Perfume Shelf Life

For a while I was collecting DVD. My rule was to buy only those movies that I watched, liked and wanted to have in my collection. What I noticed over time: once a movie got on the shelf I would rarely watch it again. I would still like the movie, think it is great and even watch a big chunk of it if I would catch it while switching TV channels, but whenever choosing what to watch, I would almost never go for a DVD I own.


Recently I came across an interesting project – Found in Translation. A graphic designer Anjana Ilyer creates posters to illustrate words in other languages with no direct English equivalent. One of the words that grabbed my attention is similar in spirit but describes a different medium: Tsundoku – a Japanese word that means “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books.” I’m guilty of that behavior with the only difference: the books I buy and plan to read go directly on a shelf in my bookcase.


Why should it be different when it comes to perfumes, right? I have a number of bottles in my collection that weren’t impulse buys – I tried them, liked and even hunted some of them; I didn’t get tired of them and do not consider them albatrosses – and still whenever choosing what to wear I pass them by and they spend most of the time just sitting on one of the perfume shelves in my closet.

Amarige Harvest Mimosa 2007 by Givenchy is one of those “tsundoku” perfumes. I tried it first at some duty-free store at the airport and liked it. I got a sample and as it was nearing the end I liked it more and more. By the time I decided I wanted Amarige Harvest Mimosa, being a limited edition, it was gone. But I was persistent and eventually a very reasonably priced bottle joined my collection. I still think it’s great and I’m glad I have it but the last time I wore it was while writing the post about mimosa-centric perfumes… three years ago. Since then it has been safely stored all the way back on the perfume shelf. For notes and actual review read The Non-Blonde.

Rusty and Amarige Mimosa 2007

It must be something with shelves in my house…


Images: poster by Anjana Ilyer; two other – my own.

45 thoughts on “Perfume Shelf Life

  1. Hey there Undina,
    I have been making dedicated inroads into my unread book pile since returning from Korea. As to DVDs, we put them in a different room to the TV when moving back to my home and they hardly get looked at anymore. When they were below the Tv they got used all the time.
    Fragrances, I wear as many as I can. Many were bought because the decants drained but now they sit in my cupboard unopened and sometimes I look at them and sigh with contentment without having to open them
    Portia xx

    • I’m trying to rotate through all the fragrances that I love and own but with the collection that keeps on growing (even though I’m trying hard to keep it under control), it’s very hard to give each of my favorites skin time they deserve.

  2. Haha, very amusing post – I have had a tsundoku by my bed for some time now – poor Barbara Herman is top of the unread pile. I say ‘poor’ as she may remain unread for the forseeable. I naively thought that the mere fact of the books’ proximity to my head would enable me to read them in the night by some magical process of osmosis. Then I have an ‘overflow tsunduko’ on a coffee table in the living room, plus books on multiple bookcases I also fully intend to read some day. ;) And yes, the DVD thing and neglected perfumes also apply…I occasionally make myself wear a forgotten perfume in a kind of charitable intervention – and to be fair rarely regret my choice. Maybe I need a roster…

    • “charitable intervention” – I love it! :)

      I’m trying to use my database to discover those of my favorites that are not getting a proper attention for too long but, as I mentioned to Portia above, with the growing collection and just 365 days per year it’s really hard. And then, of course, there is some testing involved.

  3. That’s a great post my dearest Undina!
    Great topic dug from the pile of internet informations.
    I’m happy to learn new japanese word and I think everyone of perfume lovers have such tsundoku perfumes.
    For me it was Parfum d’Empire Iskander. I loved it at first but when I finally had it in my collection I didn’t wear it at all. Though I still think it’s a great scent, I don’t wear it and I decided to sell it, so that someone else can actually use it.

    • Skin samples!!! I use some when I travel but mostly it goes for small bottles. Many of those “1 application” packets die the natural death of an old age in my samples bag.

  4. Guilty on all counts as well. I will say that my DVD choices are a bit different from the Husband’s so when we go to watch something it tends to be one of his. The books, I have no defense for that other than lack of free time. The perfume I have truly been trying to seek out and wear those that have gotten lost in the crowd.

  5. I never bought that many DVDs, but I have a few. Actually, I have some VHS tapes in the basement that I might as well just throw away…but for some reason I can’t let myself do it. As for the Tsundoko perfumes…hmmm, I have been itching for Maria Candida Gentile’s Cinabre for over a year. I finally relented and bought a bottle last month. I spritzed it once and already it’s sitting on my back shelf. We are fickle aren’t we?!

    • Usually when I get a new perfume I try to balance my behavior: on one side, I’m trying to prove to myself that it was a “good buy” – so I wear it several times during months after it joins my collection. But on the other side, I don’t want to wear it too much – not to “offend” my other favorites… And then I might just forget about it for a long while.

  6. Great post. Is it because you don’t feel you have occasion to wear the Amarige or is there no particular reason you can think of?

    I don’t wear Shalimar because it never seems right for what I’m doing. Or maybe I love it but it just doesn’t feel like “me”

    I have had a shelf of unead books for ages and now I have a Kindle I’ll never read them. Time to just take them to the charity shop I guess.

    • I tried to think why I do not wear Amarige Mimosa as I was writing this post… There are multiple reasons, actually.
      First of all, snobbery ;- ) It’s not niche enough compared to the most other perfumes I currently wear. I know that this isn’t exactly the case since for this limited edition Givenchy used a much better ingredients than they normally do.
      Then, it’s not a shy perfume so I’ll have to be very careful with wearing it to the office.
      And, finally, it was tucked all the way back on the shelf so I just never dug it out. I took care of that by making myself a nice portable decant. Now I will wear it from time to time – I just tried it, and it was very pleasant.

