memories of my very young childhood. So I sent her a link to this article. Serendipitous timing…thank you! May 8, 2015 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! Just opened the cupboard, and yes, it smells of lily of the valley very strongly. May 9, 2015 at 3:55am Reply

  • Sandra: I think that if you work hard and want to treat yourself to something then you should. My husband and I support charities, and sponsor a child- so do I feel guilty about my 3 bottles of Amouage and my Sisley Paris face creams- no.
    You can’t fix everyone’s problems and everyone goes through their own struggles in life. Money is just an exchange of energy. May 8, 2015 at 10:16am Reply

    • The Scented Salon: I love your thoughts! May 8, 2015 at 11:14am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a complex feeling. I don’t so much feel guilty about buying those luxury products, rather that I can do so, while others struggle to obtain bare necessities. But of course, it’s also counterproductive and unhelpful. Better, as you say, to use one’s opportunities to help others or sponsor a good cause. May 9, 2015 at 3:57am Reply

  • Jovan: I enjoy reading ANYTHING about Lily of the Valley as its a “scent memory” that brings me back to my youth.

    My first perfume was Muguet de bois by Coty.

    I loved it as a child, and I still love the fragrance of lily of the valley. Thank you for your lovely blog. It’s pure joy to read your posts. May 8, 2015 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a wonderful perfume, or rather was, since it’s no longer around.

      Thank you for your nice words, Jovan! May 9, 2015 at 3:58am Reply

  • Annikky: I especially agree and identify with:
    – the benefits of (some) chaos
    – the need for a diverse collection of flavoured vinegars
    – the guilt.

    The latter hits me every time I visit my mother in the Estonian countryside. Then again, my mother would say it’s unnecessary. May 8, 2015 at 10:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t feel too comfortable in absolutely pristine spaces, unless they’re actually a Zen monastery. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:14am Reply

  • Jillie: That photo is so beautiful it takes my breath away …. May 8, 2015 at 10:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Lily of the valley i gorgeous. I can’t sit in front of this bouquet without wanting to photograph it. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:14am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Victoria, another great post and you are a woman after my own heart with regard chaos. I am always amazed at the people who keep their perfumes in a cabinet or some type of shelving. My take over the entire tops of my dresser and bureau. There is nothing else on them except for perfumes. And I know where each one is as they are all out there waiting for me to spritz one of them on myself. Your photo of the Lily of the Valley is so gorgeous, I feel like I can smell it! May 8, 2015 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Yay! Another person who is resisting the current decluttering trend. I like finding bottles of perfumes throughout the apartment and taking a spritz, which is like discovering a little treasure. May 9, 2015 at 4:16am Reply

  • Ashley A: Such a lovely article. Our LotV is blooming here now, and I am going to scoop some up on my way home and do as your lovely new acquaintance recommended! I always feel pressure to whittle down my stuff (books, perfumes, and many others to boot) but, as you mentioned, I think I have a bit of a chaos gene somewhere in me, where I like the surprise and challenge that comes with a bit of messiness. May 8, 2015 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: ” I like the surprise and challenge that comes with a bit of messiness.” You’ve put it perfectly. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:17am Reply

      • Ashley A: Thanks, Victoria. We now have some lovely LotV scenting our closet and gently wafting into our bedroom. My partner actually requested it be moved to the closet because he found it to be a bit overwhelming. For such delicate little flowers, they sure do pack a punch! May 12, 2015 at 10:27am Reply

        • Victoria: Happy that you like it.
          Just checked mine out. With time, the scent changes to woody and nutty. But it’s important to let the flowers dry out and not rot, which is why I separate them in small bunches. May 12, 2015 at 4:39pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: The picture is really a jewel. May 8, 2015 at 11:42am Reply

  • Hamamelis: Victoria when you put the LotV in glasses in your cupboards, did you put water in? Or do they dry out better without?
    In my garden the LotV are on the verge of flowering, and I love the scent. It seems such a good idea to use them like this. May 8, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, not a drop of water! It’s very important, otherwise, the flowers will just rot. You simply want them to give up their scent and dry out.

