Monday Question – What Would You Do With Your Collection If You Couldn’t Use It?

Imagine you have accumulated a rather sizable collection of perfume over the years.

Imagine you have a treasured closet full of gorgeous bottles holding precious fragrant liquids each holding a story, a memory or simply just smell freaking good to you.

So far I think everyone is with me, no need to imagine much at this point, as all of you have a collection of at least two bottles.

Now imagine that you cannot use your collection anymore. No matter the reason, but imagine it is a permanent issue that makes it impossible for you to keep on wearing your perfumes.

What would you do?

Would you sell it? Get rid of it all as to not remind you of things you’d rather forget?

Would you keep it? (And risk letting it go bad?)

Would you sell a few, give away a few and keep a few, no matter what?

Or would you do something else entirely?



My Answer:

As you, dear constant readers, know, I can’t wear the majority of my perfumes anymore because of my asthma which seems to be settled in for good (as far as my doctor is concerned the chances for it to completely recede are slim to non-existent).

So I am faced by a beautifully stocked closet of perfumes that seem to mock me every day. I still wear perfume (take it from me over my dead body!), but it is a select few that I can tolerate in homeopathic doses. The vast majority sits there usused and unloved (yes, unloved, since my subconscious mind seems to want to blame them!).

Help me today! What shall I do with my collection? I would see it as a real shame to see them go to waste unused.

Shall I do a blog sale? Would you be interested?

I have given away some bottles already, but local fumies are quite a rare breed…

What would you do if it were you?

P.S.: My New York Story is coming up on Wednesday! Be sure to pop in!


About Olfactoria

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91 Responses to Monday Question – What Would You Do With Your Collection If You Couldn’t Use It?

  1. laniersmith says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your asthma …. I would give my most treasured perfumes to friends who love perfume but haven’t the money to buy them. Their joy in receiving the gift would be my new perfume.

  2. Lynley says:

    Birgit, i also suffer(ed) from asthma, and quite badly. I am now mostly without even ventolin all because of Chinese Medicine with herbs and acupuncture. It also totally cleared my eczema, after a zillion doctors couldnt help. Maybe you have tried and I so hope i dont sound pushy but it was miraculous almost so maybe theres a way to still keep your bottles and one day (soon!) share the love again! 🙂

  3. Ana says:

    This is dreadful Birgit,and I hope it’ll never happen to me.I think you should keep the few you can tolerate,sell most of them,and give away some of the ones you feel really sorry that you can’t wear anymore to people that you know will love and cherish them.In the end,this is not all about a financial loss it’s about losing the intense pleasure us perfumistas get from wearing perfume,from hunting it,from buying it,from talking about it,from organizing your collections,etc.I’d really like that my bottles would go to people for which they would mean all that.

  4. Anka says:

    I am very sorry to read that it is that bad! This really hurts!
    I would let a professional photographer (you might be one yourself if I recall some pictures of your collection…) make the most wonderful pictures of my collection in order to produce a poster as sort of a reminder of my precious two bottles (Haha, no, I have three) and then gift some people with bottles and sell the rest. Do you think you could keep and still wear your beloved Hermessence ones?

    I am very much looking forward to read your New York adventure, already saw a nice picture of Portia with The husband at APJ – glad you are back!

    • Olfactoria says:

      What a lovely idea, Anka. I am by no means a good photographer, let alone a professional one, but I know one… 🙂
      Thankfully my Hermès perfumes are among the few I still wear and I would nevr give those up, no matter what.

  5. Sandra says:

    I am so sorry to hear all of this. This is so devastating. I would give away many but also perhaps auction them off and give the proceeds to lung disease research.

  6. Georgy says:

    First and foremost I’m sorry to hear about your permanent astma and the fact that your beloved scents maynot be used by you any longer, ……but maybe it is fates way to tell you that u need place for a new addiction, ……..why not sell them of, keep some small decants and buy yourself something new to start a collection,…….you need the place anyway for hermes foulards and bags, don’t you?

