Wednesday, July 22, 2009

the comforts of home

there are certain situations where most of us can’t help but feel a little on edge – these experiences can include shopping, traveling, doctors’ appointments, even our jobs. while we’re often able to control our environments at home to provide maximum comfort and ease, when we’re out in the world, we have little say in even the small things. sometimes, it is this lack of autonomy itself that feels so disorienting and powerless.

a confirmed hypochondriac, i find doctors’ appointments relentlessly stressful – the waiting doesn’t help, and if i’m feeling particularly anxious that day, it feels downright harrowing. most recently, i had a quick procedure that, while minor and routine, was nonetheless less than pleasant. so i was quite pleasantly surprised when i went to wash my hands in the restroom and discovered that the soap had a pretty, lavender scent.

the experience was an “aha moment” for me, because in an instant, i felt more relaxed. the situation immediately felt less cold and clinical to me, and it was as if i could breathe deeper and easier than only moments before. this moment made me realize that the simplicity of something like a nicely scented soap in place of an antiseptic smelling one can make all the difference in the world. it made me feel, very strongly, that the world would be a better place, full of happier and kinder people, if everyone was treated to nice smelling hand soap, even in a hot, stuffy mass transit bathroom.

there are several situations in which this lesson would be useful – the first thing i thought of was a care package for a hospital patient, someone ill or injured, or a brand new mom. at a time where the patient probably feels least comfortable and at home, it would be a comfort to have a prettily scented soap and hand lotion to use, rather than the sour or sharp one likely to be in the hospital’s dispenser.

paired with a variety of chenille socks, a cozy throw and a pretty coffee mug and water glass, it would bring the comforts of home to them, and give them the gift of feeling human in a situation that has the potential to feel less than dignified. sipping morning coffee out of a tiny styrofoam cup, and sipping it out of a generous and pretty mug are two different things -- the coffee might taste the same, but it sure feels different. while the hospital would surely supply the bare minimum, it takes minimal effort to provide so much more and the difference it can make is huge.

someone with a lot of travel ahead of them would also appreciate pretty smelling lotion and anti-bac gel (in travel-size containers of course), cozy plane slippers and a buckwheat neck pillow would seal the deal. while you can't save them from sitting between chatty or invasive row-mates, at least there can be comfort and rest.

a set of nice products is also a welcome accessory to a well-equipped guest bedroom or bathroom as well as a few bottled waters, plenty of fresh towels, current magazines, even a spare toothbrush and razor. fresh flowers and a good candle with matches are also nice touches. i heard a great tip years ago - that a guest should be able to find everything they need without asking their hosts, so they don’t feel like a burden. also that you should spend a night in your own guest room to determine what could be improved. that might be a little much, but the point is well taken. in our case, our guest room has become a combo space - den, office, gym, guest room - so keeping those items in a generous basket in the linen closet so they're ready when guests come is an easy solution.

with all the scented products out there, it would be easy to choose a scent well-tailored to suit the needs of any receiver: a new mom would be a perfect candidate to receive a collection of mustela or aveeno baby products, which are gentle and safe for the new mom and baby alike.

for someone recovering from surgery or illness, aloe vera, tea tree or rosemary scented products, all known for healing, would be perfect. and really for anyone, lavender is always calming and euphoric smelling – sweet but not too sweet, woody and ever so slightly floral. in my experience, some great sources for products that always smell full but not cloying are whole foods and trader joe's (all organic, which is nice), sabon, and in some cases bath and body works (always runs specials and you know how i feel about my coconut lime verbena). also, sephora and bliss are good sources, and i often find stuff in boutiques and other random places - i always sniff avidly whenever i encounter something sniff-able. for example, i found these amazing smelling bar soaps at pier 1 for one dollar each around the holidays and they last surprisingly long.

anthropologie also always has an incredible selection of bath products if you can stand to go in there without losing your mind out of want. but that's a convo for another time, and a post is soon to come on that matter. i'm sorry i put the anthro link here - i just had to - i know it makes you love/hate me - i think we all feel that way about anthro.

if you're still reading this and haven't gone off to anthro land, i will close the loop here... as a gift to yourself, while traveling and even at work, why not ensure that you have small comforts you prefer as opposed whatever is simply there? it could be a series of pictures you love on the wall of your cubicle or office, a favorite sweater for when the air conditioning has run amok or an indulgent hand cream in your desk drawer. at my desk, i really enjoy the avalon organics lavender hand lotion which i get from trader joe's, and i'm even thinking of getting the soap and putting it in the bathroom. even with everyone using it, it would probably last almost a month and would be well worth the five dollars i'd spend each month on it. when traveling, a favorite candle or a small vase of flowers can make an already comfortable hotel room that much more personal.

i think it’s mainly about the idea that small details make a big impact on our moods, our happiness and what we get out of each of our days. they’re worth paying attention to in our own lives, and the lives of the people we love. the simple act of giving that to ourselves or someone else communicates feelings of love and worth that are even more significant than the gifts themselves, and that's the best gift of all.

1 comment:

Laci said...

Flowers are so beautiful... I like to buy beauty products like hand cream, body lotion etc from Bath and Body Works...

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