Day 19: Creating Nudges

On my dresser sits a cake plate standing in as vanity tray. It’s not terribly cluttered, but there are a few things that don’t belong. Nicholas’s vaccine record, for one. (So that’s where it was!) Some “free with purchase” lotions, a piece of citrine polished into a smooth ball. Nothing horrifying, nothing insurmountable.

There are three colognes that belong to my husband. Everything else is mine. I love perfume. At one point I had at least a dozen bottles, and I used all of them regularly. I had perfume for when I wore jeans, perfume for going out, perfume for the office, and perfume for when I wanted to smell like soap. Perfume was my thing, and I was to LuckyScent what other bloggers are to Anthropologie.

Seven scents on a cake plate for me, when compared to at least a dozen, is a modest amount. There was only one problem. Two of the bottles were empty and I didn’t like four of the other five. I kept the empty bottles on the tray to remind myself to buy more. I kept the ones I didn’t like in case I forgot to buy perfume and also because I asked my mom for the set of four perfumes three Christmases ago. They stink on me, but I felt guilty for wasting her money. They became my “in case of emergency” perfume. But because for months I kept forgetting to buy perfume, everyday was an emergency.

I wore perfume I didn’t like for months.

When I cleaned out the perfume tray yesterday, I made a point to discard everything I didn’t like. I was suddenly really and truly out of perfume. The two bottles left are for summer. That sentence might sound frivolous to someone who doesn’t love perfume, but I believe smelling like a Tahitian vacation is wrong when you’re carving pumpkins.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I went out and bought a bottle of my favorite fall perfume once I tossed out the four perfumes that stink. Hoarding is dangerous. Overspending is dangerous. But a slightly cluttered cake plate on a dresser is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s nothing horrible, nothing insurmountable. It’s something you can take care of tomorrow, right after you handle that really important problem. Or the really important problem after that.

I went out and bought perfume because I created a nudge. I got rid of my fall backs, my excuses to procrastinate, and by consequence, buying perfume nudged its way up my priority list. Perfume is a silly example, but I think the theory of creating nudges can apply to anything that allows you to slip into complacency. Our willingness to settle is the big bad wolf of adulthood, and the only way to beat a wolf is to think like a fox.

Speaking of things that are foxy, I bought a proper perfume tray. I searched for a mirrored tray for 12 years. Everything out there is just so fugly! I finally found a vintage one close to what I’ve been looking for all these years. I bought it at High Street Market (etsy store here), one of the few online stores that makes me want to shop with abandon. Kelly’s taste is impeccable.

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New here? For the next 31 days I’m living according to the famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” You can learn more about the project here, and catch sneak peeks of my projects by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (I’m @pancakesfries).

Comments
62 Responses to “Day 19: Creating Nudges”
  1. meg says:

    I think this is great. If one of the main goals is to be left with only the things which please you most, then this is a perfect example. “Good enough” only goes so far; you’ve made the jump to good, now.

    And I can’t tell you how many things I hang onto because someone else bought them and it seems wasteful to get rid of them. Ugh.

    • Jules says:

      Hanging onto so-so gifts is actually my biggest setback. I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially my dad who tries really, really hard and yet almost always comes up with some spectacularly odd choices.

  2. Clara says:

    I’m a new reader here and I just have to tell you, I’m loving this series! It is something that I have been trying to implement in my own home for the last 2 years or so – it’s just a long process, at least for me. I feel like every time I go through the house and remove more things to give away, it’s like getting rid of another layer of dust – but there’s usually more dust just settling or hiding under things, if that makes sense. And you are so right about creating nudges. I think I need to try to do more of that around here…

    • Jules says:

      Thank you, Clara! But you know what? It’s a long process for me, too! I’ve been doing this for a YEAR! And I did a 31 Days of William Morris last year, too. The good news is that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. FINALLY! :D

  3. Susan G says:

    Good for you! I love perfume too, although I only have workday (Michael), weekend (Tuscany), and dress-up (Chanel No. 5) perfumes. And that etsy shop is one of my favorite places to drool over things – love your perfume tray and so nice you had could buy it and feel good about it! I really want to know what perfume you bought – I’m always looking for new ones. :) Although the Chanel bottle my husband bought is the gigantic size and I use it so rarely I’m pretty sure it will not be empty in my lifetime!

