We all know that sensation of coming home and feeling the warm fuzz of familiarity. It's a feeling you recognise but probably can’t quite put your finger on. We’re frequently unaware of the sounds and smells of home, they become wallpaper to our lives, white noise. But when you open your front door, your senses trigger an emotional response, whether that’s a feeling of safety and comfort or something negative. However you feel when you walk through the door, your perception of home and your response to it, is inevitably very different from your visitors.
The only time many of us come close to sensorial awareness in our own homes is when we’ve been away for a couple of weeks, only then can you tell that home has a very particular smell. Sound and smell link directly to the emotional centre in our brains and we log or ‘file’ smells in our brain with the emotion, so you smell , you feel. So is your home a sensory haven? Is it making you feel like you want to? Is it making your visitors feel how you want them to?
Whether you want to re-do your home but keep the same feel, or whether you are going through life changes and want to feel differently in your home, the sensory environment can achieve that. The first thing I do when I move is re-clean everything with my own products, cook with spices, put on the washing machine and light candles. If it doesn’t smell like home, it doesn’t feel like home.
At Vetyver, we frequently work with businesses to create more engaging and more memorable sensory experiences - whether they are bands, beers, retailers or hospitals. We think that the process is equally, if not more, relevant and important at home.
In our commercial work, we kick-off with a Sensory Audit: a detailed assessment of all aspects of the brand, through every touchpoint and the whole customer experience. We notice ambient sound, smell, touch, colour, textures, materials, temperature, physical space and interaction with people. And the balance between them. We immerse ourselves in the whole journey and build a complete picture of a brand.
A sensory audit is something you can do in your own home. It will help you work out opportunities for adding sensory elements such as soundscapes or candles, and identify particular areas for consideration. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so before you change anything it’s important to understand your sensory footprint and work out your assets, your obstacles and what you want to achieve.
So how to? We suggest you do it with a friend who doesn’t live with you, they will notice things you're immune to. Prepare a notebook by taking one page each for every room or area of your home: one for bathroom, living room and so on. Then divide each page up into a sections for each of the 5 senses: SMELL, SEE, HEAR, TASTE, FEEL, or download and print our template Matrix to guide you through it.
Paying attention is the name of the game, to each sense in turn and taking a moment to observe and see with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Close your eyes and really concentrate on each sense one by one. And then work out how the elements are making you FEEL. You’ll be amazed by the insights, smells and sounds you haven’t even noticed before. If you are doing it with someone else, get them to do it silently and then talk about it afterwards, so you don't influence each other.
You might notice that a light emits a low level buzz which puts you on edge, or a clock ticking which calms you down, the smell of rubbish or the smell of honeysuckle drifting in an open window, or the way the dust dances in the sunshine before warming the floorboards at a certain time of the day. Small changes can remove the irritations and make the most of the beauty around you. Just knowing your home better helps you make the most of it. Move the bin, replace a light, or put a reading chair and a tiny table by the window so you remember to take a moment to read, have a cup of tea, toast your toes in the sun and enjoy watching the dust dance in ray of light.
A sensory audit is fun. We're confident that after you have completed it you will feel more engaged in your home and have a stronger sense of how the five senses impact your mood, health and sense of home. It's a great process to go through before you try out some of the tips and tricks in the other blogs in our Sensory Home Series.