  7. Vanessa says:

    Renewed commiserations on your asthma issue, but I would tend not to jump the gun and sell it yet a while, given the huge value tied up in your collection, and your own personal attachment to it. By all means put it out of sight for now, but a) doctors can be wrong – I have known many misdiagnose or take years to diagnose very serious ailments in my own family and friends – and b) medical knowledge improves all the time. Why, just last week they were saying that it won’t be long before stem cell treatments mean that people will be able to live till 150! My own ‘armchair specialist’ 😉 reading about asthma suggests that it can recede or go away in some people, though obviously I don’t know your particular kind. But I wouldn’t do anything kneejerk for now, and I would get a second opinion before losing your stash!

    • Vanessa says:

      Another thought just occurred to me: assuming the condition is permanent, as it may prove to be despite my lack of faith in doctors here! I mean to say that the illness may still fluctuate in intensity from time to time. Just as you currently are still able to enjoy a few perfumes on a dabbing basis, what if that ability extended to a couple of others in due course that you suddenly found yourself missing? I am drawing an analogy here with the way in which the tastes of a perfumista who is perfectly well change over time – and former perfume hates become loves etc. It would be a shame if you had given away a bottle that later became tolerable, even on a dabbing basis? I know you must be feeling sad and cross that this has happened, so there is a temptation to do something decisive sooner rather than later, but I think it is too early in the diagnosis of your illness to commit such an irrevocable act with your collection.

      • Olfactoria says:

        There are some things I won’t ever sell, no mater if I can ever use them or not, for some just looking at them and smelling the cap is enough. But the large majority is somehow bugging me, making me restless and mocking me. But you are right, rash action is not helping.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Very wise words, dear V, and I will take them seriously. Thank you. No need to kneejerk. 😉

    • Kimberly says:

      OMG! Just thinking the same thing about improving medical treatments, and stem cells!

      Honestly, if this was happening to me, I would not give up my collection. This has happened very recently in the history of your life, and the body will rebalance itself, given the proper conditions. Even if it doesn’t do that on it’s own, there are options. Because lung tissue is so different, it may take a while, but eventually it is going to happen. Not may happen, Will happen.

      With all the new restrictions on materials, and discontinuations, there’s no similar guarantee about recovering your most beloved perfumes When that time arrives.

  8. Michael says:

    I would give a few away to friends. Ones I know they’d love. The rest I would sell and either keep the funds or donate the funds depending upon my situation.
    Birgit, it makes me very sad to read this. Whatever you decide, I hope it brings you some happiness.

  9. poodle says:

    Since I’ve had good results for a variety of things by using herbs and other unconventional things I’d try some of those options before I got rid of anything. If I was convinced that it wasn’t going to improve then I suppose I’d start giving some things away to people and perhaps try to sell the rest. If you sell them at least you can put the money towards something else that you will enjoy.

  10. Sabine says:

    I too would wait a bit longer before doing anything drastic, Birgit. But if you can’t bear to look at it, you could divide the collection in ‘Like’, ‘Love’ and ‘Wear’, and sell or gift the ‘Likes’. A blog sale will certainly be popular and if money isn’t a problem you could donate to a charity that’s close to your heart. But don’t give up hope.

  11. Mary E. says:

    It is such a hard thing to decide and oh, dear asthma can be so brutal. I am sure your vast numbers of followers would be interested in your wonderful collection if you.must give them up. Unless you do something like eBay or PayPal collecting the funds could be hard. Then there’s packing & shipping…you will be in my thoughts.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you, Mary E. If I were in a location like London, it would be easy to organize an evening to sell them all (for a nominal fee), but here I am a bit isolated and the packing and shipping is really daunting, as the last thing I want to happen is losing things in the post…

  12. Sorry to hear that your asthma is making this an extended nightmare for your Birgit. I would hang on to the perfumes for a bit just to ensure that hopefully won’t linger. All the best – Steve

  13. Karen A says:

    I want to also pass along my condolences for your asthma. Having any type of physical issue is a challenge, especially when it is so connected to what you love. And I also agree with other commenters who suggest alternate therapies, perhaps before parting with your collection. It may take a while before any improvements are realized, but combining approaches may work (just find a practitioner who supports your work with your medical doctor, and a doctor who supports also using alternative approaches). If you decide to part with your bottles, perhaps also combining how you pass them on – share, sell, and whatever. Just don’t rush in to anything, the right solution at the right time will feel right.