    • Jules says:

      Michael is one of my fall favorites. I rotate it–haven’t bought it in a couple of years–with Marc Jacobs and a few others. Yesterday I bought Marc by Marc Jacobs. (The one with the little black bow.) Most of my perfumes are floral, with a lot of gardenia. I absolutely loathe anything sweet/vanilla or with a ton of amber. Think anything ever made by Hanae Mori, EVER. Also anything cookie, sugar, etc. Ugh. Instant headache. That sucks for me, since Hanae Mori is one of the most popular perfumes ever and that whole fruity/vanilla/I smell like a warm cookie has been popular for a decade and doesn’t seem to be letting up!

  4. “Perfume is a silly example”–I think there are no silly examples. I think it is in the smallest things that we run into our biggest beliefs, problems, values. That’s why the WMP is important, and why it resonates. How we do home really truly is how we do life. Seems I have to keep learning the lesson of not settling. Of waiting for what I really want instead of taking what I can get right now. It’s why I’ll be wasting time today returning a pair of leggings that aren’t really the right color and jeans that don’t really have the right fit. Silly on the surface, but it all adds up.

    • Jules says:

      You know what, you’re right. I guess last night I felt a little silly over analyzing perfume bottles, but you are so right when you say our biggest beliefs are in the smallest things.

  5. Courtney says:

    Um, this is genius: “I think the theory of creating nudges can apply to anything that allows you to slip into complacency. Our willingness to settle is the big bad wolf of adulthood, and the only way to beat a wolf is to think like a fox.”

    Gonna think like a fox today. Bravo.

  6. Kelly says:

    Thank you, Jules!! That gorgeous vanity tray looks terrific in your home! I’m so glad that you’re enjoying it and giving it a new life (which it totally deserves because it’s a rare find). :)

    I only have one bottle of perfume (that I never use). Chanel. However, you are convincing me that I need an assortment. It makes sense. :)

    xoxo
    Kelly
    High Street Market

    • Jules says:

      I looooooove your sites. Truth: sometimes I get your shop emails and I delete them without looking because I know I will want to buy everything. I love all of it!

      • Kate says:

        I have the same temptation. But when I think of the mantra to only fill my home with things I really love, I know that I will always find things I really love in Kelly’s shops. The things in my home that make me smile each time I see them (husband, daughter and dog aside) are almost all from Kelly’s shops. I’m so glad you highlighted them as part of the project because I think what she does fits so well with your message and process. I also love how she and Dave are so patient in their home renovations and design so that each project is about getting to exactly where they want their home to be!

  7. I need to do this more often. I always “make do” with things that work ok. I don’t wear perfume but I have several bottles/packages of lovely smelling lotions that I have gotten as gifts that I can’t use because my skin is easily irritated… but it makes me hesitant to buy nice lotion because I have a bunch of bottles at home (that I don’t use!). Maybe I’ll bring them to work and let the girls fight over them so I can treat myself to a nice bottle of the one I like. :)

    • Jules says:

      I’m a classic “make doer.” It’s the practical side of me that comes out! I’m working on it. :)

      I have to be careful with what I buy. Mikey and my husband have lots of allergies, but so far they seem to do okay with the light and floral fragrances I’m prefer.

  8. Fairfax Avenue says:

    Alas, I sneeze. My eyes water. Even mint bothers me. No perfumes, please. But an organized tray, a neat drawer, an empty counter…these are good. I’ve been doing some very little projects to improve at home and at work. Thanks for your month-long series and your weekly Thursday projects, they are good reminders that the little stuff ads up fast and many little tasks make up a big one.

    • Jules says:

      Oh, wow. Super sensitive! I’m bad when it comes to super synthetic fragrances all piled together. For example, I can’t walk near the Target candle section without my eyes burning. Yankee Candle is pretty dangerous for me, too.

      I’m glad you like the series, Fairfax.

  9. Great philosophy. I’ve recently tried the same approach to clothes. I have so many clothes that I really just feel crummy in, for one reason or another. I recently went through and weeded all of those out, my intent being that this would force me to buy new clothes I love. At this point, I am just doing laundry a lot more often! However, having a few things I love is MUCH better than a bunch of things I just tolerate.

  10. Shaina says:

    The before picture looks like perfume on a plate. Like what I’d see in my mom’s room.
    The after picture looks classy. Like what I’d imagine sitting on the dressing table of a debutante. How can you *not* feel great about yourself while reaching for a bottle in that mindset – a bottle of a scent you truly enjoy, no less!

  11. Shaina says:

    Oh, and what did you do with the citrine ball?

    • Samma says:

      oh yes. I loved the citrine ball!

