Here’s Why You Can’t Smell the Funk in Your Own House

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Dogs. Feet. The eggs you had for breakfast, the teenagers who just won’t move out.

There are hundreds of reasons our houses might not smell their freshest on any given day, or in any given season, but the truth of the matter is, you likely won’t smell it if you live there.

But listen…at least no one is actually visiting your house right now, yeah?

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And listen, it doesn’t even have to be a bad smell; every house is going to have its own distinctive odor made up of the people, experiences, and other beings living inside of it.

It makes sense, really, that you’d become “nose blind” to the scents in your own home, but why does it happen? If you’re curious, don’t stop reading now.

One reason is that humans have a thing called olfactory adaptation, which just means we adjust to smells very quickly – often within the space of just a few breaths. That’s why you’re unable to smell your own body, or breath, or even your perfume unless you’re really focusing on it.

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The evolutionary explanation is that our sense of smell, like the majority of our senses, developed to help us stay alive. Our brains are using the sense to sniff out danger, and any change to our surroundings could mean a potential threat, says cognitive psychologist Pamela Dalton.

Basically, we only need a few sniffs to determine whether or not we need to worry about something, and if we don’t, there’s no reason to continue registering the scent.

Your brain doesn’t remember smells, though, so if you’re worried your house smells like new puppy accidents or your teenager’s dirty laundry, all you have to do is leave for a couple of hours – then really pay attention when you walk back in the door.

You can even try jumping up and down, or otherwise getting your blood flowing, which can briefly improve your sense of smell.

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The trick helps perfumers between sniffs, so why not give it a shot for yourself?

The bottom line is that it’s your house, and it’s full of the things and people and animals and foods that you love, so what it smells like is secondary – and anyone who would give you a hard time about it can go kick rocks.

If your brain isn’t telling you it’s trouble, then just relax.

At least, that’s what I’m going to do.