Singapore

After the clean-up: Gloomy life for former hoarders

Woman whose family of hoarders got help with a clean-up has lost three family members in two years

Since her family made news in February last year for their excessive hoarding, Madam Wee Joo Choo's home has been cleaned up.

But despite the brightened home, life has been gloomy.

In the past 12 months, she has had to cope with losing her husband and mother-in-law. The previous year, her son died from cancer.

Madam Wee, 56, and her family made headlines when their 18th-storey flat at Block 222, Lorong 8 Toa Payoh underwent a major clean-up initiated by their Potong Pasir MP, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin.(See report below.)

THE NEW PAPER, FEB 4, 2015

Madam Wee, her husband Tan Teck Ho and their youngest son had been living with Madam Wee's 91-year-old mother-in-law who was the owner of the four-room flat.

Since the major clean-up, Madam Wee claimed they have changed their ways and no longer hoard or fill their home with trash.

When The New Paper asked to visit the family's two flats, which were previously packed with stuff, she declined.

A neighbour on the 18th floor, who did not want to be named, said: "Ever since that incident, it has been all right.

"They no longer cause problems with their hoarding. It is better now."

But tough times plague the family.

Mr Tan, 65, who was the main breadwinner, died on Monday evening.

He was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital last Saturday morning after experiencing breathing difficulties.

Madam Wee said he later fell into a coma and had to be hooked up to a breathing tube.

Their eldest son, who was 35, died from cancer in 2014.

Madam Wee's mother-in-law died last August from old age.

Speaking to TNP at her husband's wake at the void deck of their block on Thursday, Madam Wee said: "He was a caring husband. He took good care of us but didn't take good care of himself."

RETRENCHED

Mr Tan was retrenched from his job at the airport last December after working there for more than 35 years.

For Madam Wee and her remaining two sons, the future is uncertain.

"I can't bear the thought of not seeing (my husband) any more. I don't know what we will do," said Madam Wee, distraught and in tears.

"Why is my life so hard? I've lost so many people."

Madam Wee is unable to work because she has heart problems.

Her second son, 35, works in sales.

Her youngest son, Mr Tan Wei Sien, is a final-year student at the Institute of Technical Education.

The 21-year-old, who will be enlisting next year, said he has to be more responsible now.

"I will take care of my mother now that my father is not around."

The family's hoarding past

SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

When The New Paper visited the 18th-storey flat in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh last February, it was packed full of rubbish, from floor to ceiling.

Neighbours had complained of pests and a stench from the flat.

Madam Wee Joo Choo, 56, her husband and her youngest son were living in the four-room flat with her 91-year-old mother-in-law, who owned the flat.

The family also owned a flat on the 20th storey of the same block, but it had been so full of hoarded items, they could not live there.

HYGIENIC

The elderly woman's family members had also complained about the condition of the flat, saying it was not healthy or hygienic for her.

Their complaints led Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, MP for Potong Pasir, to initiate a clean-up of the flat.

Madam Wee and her son became aggressive when cleaners started removing their things, but they eventually backed down.

The clean-up took five days.

The hoarded items were cleared and the flat was fumigated, washed and disinfected.

More than 10 tonnes of trash was disposed of, Mr Sitoh said after the clean-up.

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