  14. Asali says:

    What can I but join in the lamenting chorus 😦
    I agree, that if it doesn’t make it worse for you, and you are uncertain, thenwait a little yet. Even if you cannot even think of trying any more different routes (as suggested by readers here) for now, perhaps you can later. And I agree with Vanessa, that your tolerance might change, the way that tastes do.
    If you have more or less made up you mind to let some go- I’d say keep the ones that makes you happy when you hold them and look aat them. Out goes the rest.

  15. Hamamelis says:

    I totally agree with the suggestion to wait a while. My husband has severe asthma, from a young age, and after making several changes in lifestyle (nothing drastic or weird) now days go by without him having to take any puff or medication. He was very allergic, that has also very much improved. Should you be interested to know what he did (again nothing alternative or difficult) please let me know. In my experience there are so many factors involved in allergies or autoimmune illnesses, age, season, hormones etc. that may change that I would keep an open mind that it may improve.
    For the perfumes that may turn quickly, you could make a draw such as the one Victoria did some time ago, where readers could participate if they donated to a charity of her choice. For the rest I would keep them somewhere safe for better days!

  16. Polinia says:

    I know how you feel or at least can imagine. When I was a child I used to love dogs and cats so much I couldn’t imagine my life without them. And one day having a beautiful cat I developed a drastic allergy reaction. I couldn’t believe that my small pet was a cause of such terrible condition and hoped that my mum (doctor) was wrong and everything will be fine. But life is life – I had to choose between life (actually) and all those wonderful cats & dogs I could have. I got used to my situation, it was just a question of time.
    Regarding perfume it’s more complicated as they consist of so many ingredients. Various tests can show what’s causing your disease. If it can be any perfume then it’s better to avoid any temptation in the future.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh I am so sory to hear your story, Polinia, I love cats so much too and it must be a bummer having to stay away. But at least from a practical standpoint they are easy to avoid, whereas as you say perfume is complex and it can’t be narrowed down to just a few materials right now.
      Thank you for sharing your experience!

  17. Figuier says:

    Oh I’m so sorry Birgit! I was keeping my fingers crossed for recovery. My instinct would be to wait a while, if only to help you decide which perfumes you wanted to keep. You might decide you do actually love some of your bottles and the perfumes enough to be happy to enjoy them without wearing.

    On the other hand, if you think it would just make you sad to see all the bottles sitting there, maybe to give away & sell most would be better? It could feel quite therapeutic to have a proper clear-out. Though it would be a pity not to keep at least a few: presumably the Hermes & other JCE’s would be worth hanging onto, if only as a complement to your Hermes scarf collection?

    A blog sale might be easiest, but given the high quality of your collection, maybe it would be worth asking around to see if there are specialist auctioneers/dealers in Vienna who could get the most of them. And then, as others have said, you could decide whether you wanted to keep the proceeds or donate them.

    Hope you find a solution that works for you – & best wishes!

    • Olfactoria says:

      You hit the nail on the heas with “therapeutic value of a proper clear-out”. That might be what I am after… if it would be the wisest decision in the long term is another story.
      Thank you for your comment, Figuier!

  18. anon says:

    I have been notorious for gifting things away….I have this theory that what goes around comes around….so whenever someone has really loved a scent I was wearing if I was neutral about it I would gift it to him/her…..but I am sure if you had an online blog sale there would be many interested individuals…..and I surmise it would make you quite satified knowing that your lovely bottles have found a home where they could be adored and loved 🙂 !!

