Addicted to novelty since 2001

House Smells

Everybody’s house smells. Growing up, I remember how the suburban house of my Chinese friend Albert’s house smelled. It would have worried me had I not, earlier in life, experienced a similar phenomenon with my Greek friend, Rod. They didn’t smell bad, just foreign to my Caucasian, middle-class nose. I’m sure that my house smelled equally weird to them.

But what makes a house smell a particular way? Pets, obviously. You always know when you’re visiting a dog-enabled house, don’t you? Cooking, too, I imagine. Presumably that’s why Albert’s house smelled the way it did, but that wasn’t an issue for me, because his Mom made wicked food. Mold makes your house smell too. In our house, my older brother got shafted out of the basement bedroom with ensuite bathroom because of his allergies to mold.

This contemplation arose because we’ve got Irish friends coming to visit next February. We’re considering trying to rent an apartment down the hall, which is owned by a Chinese family who only visit it once a month. It occurred to me that my Irish friends have probably never been in a Chinese house, and aren’t familiar with the scent.

How does your house smell?

11 Responses to “House Smells”

  1. donna

    Kitty litter. :)

    Well, that’s just the bathroom.

    Apparently there’s a fart odor in the livingroom, or so Devon & I discovered last night.

    The hall closet smells like the vanilla air freshner in there.

    My bedroom smells like whatever incense cone I burned most recently. And sex. And sleep. And cat.

    The kitchen smells like… um…. hmm. I don’t know, really. I don’t cook and I’ll be damned if I’ve spent more than a few minutes in there at a time…

    I had an east indian friend when I was growing up. I remember being really weirded out by the way that her house smelled, being about 10 at the time and not really into international foods. In retrospect, that’s exactly what it was — indian food. At the time, I didn’t like it (anything unfamiliar is bad when you’re 10), but now I wish I was still in touch with her because mmm, yummy indian food. :)

  2. Raluca

    Reading your post, Darren, I realized with dismay that my sensibility for smells has really diminished over the years. Perhaps this is due to the fact that in the last 10 years I have encountered so many “other” smells that they don’t seem different to me anymore. The most distinguishing “house smells” I remember are from my childhood and they belonged to the houses of two of my mother’s best friends. They were the smells of a certain affluence and success for me: perfume, expensive cigarettes, fine coffees. This was decidedly not my home world; ours was a pretty average East-block home environment with few Western luxuries and their lingering perfumes, but being in these houses and taking in their smells made me feel like I, too, partook in this world. The dreams of a seven-year old…

    I am wondering now whether we don’t actually construct the smells we encounter into “others” — the others we want to have or the others we want to avoid. What do you think?

  3. harp

    My place just smells like whatever cologne I’m wearing or candles I’m burning, usually. But I have a poor sense of smell that was probably from my youth…I grew up farming in Abbotsford. You know that smell of chicken manure that hits you when you’re on the freeway when you’re near there? I lived in that smell and I got so used to it that I only felt the stench when I was on a tractor spreading manure on the crops. I still can’t smell it when I’m there. As a result, I can get a bit ‘smell-paranoid’ and not trust what I’m smelling at all, but hopefully I don’t slather myself in cologne or anything.

  4. Roland

    My 6 year old son baldly announced, “Your house smells like skunk!” this morning as I was dropping him off at daycare. I had to think quickly to find a diplomatic way to agree with him, as I also noticed a faint whiff of skunk-like sourness. Probably a combination of dampness and shaggy dog-ness. The owner had no clue what we were referring to, as she couldn’t smell a thing.

    It’s funny how aclimatized you get. In my teens I worked weekends at a mushroom farm loading the beds with hot, steaming chemically-treated hay. The stench when I first started was overpowering, causing me to gag and almost vomit. After a few weeks I didn’t even notice it, but I had to head straight to the shower after getting home otherwise the rest of the family would have bodily tossed me outside again.

  5. Red Wolf

    I was wondering this the other day. I think I need to get a non-dog owning friend to let me know.

  6. d

    our house smells like floor varnish. they redid the floors before we moved in, and the smell STILL hits me like a freight train when i open the front door.


  7. Mel

    My whole place is carpeted, so the smell really sticks in there.
    If I’ve been away overnight or for the weekend, my apartment always smells the same when I come back as it did when I moved in 3 and a bit months ago: like the old tenant (though the intensity of the smell has decreased with time). I can’t really describe the smell, but I call it old lady smell because I it reminds me of an old woman’s apartment (from my childhood sometime – I have no idea).
    During the week though, it usually smells like whatever I cooked for dinner last night, or like the mixture of my bathroom products (mmm…peachy).

  8. Sue

    I’m really quite paranoid about how my apartment smells to other people, because I’m convinced I can’t detect the “my own place” smell because I’m so used to it. Having two cats, I really hope my place doesn’t smell like cat litter or worse, but I have no way of really knowing, because I’m inured to it.

  9. Rob

    Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, as I have just moved into a different place. Friends of mine used to live there, and my brother and I moved in when they moved to Australia. The place smells. They had a cat. It’s not a “bad” smell per se, but a smell exists nonetheless.

    Also funny is that the most distinct smell I can recall from my childhood is of your house Darren. I can still “smell” it in my memory, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. I know it wasn’t General, cause he didn’t smell.

    Do you know what it is??

  10. Mel

    Sue: Don’t worry, your place doesn’t smell like kitty litter. Not that I’ve noticed, at least.

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