In October 2017, I joined all the women on Instagram taking part in #nospendoctober with @rachelthehat.  This blog is a reflection on how I managed my self-imposed ban and why I wanted to take part.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love shopping. I can and do spend hours in the pursuit of retail therapy. Which is why working as a personal stylist and colour analyst is so great. I get to do it for other people as well as for myself.  But, I wanted to see how I would manage with an active decision not to spend any money on clothes/accessories for myself for one month.

The Results?

I surprised myself with how easy it was to do.

The process led me to a refreshed appreciation of my existing clothes. Garments that I’d loved when I bought them but had then neglected. I took more care about putting an outfit together for the next day – yes, I am that sad! As a result, I discovered new clothing combinations and blew the cobwebs out of the hidden corners of my wardrobe. Yes, I have them too! You’re not alone.  For example, I re-discovered an unworn Laura Ashley cardigan and a skirt purchased in the summer and also unworn. See my Instagram posts over October for details.

I also took the time to go through my wardrobe and make sure I still loved and wanted to wear everything in it.  If you haven’t already read the book by Marie Kondo called ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’ then I recommend you do. What she advocates in the book is possessing only things you love.  As it happened, I was happy with everything apart from a couple of dresses. A friend has kindly agreed to EBay those for me and we will lunch out on the proceeds!

At this point I should confess to temptation to buy a few things. But I resisted and I’ve now created a list of them for purchase this month.  It’s not long though – a few items here and there.  Having walked out of shops without buying “stuff”, you soon discover the items of clothing/accessories that you most lust after.  It’s the ones that stick in your mind after a few days. So I know I’ll enjoy buying some of them this month.

Reality Check

There was another personal reason for me taking part in #nospendoctober and it’s sort of obvious for me.

It’s all too easy to get carried away with beautiful clothes and sparkly bits but sometimes I need a reality check.  Can I survive without those Topshop hoop earrings that I love and that clutch bag I have been dreaming about in Newlook?  Yes, I can.  Because I don’t need them. I might want them but that’s not the same thing at all.

And I have decided to donate my monthly (self-allocated) clothing budget to my charity of the year: Freedom Kit Bags because I know the women it helps need that money way more than I need another pair of hoop earrings.

Freedom Kit Bags

Why have I chosen Freedom Kit Bags to be my charity of the year and what does it actually do?

Well, in the first instance I like to support local causes. So, while the people it helps are in Nepal, this charity is run by a local lady, Rosa Matheson, and her husband.

Rosa gave a talk recently at a networking event I attend. Her talk moved me so much that I felt compelled to help.

Freedom Kit Bags sets out to empower Nepalese women and girls at the most basic level: menstruation protection. Can you imagine what it must be like not to have that? Never mind sparkly hoop earrings – these women can’t go to school or work or anywhere at all when they have their periods. Hearing all this resonated with me and the work that I do as personal stylist. Not an obvious connection perhaps but hear me out.

With Ishbel’s Wardrobe I help women to feel empowered by giving them the knowledge and tools to believe in themselves, to be confident in themselves. With that new-found confidence and self-belief, they are better able to achieve their goals. In the most fundamental way you can imagine, Freedom Kit Bags empower the girls and women in rural Nepal. The charity empowers them to feel confident, gain an education and be treated with dignity and respect. Empowerment in this context means enabling these women to take control of their lives and access education and other basic right. Rights that I and my daughters most definitely take for granted.

How does it work?

The charity helps these women in rural Nepal by giving them a “Kit Bag” containing the essential items they need to manage their periods.  This is because, in rural Nepal access to sanitary wear is rarely possible and not affordable in any event.

Okay, I’m going to get graphic here so you have been warned.  All I will say, is imagine having your period and having no knickers, sanitary pads, tampons, soap or clean water.  In addition, imagine you are deemed as “unclean” and “untouchable” while you’re having your period. Imagine being told that you cannot cook food, sleep next to your husband/partner, hug your sons, go to school (as a girl) and you are made to stay away from your home until you’re “clean” again.

We have to imagine this but it’s the reality for many rural Nepalese women and girls.  These women and girls suffer humiliation and ill health (including infertility and lifelong vaginal infections).  The recent earthquakes have only compounded the problem.

This is where having a Kit Bag can, quite literally, change the life of a women or girl in Nepal.  They include panties, washable pads, bright coloured pad holders, a pretty carrying purse to hold replacement pads with a separate place for money, a waterproof bag for used pads, a soap bag and soap, a washing line and pegs, an instruction sheet and a colourful holder bag made from recycled saris to keep it all in.  Everything is attractive and practical.  “The Freedom Kit Bags give women back their pride and dignity” says Rosa.  Rosa also explains that it benefits the entire family if the women and girls are healthy and happy.  It makes absolute sense to me.

The cost of a Kit Bag is £25 and it provides two years’ sanitary protection.  That’s pretty amazing! So, I will be donating a percentage of my fees for the following year to the charity to help empower these women and girls in a completely different way from my day to day work as a personal stylist and colour analyst.

If you would like to donate any money to the charity, please contact me via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or phone 07538946839 and I can put you in touch with Rosa.

Of course, any of my clients that wish to do so can donate over and above my fee contribution via myself when they book a consultation with me.