“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” ~Diane Ackerman
Research has shown that the sense of smell is more closely linked with memory than any of the other senses. It’s also a sense linked with emotion. If you close your eyes and think about your childhood home, likely it will be aromas that come to mind first. Cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven, the way cherry Kool-Aid smelled when you stirred up a fresh pitcher, the scent of laundry fresh off the clothesline on a summer day. These are the enticing elements of many of our memories. For me, growing up on the farm, add the heady aroma of fresh mown hay, the smell of my grandmother’s homemade bread with butter churned by hand. And lilacs brought into the house and arranged in a blue Ball canning jar. Little bits of heaven on earth.
Let’s be honest: If you have kids or pets in your house—or a teenager with stinky feet—not all the smells of home are going to be pleasant ones. But there are certainly ways to make your home smell wonderful almost every hour of the day—and give your family something pleasant to breathe in, and something evocative to carry with them when they travel away from home. Whether it’s for a weekend…or for forever.
• Use the clothesline to dry your laundry. (Or, if you don’t have a clothesline, hang fresh sheets over a clean porch railing or spread them on a freshly mown lawn to dry. You’ll not only save on your electric bill, but it’s hard to match the fragrance of sheets dried on a summer breeze. If that all sounds like too much work, the clean scent of a dryer sheet is a close second. (Bounce original is still my favorite.) Laundry soap is available in some amazing scents these days, as well.
• Bake something. My grandmother used to simmer apple slices on the stovetop in a pan of water with cinnamon. It made the whole house smell delicious! Simmering a pot of whole cloves in water will do the same.
• If you’re really feeling ambitious, remember the old Pillsbury commercial that said “nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven”? Let the aroma of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven greet your family at the door. If you’re not crazy about baking, instead of store-bought cookies, opt for the pre-made cookie dough so you still get to enjoy the smell without all the work.
• A pot of coffee brewing will perfume the whole house. My husband can’t stand the taste of coffee, but even he likes the smell of it—especially the flavored blends. My parents weren’t big coffee drinkers, but whenever we had company, the coffee pot was on. Maybe that’s why I like coffee so much—to me, it smells like a party about to happen!
• Fresh-cut flowers and just-picked fruits are another source of delicious smells. In the summer, I like adding sliced lemons or limes to a water dispenser. It’s a good way to remind me to drink more water, and the citrusy scent makes every glass a treat. Try gently scraping the rinds of a few whole lemons, limes, or oranges with a fork, and put them in a bowl on the counter or use as a centerpiece on the table. Sweet-smelling and pretty, too.
• It’s difficult to beat the fragrance of roses or lilacs or peonies. If money were no object, I’d have cut flowers in vases in every room, every week. But since money is an “object” I enjoy flowers from the bushes around our house in season…
• …and out of season, I enjoy potpourri, scented candles, oils, and waxes. I’ve discovered I can buy half-burned candles at garage sales for pennies. They smell just as good as when they were new, and no one’s is the wiser that I wasn’t the first one to light those wicks.
• Never underestimate the power of the incredible smell of popcorn popping! A great aroma to welcome kids home from school, to signal an impromptu movie night, or just because.
When you make your home a haven of pleasing aromas, you’re helping your family make memories that may very well last a lifetime.
What is your very favorite smell? What are some of the scents and aromas that bring memories rushing back for you?