      Hope that you like this tip as much as I did. May 9, 2015 at 4:20am Reply

      • Hamamelis: I will report! May 9, 2015 at 4:50am Reply

  • Nancy A.: You always have a special way, Victoria that prompts fond memories for me and today’s review about lilies of the valley and (possessions) is no exception. From a small bud of flower that gives such simple pleasure and by everything we purchase, collect, etc. characterizes who we are by what’s important in one’s own life without apology. May 8, 2015 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nancy. I suppose, it’s important to surround oneself with special things, with things one loves. Just acquiring items randomly doesn’t give the same satisfaction anyway. May 9, 2015 at 4:21am Reply

  • Joy: I love Lily of the Valley. I tried to grow some a few years, but could never get a colony established. I might try again in a large pot in a shady place. You have inspired me! I was just lamenting the other day that it is so difficult to buy flowers in a store anymore that have fragrance. Carnations have a tiny bit. I am always happy when the farmer’s market opens as the growers bring in sweet peas and many other fragrant flowers
    As for disorder, we have it in patches in our house. Our kitchen table is always a clutter of reading material, books, magazines, and mail. I try to come up with a solution, but it is handy when we sit down for coffee or lunch, we can rummage through the pile and extract something that looks interesting.
    Your comment about the cost of perfume was timely also. I have just been contemplating whether or not to spend a lot on a bottle of 31 Rue Cambon or just buy decants until I may as well have spent the amount for a FB. May 8, 2015 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Here, at my grandmother’s, I had to dig some lily of the valley out, because they are taking over the garden path. But of course, at home I can’t manage to keep a single pot of them going.

      I miss having scented flowers, so I try to shop for them seasonally, which is a little bit more feasible in Belgium. There are lots of European growers, so in season you get mimosa, carnations, sweet pea, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other scented plants.

      A decant is not a good idea if you already love and wear your perfume regularly. It’s very expensive in comparison to what you would spend on a full bottle. If you know that you will wear 31 Rue Cambon on regular basis and won’t get tired of it after a couple of weeks, then just save up for a bottle. May 9, 2015 at 4:25am Reply

      • Joy: Thank you for this great advice. I have noticed when I order a decant, if I click on a larger size, the cost increases greatly. I will save up! May 12, 2015 at 3:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: If you calculate the price of several decants and compare it to the full bottle, it can be somewhat of a shock. May 12, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Johanob: Oh wow!What an amazingly simple idea for “fresh” potpourri!Love that!I had a good chuckle myself,thinking about “what are my own essentials?”Lol!And is there a thin or a thick line between essentials and luxury?Lol.I love the idea of simplifying one’s life in all sorts of ways though.I have done that with my wardrobe,sticking to the basic colors I like,and accessorising according to mood/occasion/event.I once read that people like Bill Gates does the same to “de-clutter” their minds,in order to focus on whatever else they though were important.This would obviously not fly with avid trend followers and fashionistas,but they could probably apply the same principle in other areas of their lives.I surely do LOVE the chaos of my perfume wardrobe though!Hehe. May 8, 2015 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: My essentials would make for a long list, starting with books and chocolate.

      For my wardrobe, I oscillate between carefully editing my clothes and then going out and buying a flamboyant cocktail dress. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:29am Reply

      • Johanob: I guess that is the way to do it yes!Hehe! May 9, 2015 at 5:05am Reply

  • irem: I have not even read beyond the first few sentences, but I had to leave a comment. Don’t even think of decluttering, dear Victoria. I am a follower of your blog since it’s very beginning, and if I may say so, what you possibly perceive as “clutter” is part of your essence and charm. It is the richness that draws me to your blog. I admire how you have so many different fragrance samples, teacups, beauty items, baking molds etc. In my eyes you are the queen of enriching one’s life – including ours. Don’t simplify!
    (I apologize if I went over the top. Now I can go back and read the rest of your post.) May 8, 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Don’t forget the books! May 8, 2015 at 4:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words and for giving me good justifications for keeping things as they are. 🙂 I’m one of those people who finds it hard just to keep to one thing. I finish pretty much everything I start, but I like to have many different projects at once. Or to read many different books over the same period. Makes things more fun, I think! May 9, 2015 at 4:41am Reply

  • AndreaR: “….and we parted pleased with each other.” What a wonderful comment and so true when we are happy with the person we’ve visited with, especially a chance encounter. May 8, 2015 at 3:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love such chance encounters. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:30am Reply

  • Maria: What a beautiful picture, it’s inspired me to take up my paint brushes! I love the idea of the pot pourri. Unfortunately I don’t have any LotV but here on the west coast of Ireland there is an abundance of Gorse which has the most amazing coconutty smell and lights up the whole countryside with it’s deep yellow flowers from January ’til June. I can smell it on the breeze this evening so I think I’ll try and add the smell to my wardrobe, thanks for the inspiration Victoria! I love your blog, it’s a haven of beauty and elegance and is my favourite place on the internet! May 8, 2015 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to smell gorse, and I imagine how beautiful the yellow must look against the green hills. I think any flower that doesn’t change its scent too much as it dries would be a great candidate for such a potpourri. For instance, hyacinth is too juicy and it won’t work, but rose, carnations, genet, linden or herbs like mint would be great.