    • anon says:

      what I meant to say was “satisfied”…..and I like Tara’s idea of saving decants or samples for future reference…this is what I always do before gifting away full bottles….also, I save my empty bottles so if you are loving a bottle why not decant and gift those away but keep the beautiful empty bottle? And finally, I also think the other commenters’ suggestion of proceeds going to charity is a great idea… in itself is a gift and if you believe in karma, you will be rewarded for your generosity in another fashion……

    • Olfactoria says:

      Exactly. Real life perfume lovers are far between here. A blog sale (with really small prices) is in the cards eventually.

  19. Tara says:

    This is all so very sad, B. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it go away.

    Unfortunately we are in the real world but I’ve been really impressed with the suggestions so far and think you could incorporate a lot of them. I’m sure you are justifiably angry right now and want to do something drastic like get rid of your collection to make yourself feel better straight away but maybe take it one step at a time.

    You could sell/give away the bottles you don’t have a lot of love for first. Then at least you’d feel you were doing something. Then you could make decants of others (or ask someone else to) of those that you still love but may not need a whole bottle of and pass them on. Keep the ones that you love, whether you can wear them right now or not.

    Donating some of the proceeds to an asthma charity would help with the healing process I think.

    I also think Anka’s idea of first taking some great photographs is a nice one. It hurts to see those bottles now but one day, not too far off, the happy times they represent will come back to you.

    A lot to mull over here. I hope you can find a compromise that brings you some peace.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Lovely Tara, I’d love to make use of your magic wand for a good many things. 🙂
      Other than that, it is what it is. The responses today have already helped me so much, I feel much better just reading all those comments and as I say below, no asthma can change that good feeling.

  20. shellyw says:

    Sell it on the blog and use the proceeds to pursue another interest or love. Anyone on the blog would not let it go to waste and I believe we all wish you something else beautiful in its place.

  21. Olfactoria says:

    Before answering all your wonderful comments individually, I wanted to say something that goes for everyone.
    Although this is a sad situation, I am not sad. I feel lucky.
    Asthma is not great, that is for sure, but I could have it so much worse (and many people do, even some of you do). My love for Perfume brought me a great collection, but it also brought me many new acquaintances, new friends and even the people I count among the very best friends I have in my life I met through perfume. And that is not going to go away, even if I decide to let go of my bottles. It sounds sappy, but it is the simple truth. No matter if here in Vienna, in the UK, in the US, in places as close a Zagreb or as far as Sydney, I have found people I love and admire and would not want to miss. And I don’t have to. I still can have all the beauty the virtual perfumeworld has to offer and that is plenty. So thank you for that.
    And happily, I am not allergic to silk… 😉

    • Holly says:

      I love your attitude! It is evident that you are in a good place mentally and emotionally, and I’m happy that it is so.

      I have a good friend who works with people organizing their homes, including hoarders who can’t let go. I am currently facing clearing out my parents’ home, and there’s a lot of stuff and a lot of memories. After speaking with my friend, I decided I will make a video of the house and the cherished items in it, and speak about these things that had meaning for my family. That way I can retain what’s special to me without having to hold onto the actual objects. I hope you will find peace and joy in the letting go. I know that in many ways you already have…

    • Tara says:

      Beautifully put. Here we all are getting down but you’ve not lost sight of what good perfume has brought into your life. As great as it is, its the friendships that mean the most.

  22. Sun Mi says:

    I’m so sorry that your asthma is a continuing issue. I would hold on to your most beloved scents – I know several people that struggled with asthma and allergies that improved greatly after they moved to another locale. You may find one day that a change in your life improves your tolerances for scent and it would be terrible to regret the loss of your most cherished perfumes! But for those that your aren’t as attached to, I’m sure many would love to purchase from your collection!

  23. allgirlmafia says:

    I would probably donate mine to a perfume blog and ask the blogger to donate them in random giveaways

      • allgirlmafia says:

        Its funny this is your question of the day because I had the most random thought yesterday that if I died I would want my perfumes distributed randomly because no one I know loves them like me. strange thought-I know.

        I am sorry about your asthma condition. It is heartbreaking when something cherished becomes impossible to have. In Feburary I broke into hives for a MONTH STRAIGHT! One of my biggest worries was fragrance and having to part with them. Thankfully the hives ceased.

