"I had some basic information about the family. They were new immigrants with six children, and the mother had no idea about home management. How hard could it be? I arrived at their house on the next day.
I knocked on the door, and as soon as it was open, I wanted to just turn around and run away. A hot cloud of stink issued out of the apartment. I walked in, hardly breathing. God have mercy. I have never seen such a house, not even dreamed such a thing could exist: dishes were piled on the floor, and each carried the remnants of what had been food a month previously. Thousands of ants were swarming around them. The floor and the area around the kitchen sink were piled with books, and plastic dishes on top of them. Clothes were heaped on the stove, the refrigerator was not connected to electricity; it was full of scraps of food. A horror. Another refrigerator was working, but its door was open. There were mattresses on the floor, with dishes and more dishes on top of them, and cups and forks. And garbage bags, part of which fell to the floor and mingled with - you guessed it - the plates.
I understood the plates business right away. In that house, they don't wash the dishes. They just put them aside after eating. They don't do the laundry and don't empty the trash can.
The woman apologized for the mess, and said it's because she's busy taking care of the baby. The baby was a creature crawling between the mattresses, the garbage and the plates. At the moment I first looked at her, she was eating sand. Perhaps because that was the tastiest thing she knew. I asked the mother what she normally cooks, and it turned out she doesn't cook anything but eggs. I thought she was kidding, but she was not. This woman would feed her children snacks, and once a week they would get meat from a volunteering organization. It was pure neglect.
But when the children arrived, I saw there are good sides to her too. She hugged and kissed all her children and told them to go get something to eat. I saw her children are happy, even though they were a little thin and very dirty. I saw how things run in their home. The children go through the cupboards and both refrigerators, the one that works and the one that doesn't, eat and throw the plates upon the floor, and it comes as naturally to them as breathing.
I went down to the grocery store and bought giant garbage bags. Three of them were full after three minutes. After an hour we had twenty-five bags full of garbage, and believe it or not, that was not even the half of it.
When we met next time, I consulted her on how we should wash the dishes. She suggested we should pile them in the bath tub and wash them all at once - and that's what we did. We filled the tub with hot water and lots of soap, and threw all the dishes inside. The woman washed the dishes and I wiped them dry. In the meantime we talked about life, about our husbands and children. It turned out she is not stupid at all. Actually, she was very intelligent, a university graduate, and she was a kind, warm person.
When the children arrived, they saw a table piled with tens, perhaps hundreds of clean dishes. It might sound unreal, but these people would buy dishes instead of washing them."
That isn't a very pretty picture, is it? I wonder if this story is actually true; I don't want to believe that such neglect can actually exist in a house with able-bodied adults. I can understand, however, that it might be easy to just let things go if there is no routine and no order.
When things are neglected at home, nothing can go right. It's a cause of discomfort because it's difficult to relax in a messy home, and a waste of time and money because food isn't prepared wisely and people buy things they already have.
And now excuse me, I'm off to wash some dishes.