      Thank you for visiting! Very happy that you like it here. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 4:55am Reply

  • Karen: Wonderful post! And enjoy reading everyone’s comments. It’s interesting because just the other day I read something by Iris Apfel (heroine to many of us!) about having stuff – that it’s a reminder of a well-lived life (and I am seriously paraphrasing here).

    With so many books on decluttering, getting rid of stuff, throwing out clothes you haven’t worn for a year – it seems like there is this pressure to have your living space be a blank area preferably painted beige.

    Where are the reminders of your travels? Where are the reminders of friends or family?
    Where are your beautiful paintings or sculptures? And books and so on…..

    Some of it sounds good in theory – have only what you love, brings you joy, etc. But what if there is so very much that you love and that brings you joy – why not celebrate all of it.

    And, yes, lily of the valley is just exquisite! If only I could get it to take, but now everyone has inspired me and will try again. May 8, 2015 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Joy: Some of this cultural shift is due to Baby Boomers downsizing, I think. They, (I), read all of this advice on Zillow and all of the reduce clutter books Now that I have downsized, I am constantly looking for this or that that I have given away.

      The other thing that happened is that so many workplaces became perfume free. Mine was so aggressive about it that even scented hand creme was a problem for some people. People would file complaints with HR about other people. I just stopped wearing fragrance at work at least in a way that people could smell. May 8, 2015 at 8:01pm Reply

      • Victoria: Ha! A friend told me of such HR complaint files. And she worked for a cosmetic company! May 9, 2015 at 5:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t agree more! It all sounds good in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t work for everyone. Of course, some people really do function better in very sparse, streamlined setting, and they need to have everything in perfect order. I have some aspects of that in my personality, but for many years, I have been trying to let go and just enjoy having some mess around.

      Interestingly enough, some of my favorite cultural inspirations come from Japan and India, places that are polar opposite in terms of aesthetic. May 9, 2015 at 4:58am Reply

  • Deborah: I was in France last May and arrived at my hotel in Nice on the 1st of May,when giving bouquets of muguet de bois is customary. Upon checking in the desk clerk handed me a small bouquet of muguet. This was easily the most charming gesture I’d ever come across at a hotel. May 8, 2015 at 6:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: It is a great custom. In Brussels, people also give each other stems of muguet for May Day. May 9, 2015 at 5:10am Reply

  • Emma: Victoria, I recently asked you about Guerlain Muguet 2015, well I just tested it, same formula we’ve had for a few years now, it’s pretty like pretty boring so not bottle worthy at this extravagant price. I terribly miss the original formula with its luscious creamy rich semi indolic base.

    I feel I’m the only one wearing perfume nowdays in New York. I used to smell more perfume around 20 years ago. And if I evet happen to smell someone else’s perfume, it’s typically the generic candy sweet or white floral boring stuff you find at Sephora.
    People don’t smoke anymore, people don’t wear perfume either, perfume sales are declining worldwide, how depressing! May 8, 2015 at 6:13pm Reply

    • The Scented Salon: I know what you mean. I wish I could smell some Tabac Blond on some glamorous woman wafting by with a cigarette in hand. Despite our ever-conscious world that is changing to protect us, many old pleasures are falling away in the process. May 8, 2015 at 7:07pm Reply

      • Emma: Oppps, Hi Scented Salon. I know, I’m thinking Babe Paley wearing a cigarette holder wearing Tabac Blond or Divine Folie… instead I feel this summer we’re going to be swamped by a sea of tourists in New York and it won’t be Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s but more like the Jersey shore in the City. Style is dead, sad but true! May 8, 2015 at 9:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds disappointing, but well, it’s hard to do a muguet with all of the restrictions around.

