Every season, we ask someone we admire to curate a Sample Set of her favorite scents. This time around, we invited Tsh Oxenreider—the author and voice of The Art of Simple, a blog and podcast about living well and ignoring the rest—to give us her picks, which you can get here.
While we had her, we also had to ask Tsh how she does it. And by “it” we mean write, edit, podcast, travel, raise three children, and just plain live the life we see / hear / read about in her work. (She does it all from Georgetown, Texas, a stone’s throw away from our hometown of Austin.)
Read what she told us after the jump.
PHLUR: Tell us about yourself!
TO: I am a native Austinite—I was born and raised here. I met my husband overseas in Kosovo.
P: Oh, wow.
TO: We came into our family with this desire to live overseas and cross-culturally. When my oldest was two, we moved to Turkey; that’s where my second-oldest was born. We moved to Austin suddenly and surprisingly when my third was born.
P: Tell me more.
TO: We ended up taking another job with a non-profit, which led us up to Oregon, which is where my husband, Kyle, is from. And so we lived there for awhile after relocating back to the states. But the whole time we were there we had this itch of living overseas, or at least traveling more.
P: So how did you scratch that itch?
TO: One day we looked at each other and realized we can still travel overseas, and so we did. In 2014, we spent the year backpacking and visited 30 countries. It was an amazing experience and I wrote a book about it. But along the way, we realized Central Austin was home. We actually live in Georgetown. I’m a writer and podcaster and raise three kids. My oldest is almost 14; my middle guy is 11; my youngest is 8.
P: Why did you start The Art of Simple?
TO: When I was living in Turkey, I was diagnosed with depression, and I moved over to Thailand to work with a therapist there. He suggested I find a creative outlet for while I was living in Turkey. My husband suggested writing—this was back in 2007 when blogs were everywhere. I never thought it would become a business.
P: I read your letter about 2019; it seems like you’re starting the year in a good headspace.
TO: I started podcasting a few years ago and that took off, and I even thought I’m done blogging, I’ve said all I have to say. I thought about selling it. In talking to a broker, I heard I wouldn’t get full value. In 2018, I realized I do miss blogging. So I decided to embrace it. I heard from other people that it’s making a comeback. I’ve committed to doing it weekly again. I’ve always had a team of writers, but now we’ve scaled back and we integrate the podcast and what we write about. A “fewer but better” approach.
P: What’s your favorite thing about it? Why is it still important?
TO: One of the things that can be tiring about working for the internet is that it constantly changes, and there can be an itch to constantly reinvent yourself to stay relevant. I’ve decided to chuck that out the window because it’s not a healthy way to live.
I’ve learned that people who truly love the books I write are the people that care the most about the things I care about. And I love the autonomy. I love the creativity. I love the independence. The reason we were able to travel around the world wasn’t because we saved up—it’s because I worked the whole time. I could take my work with me.
P: Why this particular topic? Why does it matter?
TO: Back when I started, I settled onto this broad topic of simple living. I was literally experiencing that living in Turkey—reliving how to do everything [in a foreign country]. Normal habits that you know as an adult—how to do laundry or cook—just because of where we were living.
I couldn’t find what I wanted on the internet. Simple living was covered by guys who had a mattress on the floor. And that wasn’t me, I was a mom.
Then, eight or nine years ago, I tired of that topic, so I broadened it out and made that the filter for what I wrote about, and not so much the end topic. The things I like to write about the most now are travel and work and writing and lifestyle, with the understanding that my readers care about living simply.
P: How did you hear about PHLUR?
TO: About a year ago, my aunt was here in town from Missouri, and we were at a family dinner. I told her I loved the perfume she was wearing, and she went on and on about it, and said she had heard about it from her daughter. And a day later she texted me that PHLUR was in Austin, and I love the idea of supporting local businesses.
Perfumes always gave me headaches, but I like your approach to fragrance. It feels artful and thoughtful. It’s not packaging a scent to sell, it seems like you actually care.
P: And we do!
TO: That was the initial draw. I also loved that you care about real ingredients and good packaging and your ecological footprint. It checked all the boxes of things that I care about.
P: We’re so glad to hear that. Can I ask what you like about the experience itself?
TO: The scents were intriguing to me. I had never smelled something like that. It was something I didn’t know I was wanting. But when I got the Sample Set, I thought these are so good.
P: What’s in your Sample Set and why?
TO: Moab. Hepcat. Olmsted & Vaux. The first perfume I bought of y’alls was Hepcat. It was different, and I like different. It wasn’t girly or flowery. But I was torn between that and Moab, which smelled unusual to me and I liked that, too. It wasn’t until recently that I got Olmsted & Vaux, and it occurred to me that I think in seasons and these smell like different seasons. Moab feels like summer. Hepcat smells like winter. And Olmsted smells like fall. I don’t know why, they just do.
P: Do you ever have an experience like your aunt’s, where someone comments on what you’re wearing?
TO: All the time. I teach an English class at a high school once a week, and I hear from the staff—and a few brave students. And of course my husband is starting to ask which scent is which. And friends because they heard it on the podcast. They’ll text me. My teen daughter has a few favorites.
P: It sounds like you have what we call a scent wardrobe. Which scents do you like to where when?
TO: I do Olmsted & Vaux on date night. Moab I wear every day. And Hepcat is slightly more … I don’t want to say special occasion, but the other day my daughter and I went to a musical in town, and I wore it.
P: Every day is a special occasion with Hepcat. Thank you so much for your time.
TO: Thank you!