      • Jules says:

        Comment of the day, Shaina! I put the citrine ball with my other many little rocks and minerals. Another obsession of mine…

        • Shaina says:

          LOL, well thanks ;-)

          Also, totally not a perfume wearer – just never got into it – but out of curiosity I Googled what scents would smell like soap/clean body. Apparently it’s anything with water lily notes. Interesting. If I wanted to smell like anything, soap would be it – or at least that’s what I thought until I stumbled onto the Demeter Fragrance Library (http://www.demeterfragrance.com/58083/All-Classic-Scents.html). There are some seriously strange scents in there! I can think of a few where they would be fun though. Like spritzing on some playdough & crayon scents before going to help in a room of preschool kids so you smell “fun”. Or spritzing on the dirt and earthworm when going hiking to blend in better with nature – and possibly seeing more wildlife! Oh the possibilities!
          And to think, I would have never stumbled on these if you hadn’t posted about your “silly” analyzing of perfumes!

          • Jules says:

            Demeter is cray-cray! I’ve managed to stay away from the line because I can’t handle too many options at once. I’d end up weeding out the ones that smell like food of some sort and then buy everything else.

  12. Isn’t amazing how we save our good stuff for later…only to not really ever use it. I am the same way. I have organized messes everywhere. I recently just sent a whole box of lotion to donate as I only need one bottle at a time! Saving the extras weren’t saving me anything…especially space!

  13. Rachel says:

    What would be a good perfume for smelling like soap?!

    • Jules says:

      Oh, gosh. There are twenty million kabillion. Here’s one. Key words are usually clean and fresh. There are whole sections devoted to that type of perfume at counters. You’re probably drawn to warmer scents, so you never pay attention to them! ;) I have one friend who always made fun of my perfumes (she liked the heavier, warmer scents). She used to say that she couldn’t figure out why I spent money to smell like Irish Spring. Hah!

      Some truly smell like you stepped out of the bath, but I think the one I linked to will probably be more of a super light floral.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve worn the same perfume for years; when the local shop I frequented stopped carrying the brand (Thymes), I talked my employers into picking up the line just so I could still get it. Which has now led to an entire store expansion from gourmet kitchen products to include gifts and accessories and home decor and men’s toiletries.

    Which is to say: I may only wear one kind of perfume 365 days a year, but I do understand your enthusiasm.

    • Jules says:

      Actually, it’s on my life list to have a signature scent! I would love to find a fragrance I love so much that I wear it 365 days for years at a time. I will forever be on the hunt for the scent I would do anything to keep.

  15. Melanie says:

    “Hoarding is dangerous. Overspending is dangerous. But a slightly cluttered cake plate on a dresser is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

    I think this may be one of my favorite sentences ever.

    Fantastic post, Jules!

  16. Karen F says:

    Love it! When you think about the fact that this is a little spot in your home that you will use every single day, and looking at it will make you smile, it suddenly doesn’t seem so silly at all. We need little places that are just for us and that make us happy. Nice job on this one! BTW, I’m totally guilty of the “perfume on a plate” scenario – must go fix that right now!!

  17. Samma says:

    “I created a nudge”
    I love that! I basically did the same thing – since we moved, we’ve been using ‘left over furniture’ in the shape of the L 2 person desk we had not figured out yet. And, almost 2!Years later, a neighbor invited me to participate in her yard sale. So I took the rolling butcher block kitchen island that was acting as our print stand and put it in the yard sale. Even though it didn’t sell, it was still enough of a nudge to get the husband & I to Ikea, where all our brainstorming about what we wanted in our 2 person desk culminated in a purchase. And hallelujah, he put it together last night as a birthday gift!

  18. roni says:

    look what you started! i just ordered a few samples from luckyscent including the fresh one you linked to. i gave up looking for a signature scent because i feel like i can never trust my own nose. plus we all have allergies so it’s hard to find something inoffensive. fun!

  19. YJ says:

    Love love the perfume stand. I just pulled out my floral ceramic plate I bought at a yard sale for putting on top of my dresser, and even if it looks like your before picture a little (SD memory cards + lipstick + floss + eyelash curler + perfume + everything else), it looks so much better than before.

    Also, speaking of perfumes, do you find that the scent lasts even if you keep it for years? I have found my favorite scent such that every time I try to deviate from it, I still end up drawn to the same old, but I find that when I get to the end of the bottle, the scent doesn’t last; although, they (Chanel) may have changed the formula, because what used to last all day doesn’t even seem to last the trip to work and I just opened a new bottle.