      Perfume sales are indeed declining, and last year the US saw a big slump, but I don’t look at the trends too pessimistically. Many perfume launches have been dull over the past couple of years, and the declines in sales is a reflection of customers’ frustration with the flood of near-identical offerings. Perhaps, it will stimulate the industry to come up with something more interesting. May 9, 2015 at 5:12am Reply

      • Emma: True, it might force them to go back to the drawing board, or hire people like you and I! We should be top creative executives for the perfume industry really!
        I saw the new Dior J’adore commercial last night, Charlize Theron is running around somewhere luxuriously garish and tasteless like Dubai, while I was on the legendary Gold Coast of Long Island, wearing the very Great Gatsbysesque Divine Folie parfum. I feel so far apart from mainstream culture now. Is it serious? May 9, 2015 at 12:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t see myself in that role, but it would be fun to have someone like you there. To tell them like it is! 🙂

          There is nothing bad in doing something different from others around you. The world needs variety, after all. May 9, 2015 at 3:31pm Reply

  • Raquel: I need some chaos in my work place to be creative. It’s a source of inspiration.

    However I enjoy some much watching oriental films with their “zen monastery” decor… May 8, 2015 at 6:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Which are your favorite films? Do you watch Japanese cinema or something else? May 9, 2015 at 5:12am Reply

  • marlene: Lily of the Valley,yes,have a small bunch now in a blue vase. I keep smelling it for a little aromatherapy. It speaks of spring. I can see a little cleaning of clutter,it helps to be able to see what you have. On the other hand,each domicile has it’s own personality,branded by it’s inhabitants. Each of us is an individual and I feel fortunate to have a home with people and things I love. May 9, 2015 at 12:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes! I do love to re-order things and chuck away or donate whatever I don’t need. It’s a good exercise, and sometimes you discover a long forgotten favorite dress or book in the process. May 9, 2015 at 5:18am Reply

  • rainboweyes: I love minimalist interiors and lots of free space so most of my belongings are stored in cabinets. The insides of my chests and drawers – well, that’s a different story 😉
    Your post reminded me that I need to get some LOTVs for my garden. Some areas have become quite shady over the years as the trees and bushes grew bigger – an ideal place for LOTVs and ferns!
    As to the feeling of guilt, yes I have it too sometimes, we are really blessed to live in this part of the world… But I think it doesn’t help when you start thinking about the value not only of obvious luxury such as perfume but even of our everyday consumption: a bottle of wine, restaurant meals, sportsgear, books…
    I try to support charity organisations on a regular basis to share at least a bit of my prosperity with others. May 9, 2015 at 2:59am Reply

    • Victoria: We have ruefully little storage space in our apartment, and this is what drives me crazy about the arrangement. So, I’ve converted a second bathroom (which we don’t use) into a storage space and keep refining it to make sure things are more or less organized.

      Yes, if you start putting things in perspective, it can be daunting, but of course, the cost of living in Brussels or NYC is higher than in many other places.

      Lily of the valley grows really well outdoors, if it gets a mix of shade and sun. At least, my mom has no troubles keeping her patch going. May 9, 2015 at 5:22am Reply

  • Anne: I have one pot of lily of the valley… comes up every year to herald spring along with the wattle. Alas right now in the southern hemisphere (Australia) it is coming into winter so no muguet. I was out walking last evening and was kicking around in some dried, fallen plane leaves. Smelled like European autumn. Also I bought some lovely old varietal apples from a market that just smell so crisp and sweet – I didn’t want to spoil them by eating them. May 9, 2015 at 6:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Your autumnal scent descriptions make me wistful for that season too. 🙂 May 9, 2015 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Natalie: Victoria, I have been embracing simplicity and minimalism. I have learned it isn’t about living an austere life and it isn’t the same for everyone. It is about keeping what you love, has meaning to you, has use, and adds value to your life and not being swamped with useless clutter. I found this gives breathing room to focus on what really matters in life instead of just the pursuit of material objects. You can have your spices, books, and perfumes and still embrace simplicity. Not everyone’s simplicity looks the same. May 9, 2015 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve put it so nicely, Natalie. Yes, it’s all relative, and everyone shapes their environment in their own idiosyncratic way. Anything too categorical simply doesn’t work. May 9, 2015 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Austenfan: However much I’m organised at work, though even there on non-essentials my absent-mindedness does take over, at home I’m a true master of chaos. Never more so then after arriving home after a week in my beloved France. My “salon” is like a small épicerie and with my French shopping. Honey, jam, wine, tea, nut oil….
    I haven’t smelled any LOTV this year outside. Must make sure to do so before it disappears. May 9, 2015 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Mmmm, that sounds like my idea of chaos! 🙂 A salon full of tasty and fragrance things. May 9, 2015 at 3:33pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Plenty of walnut oil and chestnut honey! May 9, 2015 at 4:00pm Reply

