This past weekend, my eleven-year-old daughter Lindsay and I had the great blessing of helping a single mom in her twenties clean out her little apartment. This precious young mom has four small boys, a 4 yr old, twins 19 months old, and an infant! And I thought I was busy! A friend of mine from church sent out a desperate plea for cleaning help to assist this mom she has connections with through volunteer work my friend does with a local women’s and children’s shelter.
This was not your basic cleaning job…our task was to literally clean out her apartment. This mom is a hoarder. I asked Lindsay if she wanted to go with me. She likes cleaning out and organizing as much as I do, so she eagerly said, “Yes!” She and I got up early Saturday morning and went to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast before heading over to the apartment. I tried to prepare Lindsay ahead of time by explaining what a hoarder is so she wouldn’t be shocked.
I’m not so sure my words completely prepared her for what we saw. When we walked in the door, we saw Mom sitting on the sofa with her boys all around her. I greeted her and introduced myself. Then Lindsay and I headed to her master bedroom where we had been assigned to work with three other ladies. As we made our way down the tiny hall, we couldn’t help but notice the clutter, trash, and piles of stuff everywhere. I don’t know that I can even begin to describe what I saw, but it would be like something you would see on the T.V. show “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”
The floor of the bedroom was absolutely covered (you couldn’t even see the floor) in, you name it: broken glass, pill bottles, soiled diapers, missing caps to everything, earrings, clothes, lotion, dental floss, shoes, coins, forks, old fast food wrappers (some with moldy food still in them), broken DVDs, sticky candy, crumbs (like from an entire box of Corn Flakes), books, toys, papers, dirty dishes, etc. At first I wondered, “How can anyone live like this?” To me, a chaotic environment is not relaxing at all, but then I thought, “To this family, this IS normal.” The house really was a safety and sanitary hazard to the children, and that’s why we were there. Mom had gotten to the point of being completely overwhelmed with the state of her home and recognized her need for help. She wanted us there which was wonderful!
We had instructions to throw out the trash, bag up the clothes, and keep a lookout for her food stamps, social security cards, and shoes for her kids to put on. We started separating the clothes by size, but it didn’t take us long to discover that that task was too much for the day, so we just bagged all the clothes together. All bathroom items were put into the bathroom, books were put together, toys put in bins for the boys (whenever we took a new found toy to the living room where the boys were, they got so excited). Shoes were piled into one overflowing bin, dishes and unopened cans of food and formula were returned to the kitchen, floors swept, bag after bag of trash taken outside to the dumpster, spilled lotion and powder cleaned off the floor, furniture moved and cleaned from under and behind, and hangers untangled and organized. And that was five of us in just the master bedroom! There was a kitchen crew, a boys’ bedroom crew, a play room crew, and a living/dining room crew. A similar scenario played out in each room. But I also noticed another scenario playing out…the ladies from our church were fellowshipping as the joy of the Lord flowed over into each room.
This project was an amazing thing to be a part of. I was so blessed and walked away being so thankful for everything, especially my happy, secure childhood, my parents, my home, my husband, and my children! The Lord has given me so much compassion for this mom and I cannot stop thinking about and praying for she and her boys. At the end of the day when every room had been cleaned out and organized, Mom was thrilled. She walked around her place saying, “I can’t believe this is my home!”
Mom will soon be matched with a mentor to keep her accountable, and I pray she meet Jesus and begin making wise choices. I pray that the lives of her boys will be blessed. A cleaning crew can show up, work its magic, and leave, but unless a change takes place in mom’s heart, things will revert to her “normal.” Please pray for her. Only God can clean us to the point of being white as snow!