    • Jules says:

      Yes, I find they do last for a long time. I keep my fragrances out of the direct sunlight and heat, but I don’t know if that’s it. Some fragrances just have staying power. Chloe, which I love, is very nice but doesn’t last a minute. It could also be your skin. My husband–no matter the scent–can’t get cologne to last on him longer than an hour or two. He thinks it’s annoying, but as a guy isn’t as concerned as I would be. ;)

      • YJ says:

        Your comment just made me realize–I’ve been spraying the area around me as opposed to actually hitting my skin lately! hmmm…

  20. Elle says:

    Jules, this just made me want to go home and clean off the top of my dresser. Your William Morris posts are always so inspiring in that OCD kind of way.

  21. Miss B. says:

    I haven’t smelled the Chloe but that is the sweetest bottle!

  22. “but I think the theory of creating nudges can apply to anything that allows you to slip into complacency. Our willingness to settle is the big bad wolf of adulthood, and the only way to beat a wolf is to think like a fox.”

    This may sound weird, but I have used “motherhood” as a nudge in the past, especially as it relates to my private, quiet, devotional time. I allow the excuse of, “I’m really tired and busy and exhausted that all I want to do is sleep or just sit down from all of my hard work as a mom” be used on too many occasions. Like God is going to understand my dismissal.

    Thanks for reminding me that since I am fallible, it will take a conscience effort to remove obstacles and create a clear pathway, where excuses are no longer an option.

    {who knew perfume could do that?!}

    • Jules says:

      I know, right? When I decided to do the perfume tray I thought it was going to take 5 seconds and that’s it. Little did I know I would get lost inside my head. Again.

      Actually, why I’m surprised I got lost inside my head and over analyzed a perfume tray is lost on me.

  23. Jaimie says:

    I love perfume. I have found a couple of brands and scents that I love — I love the smell and I love the bottles (very important). As luck would have it, the perfume is expensive. But, that doesn’t stop me from wearing it every day (even shlubbing around on weekends). I like to think that I’m creating ‘scent memories’ of me for my children. And it’s a small moment of enjoyment for me every day.

    Here are my two favourite brands: Jo Malone (jomalone.com) and Penhaligon’s (penhaligons.com). Are these not such beautiful bottles?

    By the way, for those looking for perfumes that smell like soap, you’ve got to go to the gold standard: Clean perfume! (cleanperfume.com).

    • Jules says:

      Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly why I want a signature scent. I want the boys to catch a whiff of something years later when I’m gone and instantly think (good thoughts) of me. I’m selfish. :)

  24. I think you might’ve inspired me to create a nudge to buy new bath towels.

    I think you might be horrified to discover that I wear the same scent year-round!

  25. Christina W. says:

    I am a recovering perfume junkie! I just donated a ton of perfume, including several Demeter scents that I just couldn’t get into. (Their Ginger Ale smells so good and JUST LIKE ginger ale! But…who seriously wants to smell like they spilled a soda on their shirt all day, ya know?) I think I maaaaay have found my signature scent. It’s Mexican Vanilla from a French perfume company I had never heard of before, and I picked it up at Anthropologie a couple years ago. Seeing as how I *love* warm vanilla scents (not sugar or cookie though, ick) and you loathe them, I am curious to know what the “stinky” perfumes are because the bottles are pretty and I may like them! I’d also love to know what perfume you meant when you said “smelling like a Tahitian vacation” since that is basically describing the perfect perfume that I have thus far been unable to find haha.

  26. Margaret says:

    Best line I’ve heard all week:
    “Our willingness to settle is the big bad wolf of adulthood”

  27. Jaimie says:

    Those Fresh perfumes may not have been the right fit for you, but they are pretty (on someone else!)

  28. Kate says:

    I just adore this series of posts. I’ve read your most recent and am so you’re being gentle with yourself. We’ve all made silly purchase decisions, we all keep weird stuff for no reason: but your posts really make me articulate why I have things in my space – and question bringing new things in to our house, too.
    I’ve relocated over to the US from Australia: we’ve been here 5 months and next week will receive all our boxes that we shipped over. (Oh yes, I also think 5 months is an obscene amount of time!) Part of me is thrilled – I can almost taste slipping in to old, comfortable, favorite clothes. But the other part is terrified: what on earth do I have in those boxes?! Why? What will I do with it all and where will I put it? So I re-read your posts and feel much stronger: I’m likely going to donate a whole lot of stuff, but that’s ok. I’m human. I might have made frantic, pre-international move choices and packed silly things. I hope I won’t do it again :) Thanks Jules.

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.