Scent plays a leading role in a life well-lived. It not only adds depth to our experiences but encourages a deeper connection with the world around us. In Japan, the traditional art of kōdō — which means “way of incense” or “way of fragrance” — celebrates the power of scent through the ritual burning of incense. The practice reminds participants of a simple truth: We are what we breathe.
To align space, body and mind, Marie often burns incense or includes aromatherapy in her self-care routines. By using scent as a guide, we can spark new joy in every aspect of our lives. Below are some ways to elevate your own rituals by harnessing the power of scent.
For Awakening: Citrus
Marie believes that a dedicated morning ritual sets the rhythm for the day. She often begins her day by opening a window to let in the fresh air, then lighting incense.
Even a few minutes of mindfulness can make a profound difference in our mindset. The KonMari Method™ includes envisioning your ideal lifestyle — you can use these first waking moments, in a space where we feel joy, to open your mind to what lies ahead.
For awakening, Marie suggests a scent such as grapefruit, mandarin, or — a favorite in Japan — yuzu. The smell of citrus brings energy and ease. It clears the mind of lingering fatigue and encourages us to meet the day joyfully.
For Healing: Garden
Incense and essential oils have been used across cultures and for centuries to treat various ailments — hence the term aromatherapy. A restorative scent can relieve a headache, calm irritated skin and even help fight off a winter cold. For hard days that call for a complete reset, soaking in an herbal bath can quiet both the body and mind.
Herbal scents, in particular, are known for their healing properties. Oregano is often used for fighting common colds while peppermint can help an upset stomach or headache. For stress or fatigue, rose and chamomile are known for providing relief and balancing the mind.
For Purifying: Forest
You can often make familiar spaces feel more joyful simply by clearing the air. After completing a tidying festival, burning incense can invite new energy in.
There are opportunities to introduce scent into your daily tidying rituals as well. Adding essential oils to laundry and cleaning products fills the home with a custom scent. For high-traffic areas, an essential oil diffuser can help create a tranquil atmosphere — even on busy weeknights.
For detoxifying and cleansing, try starting with a wood blend. Sandalwood is known for its ability to clear the air as well as its antibacterial qualities, while the scent of hinoki — or Japanese cypress — encourages deep, thoughtful breaths.
For Transitions: Florals
When learning to set clearer boundaries between different aspects of our lives, scent provides a welcome reminder. Whether it’s closing your laptop or opening your nightly gratitude journal, a transitional scent can help you shift focus.
Then, there is the final transition of the day: sleep. One of Marie’s favorite ways to use scent is in her nighttime routine. For drifting joyfully to sleep, try a lavender blend. By inhaling an essential oil, soaking in a scented bath, or spritzing pillows with an aromatherapy spray, we signal to our minds that the day has come to an end.