Category Archives: Beauty and Fashion

Using Less Stuff: How My Blindness Supports a Minimalist Lifestyle

Empish selecting clothes in closet

For most of my life I was a visual shopper. If I saw it then I had to have it. I also practiced retail therapy, buying stuff to feel better instead of dealing with my issues. I was one of those people who always had to leave the mall with a purchase. It didn’t matter if I needed the item or not. It was just the thought of buying something new. This behavior  resulted  in accumulating a lot of stuff over the years.

Then something strange and unexpected  happen. I went blind. I could no longer see the  items brightly displayed in stores calling my name. Sometimes I struggled with transportation  to even get there. And online shopping was not even  an option back then. I strained to keep up with trends and my stockpile of stuff  was becoming too much.

Use Less Stuff Day

Empish placing items in blue recycle bag

As a society we are accumulating too much stuff. People pay for storage, don’t always donate or recycle. Then there are landfills  that are filling up with all kinds of things we have thrown away. Thursday, Nov. 17 is Use Less Stuff Day. This day is a gentle reminder to  clean and declutter.

Clothes and Shoes

After going blind, I quickly realized I needed to make a mental change and trim down my stuff. First I started with my wardrobe. I focused on functional  not trendy pieces of clothing and jewelry.

Empish selecting shoes in shoe boxes

I kept my shoes down to a couple of pairs. The essentials of black, brown and navy dress   styles with 2 pairs of tennis. These simple colors  and styles  can go with any outfit. It also made it easier to find and keep them organized.

Home and Office

Empish Crawling to Chair

To avoid falls, stumbles and bumping into furniture I downsized. I went to a modest layout, keeping furniture  mostly on the perimeter of the room. Ask yourself, how much stuff in your home is a show piece? You know that sofa you never sit on because it is for those guest that  don’t come over. Less is more and  better. Having too much furniture  can be a physical hazard and danger especially with vision loss.

Working from home has  motivated me to scale down more. I don’t have to wear professional clothes  to a job but I have several business suits  I need to figure out what to do. I know I want to keep  some pieces for videoconference  calls or meeting in person.

I am an introvert  so don’t mix and mingle too much in crowds. So, even my casual  wardrobe  has been scaled down. Just a couple of slacks and skirts  with interchangeable  tops to match.

Use Less Paper

A paper shredder and a clear bin with paper being shredded.

I have also  reduced my paper footprint. What I mean is  paying bills online instead of using printed statements  and envelopes  for mailing. I fill out forms online  and receive the majority of my info via desktop computer or smartphone. I read books from the library instead of purchasing them and  watch movies  through streaming verses DVDs.

Lack of Emotional Attachment

Another interesting yet peculiar thing  that came with my blindness was the lack of emotional attachment to things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a sentimental person. Like Marie Kondo, I do want to keep items that spark joy. Still, because I don’t physically see I don’t have that same level of emotional attachment.

The statement, “out of sight is out of mind” is really true. I do forget  and/or lack interest in things I can’t  see. This mentality  leads me to constantly  take inventory of my belongings. Do I still cherish it or  have lost that lovin’ feeling? Every couple of months I check out what I have and what I can give away.

More Doesn’t Mean Less

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

However, I come from a place  where more communicates  prosperity, value and self-worth  . When people have less the assumption is they are not doing well. But this is not necessarily true. Having less or should I say, the basic  necessities of life, is  peaceful and not burdensome. I know  for a fact the more things I own the more I have to worry. The more I have to track and keep organized. The more stressed out  I get.

A minimalist lifestyle is a work in progress. I have not perfected it yet  because I live in a world of consumerism. The call to shop and buy is ever present. However, I work on it and do my best. Writing this post has energized me to do another walk through and declutter my home. Looking at what I need to keep and what I can remove. Plus, the holiday season is coming up and the perfect time to give.

Do you have a minimalist lifestyle? If not, what ways can you scale back your stuff?