  24. Suzanne says:

    Birgit, if I were you, I think that I’d sell most of the bottles but hang on to a few perfumes that, even if you never wear them again, you might wish to pass down to the young women who will undoubtedly enter your life when your sons grow up and get married. I know that seems like a long time, but if well-cared for, those perfumes won’t go bad and will be vintage treasures. They will be especially meaningful gifts when the time comes, because you put so much passion into your perfume blog (your sons already know how important that has been to you).

  25. I’m sorry to hear about your asthma and its effect on your ability to wear perfume! I’m glad that you’re not saddened by it and I am encouraged by your optimism.

    What I would do would be to open a mini fragrance museum in my home, where friends, or even strangers can come and sniff to their heart’s desire. And when they are done, I’d sit with them over a cup of coffee (or wine!) and chat with them about their fragrant experiences. That way, I’d get to continue experiencing the joys of perfume, even if through the noses of others! 🙂

  26. Missionista says:

    Hi Birgit,

    I’m sorry to hear about this. I echo what others have said–put away anything you cannot wear for a year. Re-evaluate at that time, according to your needs. If it were me, I think after a year’s wait, and then maybe some re-testing to make sure for each scent, I’d keep a small decant of each scent, and sell/give away the rest.

  27. Dear Brigit,

    Asthma is a strange illness, and its future is never certain. When I was a child I was afflicted with it, then it disappeared for many years. Now it has returned somewhat, and is managed by medications. If I were you, I’d hold on to most of my collection, and if I gave some of them away, I’d write a description about their unique properties and hope that my gifts would be better understood and appreciated. One of the variables that affect this condition is climate. Some doctors have recommended a dry climate, while I’ve found that the best place for breathing is near the sea. I wish a good recovery for you, and pray that you will enjoy your fragrances again. Best, Anita

  28. Hi, Birgit!
    I used to give away the fragrances I didn’t wear.
    Now I give away some, sell some others -sometimes I destine that money to charity- and keep most. I always keep the vintages as reference material.


  29. Etomidac says:

    Take care and I wish you the best in conquering it!
    Does lighter wafts of fragrance provoke your asthma? If gentle scents are acceptable, perhaps instead of spraying perfume directly on your skin, spray it on blotters or a handkerchief and carry it in your handbag/breast pocket so you can still enjoy fragrances throughout the day; although at a fraction. (Maybe asthma responds to Exposure Therapy! *wishful thinking*)
    It would be hard for me to part with most of my bottles 😦 but if I know that some are loved by my close friends or family and they do not mean to much to me personally, I will be willing to give them away.

    Maybe this can be your next target: L’Eau de Phaedon! Apparently it is the first non-allergenic Cologne in the market (complete IFRA compliant creation!). Hope that its lovely and suitable for you!

  30. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Knowing myslef I probably would wait a while and hope on miracles, wodoo & similar, that the asthma will disappear, or at least get significantly better. I’m simply far too sentimental to part with the loves of my life easily.
    You seem to be pretty radical though, and don’t even want to see the juices, causing all the misery (I hope IFRA won’t hear about you…) – so yes, a blog sale would be a quick & easy cure.

    Is there a new passion in sight, making the parting easier for you ?

  31. Jeri says:

    Hi Birgit,
    From reading the comments, it sounds like you may be realizing that NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO DO ANYTHING with you collection. Having just experienced unexpected transplant surgery, I know that ones mental and emotional reaction to trauma can be rather extreme and dramatic in the aftermath. The advice I was given, and it makes sense, is to wait until you have had time to become more centered. The universe is amazing, and a door will open and reveal the answer to you. There is time to make up your mind.
    Best regards,

  32. Nina Zolotow says:

    So sorry to hear about this, Birgit! But I do have an idea for you. Some of us in the perfumista community are raising money for perfume blogger Tama Blough (Ca Fleure Bon blog), who has terminal cancer and lives alone. In January Anita Berlanga (Musette of Perfume Posse) will be having an auction to raise money for her. (I have been raising money for her on GiveForward.) If you’d like to donate some perfume to that auction, especially vintage or rare, let me know: nina at wanderingmind dot com. For more information, see