        • Austenfan: And a wonderful lavender-rosemary-vetiver soap. May 9, 2015 at 4:30pm Reply

        • Victoria: Some of my favorite things! May 10, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

  • Carla: Lovely post. I’ve heard of that book. For me Marie Kondo’s book felt like a life-changer. I’ve only got four perfect spring perfume bottles on my dresser right now, loving my simplicity May 9, 2015 at 6:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s by Dominique Loreau. I also heard of Marie Kondo, but I haven’t checked it out. Since everyone talks about it so much, I think I should, just to know what it is all about. May 10, 2015 at 11:41am Reply

  • Hannah: I went into the dining room and there is a mini vase with a mini bouquet of lily of the valley. Then it must grow in my yard, but I never knew until just now. I love the German word for lily of the valley, Maiglöckchen. May 10, 2015 at 1:14am Reply

    • Victoria: This must be the season right now, so you still have some time to enjoy Maiglöckchen. May 10, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

  • Neva: You just reminded me of this beautiful little flower and I’m off to my Mother’s….she has lily of the valley growing in her garden 🙂 When my Father was alive he brought me a small bouquet every year for my birthday and I miss it much nowadays…This year I didn’t have my little bouquet up to now, but I’ll get it this afternoon and have a coffee with my Mum. AND I will put some flowers into my cupboard. What a great idea! Thank you for sharing it 🙂 May 11, 2015 at 4:37am Reply

    • Victoria: May I wish you Happy Birthday then? 🙂 I hope that you enjoy the celebration, your bouquet, and many wonderful memories of your father. May 11, 2015 at 10:13am Reply

      • Neva: Thanks so much Victoria 🙂 I definitely enjoy it a lot. It was a big one and I got my first Amouage from my girlfriends – Epic! (I gave them the hint, of course 😉 As I write this, the smell of lotv radiates from the bouquet on the table next to me… May 11, 2015 at 2:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: Wow! What an awesome gift. Enjoy it and wear it in good health, as we say. May 12, 2015 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Aurora: Traditionally French people give lotv on May 1st to celebrate Mayday. It’ a lovely tradition, I don’t know its origin. The photo is superb Christian Dior who adored lotv would have been impressed.

    I recall your saying that you had far more books than perfume and it’s the case with me too. But I think books make a home comfy and reflect our personality. May 11, 2015 at 5:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I loved photos of one of Dior’s collections, in which models walked down the runway decorate with muguet.

      I enjoy looking at the bookshelves at other people’s houses. It’s fascinating to see what people read, which books look really worn, etc. May 11, 2015 at 10:10am Reply

  • Jaime: I love the potpourri idea! Lily of the valley grow like weeds in my garden, and I always wish I could do something more with them.

    I also know what you mean about the cost of living in other countries and how much our own beauty/skin care items cost in relation. We are very lucky with our little luxuries. May 11, 2015 at 10:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you to have lily of the valley growing like weeds. 🙂 May 12, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Aurora: What a gorgeous photo, the ‘brin de muguet’ looks so delicate in its vase and is almost iridescent.

    Like you I have more books (taking over my home) than perfumes (sigh of relief). As long as I keep it this way and have space in the guest bedroom I feel safe to indulge in a bottle from time to time. May 11, 2015 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! They are such delicate flowers, but the scent is incredibly powerful. I love this contrast.

      What is in your reading pile right now? May 12, 2015 at 4:25pm Reply

      • Aurora: Alan Bennett, Writing Home; Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare; Madame de Lafayette, La Princesse de Cleves; Ruth Rendell, The Fallen Curtain; The Sugar House, Antonia White; Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, a pile of New Yorkers, a pile of New York Review of Books, a pile of Ideal Home (all at least 3 month old). May 17, 2015 at 4:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: What a great list! You’re a woman after my heart with your pile of New York Review of Books, a magazine I’m obsessed with. 🙂 May 18, 2015 at 2:04am Reply

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