Friday, March 4, 2011
FILING SAMPLES: TAMING THE CHAOS
I’m a perfume sample whore. I admit it. Every time I see an opportunity to add to my enormous collection, I ask myself if I really need more samples, but my brainstem kicks in with its primitive collecting-and-hoarding reflex and makes me order still more. I have boxes and boxes of untested samples sitting around waiting for their few hours of fame, but I can only wear one, or at most 2-3 perfumes a day, and can only do that when I’m not working on my own formulas.
Testing samples is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s part of what I do as a perfumer. Writers read a lot, musicians listen to a lot of music, and perfumers smell a lot of different things. But like the writer whose house is overrun by books, or the musician whose shelves are crammed with CDs, my closets are overflowing with perfume samples. The perfume samples are in addition to all my books and CDs, which I won’t even mention.
The samples finally got to the point where I had to do something. If I ever wanted to revisit one, there’s no way I could have found it without hours of searching. I’m not sure quite how the idea arose, but I had a couple of small plastic storage boxes, complete with flip-down handles, that I’d been using for something else. I emptied them and started to create a file system for my samples, putting them in alphabetical order, by house. The samples themselves are contained in zip-top plastic “snack-size” baggies that are cut to fit the storage box, taped together on the cut side with clear packing tape, and labeled on the top zip area. I put an index card in each one so that it will stand up straight. I could actually attach samples to the card if they’re in those vials with the little hooks, but they are doing fine just standing on their own in the baggies. Suddenly I have a system in which I can immediately find anything! Well, anything that I’ve filed. It’s shocking!
I started with the samples that I’d already tried and reviewed, filing them at the rate of a few a day so that the task didn’t become overwhelming. I’m still working on the previously tested samples, but the end is in sight. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the task, I started with a partial box of baggies, and have nearly finished a second box of 100. That means I’ve filed perfume samples from over 100 different houses. Incredible. The photo is from when I first started filing. I now have two boxes jam-packed full.
Now, as I test things, I file them in the appropriate baggie or make a new one if I don’t already have one. It’s a slow process, but at least I have a working system for knowing where things are. If any of you out there are also struggling with sample storage, some variation of this system might be worth a try, especially if you have a lot of samples in small vials.