Dressing in the Dark? Here’s My 5 Tips to Organize Fashion Accessories for the Blind

Empish selecting clothes in closet

Reading a recent article  about New York Fashion Week in the Daily Beast, got me thinking. The article  noted the increase in disabled models and designers. It stressed the importance of diversity and accessibility. How representation  matters in the fashion industry. Although, the event just ended on Sept. 14, it  reminded me of my early years of vision loss. I knew how  vital it was to look my best and be stylish. I wanted to represent my community in the best possible way.

Reorganizing After Vision Loss

This meant reorganizing  my accessories and wardrobe. Nothing was really accessible for me. I couldn’t just go in my closet and grab  an outfit without sighted help. I had to figure out a way.

Why is this important to me? I have always been an accessory conscious woman, matching shoes with handbag, lipstick with nail polish and necklace with earrings. I was trained by very fashion-savvy parents  and female relatives. They were always impeccably dressed in colorful-coordinated attire.

As a young adult, I perused fashion magazines constantly. I even pursued a fashion design and merchandising degree but lost too much vision to finish. Understanding that first impressions are critical, I accessorized my clothing purposefully.

When I went totally blind dressing and accessorizing became very challenging. At first I pondered how to keep up with new trends, fabric selections and eye-catching colors. Determined to not allow my blindness to be an excuse to be a fashion misfit, I learned valuable techniques on how to organize my accessories to complete any outfit in my closet. I don’t profess to be a traffic stopping fashion diva. Yet, I find that paying close attention to my accessories and wardrobe goes a long way in erasing stereotypes and commanding respect.

1. Organizing Scarfs

Empish is selecting a scarf from her hanging scarf organizer. It has several small pouches and some have braille labeling with a scarf inside.

I began by organizing my scarves. Before my vision loss I had scarves all over the bedroom hung on outfits, stuffed in dresser drawers and tied to doorknobs. Scarves are a great accessory and can add flavor to an outfit. They make a simple, drab outfit look colorful and stylish.

With the help of a vision rehabilitation teacher, I found a hanging bag with multiple pouches perfect for storing scarves. I put one scarf in each pouch. On the front is a Braille label description for the color and design . To conserve space, I use abbreviations like “bk for black, “rd” for red or “pk” for pink. For scarves that matched specific outfits, I tied the scarf around the outfit’s hanger so it is ready to go.

2. Organizing Shoes

Empish selecting shoes in shoe boxes

In the past, I was a fancy foot wearing female. Shoes were such a vital part of my outfits. I had shoes in multiple colors for dress and casual wear. Pumps, sandals, stacked heels and mules – I had them all. I kept shoes in rows on the closet floor in no particular arrangement. Now because of my disability and working from home I have scaled back to a couple of pairs. Yes, I know I am not the typical female  but less is better. I keep track  with little worry about disorganization. I tell the difference by touch, feeling for shape, texture  and style.

3. Organize Jewelry in Small Boxes

A small plastic rectangular box with an assortment of jewerly. It has several pieces of costume jewerly in bright colors. Hands are in the box selecting a necklace.

It has been said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. For me it is diamonds, pearls, gold, silver, and all kinds of costume jewelry. I love jewelry and always had it setting out on my dresser. Pearl necklaces, gold bracelets, lapel pins and colorful earrings were arranged randomly. I discovered a brilliant way to recycle mini jewelry boxes. I store earrings, necklaces and bracelets in sets. If this wasn’t feasible, I organized according to similar color and design. For example, all red earrings were placed in one box and all pearl jewelry in another. I use touch to distinguish between smooth round earrings and fabric-covered lapel pins. I store the boxes in a large plastic container, so all  my jewelry is in one place.

4. Organize Lipsticks with Braille Labeling

Five tubes of lipsticks standing up in a line with one tube laying down in front.

Once I had my accessories organized, my next challenge was establishing a similar system for lipsticks. I love lipsticks and don’t wear any other fascial cosmetic . Before learning Braille, I determined lipstick by touch. Manufacturers use different tube designs. Some  tubes are round with ridges while others are square and smooth. Today, since I know Braille, I placed a label on each tube. This helps me to know the differences in color.

