Woman's 20-year hoarding habit irritates neighbours

Woman's 20-year hoarding habit irritates neighbours

Every night, he sleeps on a sofa surrounded by mountains of newspapers, bags of leftover food and piles of plastic bottles.

Cockroaches dart all over the floor at his feet and other insects fly around his face.

Mr Lim Chin Ting, 74, has to live like this because his wife, Madam Soh Siew Jing, 66, is a hoarder.

For the past 20 years, she has been compulsively bringing all kinds of junk back to their three-room flat at Block 19, Eunos Crescent.

Mr Lim, a drinks assistant at a coffee shop nearby, told The New Paper yesterday in Mandarin: "I don't like it like this, but I can't do anything to stop her. Of course, I don't like living like this, who would?"

Her refusal to stop hoarding has caused their relationship to deteriorate so badly that they can hardly bear the sight of each other and have not conversed for 20 years.

Their flat was the focus of a video that showed hundreds of cockroaches swarming out to the common corridor after National Environment Agency (NEA) officers, on an anti-dengue fever drive, sprayed insecticide in the flat on Monday afternoon.

VIRAL

The video was posted by the couple's neighbour, Madam Nur'Ashikin Zainol.

It went viral on Facebook, with more than 5,000 shares and 250,000 views by yesterday evening.

Mr Lim is aware of his neighbours' unhappiness over his wife's hoarding and the pest problem that comes with it.

"I know they complain. It's very dirty, but I can't do anything about it. She won't let me," he said.

"She scolds me when I try to stop her or when I try to throw things away. Even if I could throw one bag out, she comes back with two."

Madam Soh brings home anything, including newspapers, old textbooks, empty plastic bottles and even leftover food. She sleeps in a room almost completely filled with her junk.

Another room is so packed with stuff that Mr Lim could not open its door when TNP was at the flat yesterday.

In the living room, a narrow aisle snakes through piles of more stuff.

As a result, the flat is infested with cockroaches and other insects that fly around the piles of her collection.

The couple's relationship has been strained for many years.

Neighbours told TNP that when Mr Lim is at home, Madam Soh leaves to sit at the void deck.

Mr Lim said: "I haven't had a proper conversation with her in 20 years. Talking to her means getting scolded, so I don't bother her and she doesn't bother me."

Their relationship was not always like this, he said.

"More than 20 years ago, we didn't have much to argue about so we could at least talk to each other."

TNP found Madam Soh sitting on a bench at the void deck on the other side of the block. She had two plastic bags of leftover food and drinks with her. Flies and dirt were evident on her body.

She said in Mandarin: "I only collect things that I believe are of use. These aren't rubbish. They still have value. I can sell the newspapers to the karung guni man and make money."

She recalled her husband throwing out some plastic bags, one of which contained her money and mobile phones.

'HANDBAGS'

"My plastic bags are like the handbags other people carry around, except I don't have enough money to buy a nice one," said Madam Soh, who has always been a housewife.

"I keep my wallet and my keys inside, so it's not rubbish and it's still valuable. How would you like it if someone threw your handbag away?"

The couple have three adult children who live on their own.

Mr Lim said their daughter had paid for Madam Soh to see a doctor about her hoarding and get medication for her, but he is unclear whether she takes it or still sees the doctor. Madam Soh declined to comment on this.

A joint statement issued by HDB, Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) and NEA yesterday evening said NEA officers had inspected the couple's unit as there is an ongoing dengue cluster in the neighbourhood.

"Space spraying of insecticide was conducted to kill adult mosquitoes. The insecticide was also effective against the large population of cockroaches that was present in the flat," it added.

MPTC workers later cleaned up the common corridor.

The statement said MPTC and HDB would work with the couple to ensure the flat is properly maintained.

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