      • Thanks for filling me in and for being as honest as ever! All makes perfect sense.

        Good idea to remedy the problem with a decant and great to hear you enjoyed wearing it again.

  7. haha- interesting- ‘tsundoku’. I haven’t bought a lot of full bottles for precisely this reason. This happened to me very early in my ‘perfumista days’ with Diptyque’s Tam Dao (and recently with Lyric though I am trying for it not to happen with Lyric). So now I am wary. I don’t have full bottles of many of my loves including black oud (though the bottle might have something to do with that too) because I’m worried that I won’t feel like wearing it..:).
    And let me not even get into books and DVDs.
    Atleast we’re not alone ;-)

    • Not all of the bottles suffer from that fate and, actually, I prefer using perfumes from the bottles. But with some it just happens!
      My Tam Dao bottle if less than half full – but mostly because I like it on my vSO. I don’t think I would have worn it myself more than a couple of times.

    • Thank you, hajusuuri! You are in a great company with everybody else in this topic :)

      You have to adopt a new behavior, especially while traveling: before clicking on Post, copy the answer into clipboard!

      • That is so true! I have to be a little bit more adept at using my iPad mini. I sometimes wish I had a mouse with this but that would defeat the attraction of a tablet! I’m glad to be in good company even though it is related to a bad habit ;-)

  8. Tsundoku perfumes, check. Luckily this doesn’t apply to books for me (I don’t purchase books that go un-read, period; though I’m certainly someone who will stop reading if I don’t care for how a book is going). And I rarely purchase dvds, though we have a lot of them in our house, purchased by Mark.

    I hate the fact, though, that I have tsundoku perfumes … it bothers me a lot that they aren’t getting worn, even though I still admire those perfumes and have a great affection for them, in theory, anyway. :-D

    • You are my hero! (books) As to perfumes… You never know when you fall back into love with those tsundoku perfumes – probably right after you let them go ;-)

  9. I definitely have a pile of newly-bought, but unread books in the corner of my living room. There’s something a little bit comforting about it, I know I can go pick a book out of the pile at any time and most likely enjoy it. The same is true with perfume. I’d say my tsundoku perfume is Parfumerie Generale’s Papyrus de Ciane. I wore it when I first bought it two years ago but, ever since then, it’s been sitting in the same spot on my perfume shelf – there must be something about these shelves!

    • I’m telling you!!! I don’t think we would ignore a perfume had it been displayed somewhere on a dresser, right? On the other hand, in that case light and heat would have taken care of the “hoarding” in their own way.
      I haven’t tried Papyrus de Ciane but there must be a reason you bought it. Try it again and see – you might still enjoy wearing it.

  10. What a great word! My Amarige Mimosa 2007 is filed under (what I’ll now call) Tsundoku, too, along with all the other bottles I’ve acquired in failed attempts to have and to hold the scent of real mimosa in bloom. Your post led me to dust off my bottle and give it a spritz. Like most mimosa-inspired perfumes, this one is way too sweet–at least in the opening. But I notice as I’m typing that the premature dry down is rather bitter and dusty. Nothing I’d confuse with the flower itself, but an homage to the mood. Now is there a word for “finally opening a book after leaving it unread for many years”?

    • I haven’t found a mimosa-centric perfume that I would absolutely love (with more than one I had an experience similar to yours – as you nicely put it: “premature dry down”) but there are many that have mimosa as a support note – and I like those.

      After working on this post, I’m going through my favorites that didn’t get enough love recently, so at least something good came out of it : -)

  11. My whole house if full of the husband’s tzunduko, in piles and boxes. Love the term, could turn it on him like a hose!

    Perfumes, I have been editing, and I tend to wear any number of Carons and de Nicolais and increasingly Neil Morrises. But I get rid of whatever I haven’t worn in a year on the “don’t perfume your closet” principle.

    • I remember from the previous conversations about your attitude towards perfumes but I don’t think I’m there yet or will ever be: I get attached to things and once I got them I rarely want to let them go.

  12. I do understand getting attached, but sometimes also get headaches from certain perfumes and that “helps” the editing process a lot.
    Mind you if I didn’t get sinusitis, my collection would be plenty big!

    • Health-related reasons are very serious, I agree.
      I hope it won’t happen to you too often going forward: the more experience you have, the better you’ll recognize the potential “offender” before it joins your collection. At least I hope it’ll be the case.

  13. I really love this website with words from other languages! Thank you for sharing the link. I have some “shelved” perfumes in my collection, too, although I don’t think there are too many. I have learned from past mistakes, though, not to get rid of them, because I usually regret it.

    • With all your moves I’m not surprised your collection gets naturally trimmed to include only things you use – it would be too wasteful to get something in there just and then either to move it around for a while without getting any use of it or to discard it only to discover later it was a mistake.

    • When I wear perfume after it was neglected and still like it, I feel good – as if I’ve proven to myself that it wasn’t a mistake to buy it inthefirst place.

  14. Pingback: In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa, Take 3 – Undina's Looking Glass

  15. Now I am curious…how many full bottles and decants do you own?
    I used to hoard books but after donating many to my library I decided that I would just borrow the ones I really want to read from the library and no longer purchase anything new.

    • No-no-no, that stays between me and my closet :) I’m not one of those owners who proudly displays their collections (but I love seeing pictures when others do it).

  16. Pingback: Mimosa Week – Undina's Looking Glass

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