A black and white braille label gun with turn dial displaying both braille and print letters and numbers.

5. Organizing Clothes in Closet

Accessories add flair  to an outfit completing  the  ensemble. But I needed to focus on my clothing too. In my closet I have my clothes organized in sections. Short sleeve tops, then long sleeve. Next is skirts and pants. Finally, is two-piece outfits  . They all have Braille color labels. This system makes it easy to find  what I want to wear.

These techniques have been very successful, resulting in numerous awe-inspiring compliments from friends, co-workers and even strangers. People always ask me how I do it, and it gives me the opportunity to share my creative fashion organizing tips. It has also been a big boost to my self confidence as a blind woman.

Blindness and My Hair: Why I use a Professional Stylist  to Help Me Look Fabulous

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

After I lost my vision I knew I had to seek a professional stylist. It had nothing to do with my self-esteem  or confidence. Rather  it was about being practical. No more were the days of coloring my own hair or using at  home hair relaxing kits. I didn’t have enough vision to do the job properly. And with working in professional  environments,  I had to be especially sure my appearance  was spot on.

Many wrongly assume people with vision loss lack interest in their appearance.  They think it is because of the vision impairment. They think because we can’t see ourselves  we don’t care as much. But I am here to tell you this is a bold face lie! We spend time and attention to our appearance  because we care about ourselves  and know we will be judged more harshly  in certain circumstances.

So, I went off seeking a professional stylist. I was fortunate and lucked out with a great person. She has been my hair stylist for 20+ years. That’s a long time and here’s why I am still a loyal customer.

Adjusted Hair Regiment Because of Medication

In the first few years of my blindness, I was taking several medications that cause hair damage. The texture of my hair changed and it was falling out. My stylist immediately recognized  this and shifted my hair regiment accordingly. She put me on a treatment plan  that would help my hair while  not causing more damage.

Once things had settled down and I was totally off meds she went back to my  routine hair treatment. That was several years ago. Today I am undergoing  more changes. Mostly from getting older. I have more dryness, grey and thinning on the top. So, we have shifted again to adjust to these changes. She  moved to another haircare product line  and suggested  the same for  at home. If I were doing my own hair, I seriously doubt I would have known what to do or had the same results.

Sensitive to My  Disability

My stylist has always been sensitive to my disability. First, she has created styles  that I can manage independently. She will describe what she is doing and give me instructions  for home maintenance. This could be how to style and apply haircare products, to using curling irons and hair dryers.

Second, she is aware I use Paratransit, a specialized transportation system for the disabled, making sure we start and end on time. She is always done by the time they arrive  to pick me up. Even the other stylists in the salon will help look out for my transportation. They will Walk me to and from the bus when it arrives.

Clear on Salon COVID Protocols

When the pandemic struck  barber and beauty salons  shut down quickly. Do you remember that? Nobody was going to get their  hair  styled, shampooed or cut anywhere. I was hearing about people on YouTube  trying the DIY  thing. There were all kinds of videos on coloring, styling and cutting your hair. I stayed away from all of that because we talked over the phone  about steps to take. She gave me directions  on what to do to maintain  my hair at home. I was really grateful  to have a professional stylist during this time  because again I  don’t think I would have known what to do.

Empish wearing orange top with her college alumni, Florida A&M University, facemask

Once businesses  reopened, she gave clarity on the salon’s COVID procedures. She emailed  what would be happening and how I needed to handle myself. We all wore facemasks  and the stylist spread out in the building.

National Beauty and Barber Week

This week, Sept 11-17, is National Beauty and Barber Week. I wanted to acknowledge  the people in this profession. They work hard to help people look fabulous. Do you have a professional hair stylist? If so, how  is your experience? Or do you  manage your hair on your own?

