Last night I sat in my warm house on a cosy Sunday evening and pulled out my makeup and skincare from the little shelf I had beside the bed. It was like tipping out a box of lego as a kid.
Laying before me were eyeshadows, lipsticks and blushers galore, as well as mini samples of products I'd not yet opened. I ran my hands through it all, feeling everything. I knew that I would never use it all, maybe open some items, use these a few times before eventually forgetting about them and someday tipping them away.
It wasn't because I am selfish or don't use things frugally. It's just we're offered so much in life today (and myself more than most as a blogger, much of which I do use gratefully and am thrilled to be able to review). You know how it goes: A sample eye cream here. A buy-one-get-one-free there. A gift with purchase with something else. It adds up over time.
We always think that we'll really need that hand wash or those facial wipes in the future and hold onto these bits and bobs for dear life. Of course, when we are given a free gift with purchase, these lovely treats are supposed to get us to pony-up and buy the latest and greatest. That's okay. It's our choice. A woman can buy a new foundation and moisturiser to get a toiletries bag and she can also still care about whether New Zealand's human rights record is being compromised by the latest news piece. Feminism, I've been told, has confirmed that our female brains are indeed big enough to care about both issues.
But what I've realised is that actually, I need less, not more. And as a corollary, I need to think about other people more when I'm sitting stressing about whatever first world problem I have that day. One of these problems which we don't see, but that exist in the small moments in life. When someone is struggling just to get by, whether that be in making a budget stretch to feed a family, worrying about whether they can keep going to school or how to avoid falling back into a bad relationship. They make my worries seem as small as they are.
Over the last 10 years in Wellington, I've watched the rise of people sleeping rough become more visible. I have lived here all my life, and when you do, I think you notice more when two or three local faces morph into ten or twenty, and they seem to get younger every year. When I started blogging in 2015, I wanted to find a way to talk about the WHOLE of Wellington and mentioned wanting to get the perspective of some people who might be living in difficult circumstances in Wellington. People I knew that were working in the charitable sector politely told me that it could be interpreted poorly and that maybe I shouldn't do so. I obviously well meant, but to take a photo of someone and share a anecdote or two was not helpful or necessarily meaningful. We can't all be Humans of New York (let's not pretend I wasn't influenced by this!!).
Over the last two years, I became involved to varying extents in charity do-dads via my blog. One year Union Tattoo and I teamed up to create some prints. And this year, around three months ago I started to feel like I couldn't let 2018 pass just sitting by on the benches, waiting for a new lipstick to come my way.
In February,I was very taken by one of my beauty hero's latest ventures (shout out to Sali Hughes - beauty writer from the Guardian - you can read her brilliant manifesto on UK website 'The Pool' here and fab interview on The Emma Guns Show here). I watched intently as she and her friend Jo Jones (PR guru) launched an amazing new venture which really struck a chord with me. It was called Beauty Banks. It was focused on hygiene poverty, something I'd not heard discussed (you may have heard of period poverty - a subset of hygiene poverty). What especially connected me to the idea was that I often would think about donating small things like tins of tomatoes to a charity, or old clothes via the Salvation Army shops. However, the notion that a clean shower could make a difference felt very real and like it affected more people than I realised.
Here's the thing: I've never had to suffer and not have clean showers, or smell (unless by my own choice). I've never worried about not being able to afford sanitary items. I've generally had enough money to walk into a shop and select whatever lipstick I want (though might regret the spend later). I haven't lived through hygiene poverty - period. *pun intended*.
However, I have been teased for smelling as a school child (and still occasionally by family). I have had to use toilet paper instead of tampons when caught unaware. I have known what it is to be miserable because your hair is dirty and it makes you feel VERY low. I have felt gross while I've been sick, and not been able to get out of bed for a shower and felt filthy. And to put it simply - that feeling SUCKS. If the way I felt then is even one tenth of what people who are struggling to get by feel, whether they be working families, the unseen homeless or the physically homeless, I know that it isn't fair. It isn't fair that a person should feel like a sub-standard human because they can't afford the basics in life. It isn't fair that some families have to choose between food, petrol, bills, rent, electricity and don't have enough for shampoo, conditioner, soap and sanitary items. It isn't fair that young girls skip school if they have their periods, but no tampons or pads.
So this week I've launched a one week drive called 'Soap For Society' with Wellington City Mission to focus our efforts and help tackle hygiene poverty. The aim isn't to 'fix' the problem but to plant the seed that grows into an awareness and consciousness so that lucky people like me remember to donate all year around. It is just one week and one small gesture - but it feels like the start of something big.
I'm lucky enough to have the backing of Arriba PR who has helped reach out to spread the word, Maureen Placente who designed our amazing logo and poster, the epic women of Wellington City Mission, including Kelly Henderson who has helped us all the way and also The Grand Mercure Wellington who are putting on a fantastic lunch which you can join me for on Saturday 28 July where ever penny of the ticket price is donated to Wellington City Mission. We also have got a awesome hand from Phantom Billstickers.
In a world which is continually dominated by unboxing's and hauls, it can be hard to not get caught up in the hysteria (I for one love a makeup haul as much as the next girl). But we can also broaden the discussion to look at whether when we have the hundredth lipstick or the tenth primer in our lives, whether we can contribute something more.
I'm also not gonna lie - I was VERY excited to email Sali Hughes.
The Important Stuff:
What can I donate?
While everything and anything is appreciated, Wellington City Mission have expressed a particular need for the items below:
Shampoo & Conditioner
However, anything will be gratefully recieved from combs, hairbands, face wipes, sunscreen and even lipsticks.
Where do I go?
Spots in Lambton Quay, Te Aro and Newtown. You can also mail packages. Check out the drop off spots here.
THINGS TO KNOW:
Start collecting products - try shampoo, body wash, deodorant, soap, shaving products, tampons, wipes, hand sanitiser - the kinds of things you can't imagine living without.
Don't forget hotel products or miniatures. These are smaller and lighter so can be carried around if a person doesn't have a home.
Products need to be unopened, to comply with health and safety rules. Please do not donate nail polish or nail polish remover or perfume because these are solvents.