  33. Ines says:

    I’d keep my favorites. Even if they might go bad. I’d give some away and sell some. But I would definitely keep a larger circle of favorite perfumes (and possibly those that come in nice bottles). 🙂

  34. Julee says:

    Hi Birgit,
    I am a devoted fan of your blog but I never comment because english is not my usual language. I fell in the perfume world rabbithole because of your blog. Your beautiful reviews are always full of kindness. This asthma is so very unfair. Many have already made suggestions for your collection so all I wanted is to thank you because I am really grateful of sharing this passion through your generous and fine writings with all of us. Take good care of you Birgit, you deserve the very best.

  35. poodletwins says:

    Dear Birgit,
    I’m sorry to hear of this. I think I would not make any quick actions or big gestures. If you feel think this would help you feel lighter, I would start giving and selling a few, just to test the waters. Somehow, I think tying this into another act of artistic creation, visualization or writing will help ease the way, whatever you decide. Whether you write about what moves you or what you love, be it perfume or Hermes scarves, your writing is wonderful and evocative! And it brings enjoyment to lots of people. Wishing you all the best.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you so much for such encouraging and uplifitng words! I will wait with the big gestures, but already gave away some not so important things and feel beter already.

  36. Undina says:

    I saw the question in my Inbox and couldn’t bring myself to come here and read the post for a couple of days.

    You have many wise readers and I like many of the advices. I will repeat some of them (and will mention those I completely disagree with).

    Doctors know nothing (sorry The Husband), I would not believe them and try all possible approaches. And I’d wait.

    I wouldn’t do anything for at least a year: you got rid of your albatrosses a while ago, your collection is beautifully curated – why to rush with any decisions? It’s not like perfumes preserve better while being used – if anything, quite the opposite. Even if you were to use a perfume every day you wouldn’t go through more than 2 or 3 bottles in a year. So sell/give away 2-3 bottles that you don’t think you’ll miss and keep the rest at least for another year.

    What I do NOT understand is all the advices about giving perfumes (or money from their selling) to various charities. A reasonable personal donation to the specific purpose/cause you feel strong about is a different matter, I can understand that. But everything? Maybe you are a saint but I can’t see how loosing money in addition to loosing your collection/ability to enjoy it should make you feel better. You didn’t win this collection in lottery. You didn’t inherit it. You paid your own money to acquire it. I know that when people die their relatives sometimes feel better donating to the cause in the name of their loved ones. But it’s your collection and you are not dead – so you have no more reasons to do any of the mentioned donations than any of us. If you were to part with any bottles of the collection, it seems appropriate to do something nice for yourself or your family – be that a day trip, a beautiful scarf or a gourmet dinner out.

    Whatever you decide to do, give it some time: if letting it go makes you feel better, you will feel that “better” in 6-12 months as well. But if it’s a mistake you won’t be able to easily undo it and the “worse” feeling might be much stronger than any negative emotions now caused by not acting immediately.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Dearest Undina,
      may I just say it outright: I love you!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read (despite your qualms to do so) and for this great comment.
      I will take your sensible advice to heart and not do anything but maybe getting rid of a few albatrosses here and there.
      As for the finance aspect: you are so right, it does weigh on my mind that all the money I spent on my collection might be lost and that is quite a bit (as you know). Getting “the absolution” from you so frankly that I don’t have to be a saint (I feel no particular inclination to be one) is freeing and I feel very understood.
      So thank you again.
      Big hug.

  37. anitathepianist says:

    Dear Undina, I agree with you too. It’s just too much of a trauma to lose your collection. The value is more than monetary, and the emotional loss is just too much to put oneself through. Again, asthma morphs and one year is different from the next. There are also some nice, easy-to-take allergy meds that do one no harm, and they can control breathing problems, if you’re lucky. Like many readers of this precious blog, I have learned so much and had so much pleasure form it. I am hoping for the best for dear Brigit.

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