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

I’m Now Feeling Safe to Get Hair Styled After Georgia’s Reopening

On Monday, May 18th, while dawning a facemask and gloves, I safely and cautiously return to the hair salon. It had been since mid-February and like most people in America my hair was long overdue for some professional TLC. During all this time I have been sheltering in place and only going out for essential errands. I was maintaining my tresses to the best of my ability and sought  guidance over the phone from my hair stylist. Since I work from home my daily routine was just to comb and brush and place in a ponytail.  Then shampoo and deep condition biweekly.

On April 24th, Governor Brian Kemp allowed hair salons, barber shops, gyms, and tattoo parlors to reopen. the following week it was restaurants and movie theaters. When this announcement was made the number of COVID-19 cases were consistently rising and many people were concerned with this decision. It was all over the state, local and national news and everyone had a thought and/or opinion on if this was a good idea for the state of Georgia or not. Whether they would venture out or not. It is a month later and the conversation is still going strong and as of this writing  and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the number of COVID-19 cases has not decreased. But with all that being said a list of procedures were assigned to the reopening of these businesses.

When I spoke to my hair stylist about all of this, she told me that her salon was not going to open right away. That they needed time to put in place the procedures issued by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers to be sure that everyone would be safe in the salon. I agreed and totally understood. It was not until another week that she called me back and said that the salon was ready to open. She emailed the list of procedures to follow and how business would be conducted moving forward. In the email she listed things such as:

Temperature checks. Stylists and clients must check their temperature one hour before their service. If your temperature reading is 99°F or above you will have to reschedule your appointment. (Once the salon has a touchless thermometer all stylist and clients who enter the salon will be checked).   Any employee or client who has a temperature above 99°F should be sent home immediately and not allowed to return to the salon until they have no fever and no evidence of COVID-19 symptoms.

• Personal Protective Gear. All clients must wear a mask! This is mandatory to wear a mask.  The only time that a client will not have a mask is at the shampoo bowl. I will place a towel over your mouth and face.  When the shampoo is over you will be asked to put your mask back on. Also, all stylists are required to wear masks. Most of the time I will be wearing gloves.  You are welcome to bring your own personal towel for your face if you prefer.

 • Ask each client entering the shop the following questions:

Every client will be asked if they have had a cough? Ø  had a fever, Ø  or have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Ø  Also, are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

 • Limit people in the salon. I will limit the number of clients. I will only see clients by appointment. Since I am only taking appointments early in the morning, the number of clients in my waiting area will be limited. If a client arrives early, please call me on my phone and wait in your vehicle.

Maintain social distancing at all times! It has been recommended that clients not being serviced in the salon wait outside the salon until the stylist is done with the other clients. Also, spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet, except when I am servicing clients. I will move my chairs to the outside of my door so that only the client that I am working on is in the room with me. Each client will be draped with a clean cape.

After we discussed these new procedures, I felt safe to return and made my appointment. She specifically scheduled the appointment for Monday, which in the salon world is their off day and are closed for business. She knew this would be a good time because the salon would virtually be empty lessoning the opportunity to interact with other people keeping both of us safe. When I arrived, I was the only one sitting in the waiting area and I kept my facemask on the entire time until it was my turn. While waiting, I listened to podcasts on my smartphone. When she called me to the chair, I removed my mask and place the towel over my nose and mouth as she worked on my hair. I did the same at the shampoo bowl.  During the time I was there another stylist came into the salon but was stationed in the front while we were in the back. So, we were able to keep social distancing with no problems.

Empish Wearing Facemask and Gloves with White Cane

I am not sure if this will become the new normal of hair styling but I have a funny feeling that it will. Until we can create a treatment plan and vaccine, we will have to wear facemask and practice social distancing at the hair salon. I found the experience not much different than in the past but just a little mentally exhausting because of wearing a facemask. Also adjusting to the quiet is something I will have to learn to deal with. Salons are not just places to get your hair styled but also to chat and gossip. To talk, laugh and share but that is hard to do with a mask or towel over your face.  they are also places to congregate as people come in and out all day. Yet in order to be safe this all might have to change.