Domestic skills like cooking or sewing was something Mdm Josephine was not involved in as much as her mother and sisters. As the youngest among 8 siblings, Mdm Josephine dedicated almost 50 years to working, saving and contributing to her family.
From working as a sales representative to doing general work in offices, she only retired after getting retrenched from her last job at Spotlight at the age of 69.
So when her mother and sister passed away over 10 years ago and left the flat they lived in to Mdm Josephine, spring cleaning and decluttering was not always at the top of her mind.
“It’s just become a habit, (I’m) not saying (that) I don’t want to throw. At that time nobody helped me to think, so I can’t be bothered. I left all the things like that,” Mdm Josephine explained.
“Recently I helped clean out her house. She has medication dated back to 2001. She has papers, and water and electricity bills that dates back over 10 years. I ask her for what! She has no reason to give me,” said Silvia, Mdm Josephine’s closest niece.
Unmarried and already 79 years old, Silvia is the closest thing that Mdm Josephine has to a daughter. But when the bed bug infestation started, it scared away alot of Mdm Josephine’s other nieces, nephews and relatives from visiting often.
“Every time I come here, I'm so afraid I'm bringing the bed bugs back. The minute I go back, I have to wash everything, I bathe immediately and I soak everything in hot water,” said Silvia. “And it’s been a few years since all my cousins come to her house for Chinese New year. I told her you need to get things done, because no one wants to come to your house.”
Signs of an infestation first started about 5 years, and Silvia suspects that her uncle - Josephine’s older brother - had brought it back with the furniture he picked up from downstairs when he was still living in the same flat.
“The bed bugs were around for about 3 years before she decided to have the first fumigation. That time I advised her to throw away stuff but she didn’t want to. So it was less than a year that the bed bugs came back. She was bitten very badly,” Silvia recounted.
When the pandemic made travelling impossible, it was a blessing in disguise for Silvia as it gave her long stretches of time in Singapore to make frequent visits and start her aunty’s decluttering process. Previously, Silvia had spent 15 years caring for her own mother who suffered multiple strokes, and then subsequently looked after her husband after his cancer diagnosis.
But floor-to-ceiling wardrobes needed to be dismantled and a more comprehensive approach beyond fumigation was needed to eradicate the bed bug infestation once and for all. Cracks in between joints of the old parquet flooring further complicated the elimination process.
After learning about Project HomeWorks from television, Silvia worked with Mdm Josephine’s social worker to lock in at appointment with Project HomeWorks in August this year.
After 2 intensive sessions with our staff and HomeWorks Champions-in-training, both bedrooms in Mdm Josephine’s home were intensively cleaned, caulked and rid of bed bugs.
“I always say God bless me with good health. With the hands, you work. With the legs, you walk. Without these 2 things, who (would) want to help me when I live until now. So my niece is good, she (keeps me in her thoughts) and I thank her alot,” said Mdm Josephine.