All you need is a MAID?
W A R N I N G
If you haven’t watched the Netflix series Maid, and you intend to…stop reading NOW.
I watched Maid, the critically acclaimed Netflix series about a young single mother, Alex, disentangling herself from an emotionally abusive partner. In order to survive with little reliable support from family or friends, this young mother takes the only job she can get – cleaning houses as a maid for an excruciatingly low hourly rate.
After working for an agency she gets fired for poaching and undercutting her employer. Alex does this because the loss of wages from a cancelled 3 hour clean at $12 per hour pushed her over the edge. She needed that money. It was the difference between food for her and her 3 year old child or starving.
Alex starts posting flyers around the place to get private clients. Finally she receives an email for a potential customer who says she can pay $10 per hour but it’s a “special situation”.
When she arrives at the client’s place Alex is met by a partially cracked door and an embarrassed pregnant woman.
The woman says “You saw that I can only pay $10 an hour…you might see the job and want to ask for more money”.
Filling the doorway, Alex has to ask, “Can I come in?”
The women wells up and begins to cry saying “This is my little secret” as she reluctantly steps aside for Alex.
The home is a typically hoarded space. Books piled high, goat trails between rooms. The woman says, through tears “I’m sorry…You can back out if you want to.”
Alex tells the woman she won’t back out because she is Alex’s first customer.
The woman asks someone in the room if they want to help Alex pack boxes. Camouflaged by the clutter you see a young boy. The woman explains this is Stu, who is non-verbal.
Explaining she has two more children at school.
Woman: I want to do better than this for my kids. I do.
Woman: I know it looks like junk. But, it’s my kids childhoods and you can’t just throw those years away.
Alex: You also need to leave space for them to grow. Let me help you.
So the “maid” starts working.
Cue montage. It’s so easy. The pregnant mother leaves Alex and the young son and they go to work.
Black garbage bag.
Fill it up.
Dump it on the front lawn.
At one point the pregnant mother wistfully looks and her children’s old toys and with just a look from Alex she lets them go.
Five or six hours later the client is smiling, the maid has her cash. As Alex leaves texts immediately start pouring in from other friends of the happy client. Friends from her online Hoarding Support Group, who she explains, “have trouble keeping cleaning ladies”.
In between organising government funding and grants to support herself and her 3 year old daughter there are montages of other “clear outs”. Again bag after black trash bag piled on the front lawn.
I don’t need to tell you, dear readers, how fantastical and unreal this portrayal is. It’s disturbingly far from reality.
Let’s break it down:
This is the “it’s JUST clutter” trope that flavours so many media depictions of hoarding. You know how it goes, it JUST takes a nice friendly ‘MAID’ to come and help for $10 per hour and in ONE day the problem is solved.
I get that this is TV Friend and not reality but so many people will see this portrayal and again believe it’s just about simply filling black garbags and tossing it all into the rubbish. I’m here to tell you it ain’t.
Just as a final note on this series, which is worth watching especially for the depiction of slipping into PTSD shutdown, I have now read the autobiography on which it’s based. Anyone who knows me I like to go straight to the source. If there’s a book I’ll read it.
Maid: Hard work, low pay, and a mother’s will to survive by Stephanie Land depicts hoarding in a much more realistic light. Like in real life it’s a much darker reality.
The pregnant mother had 5 children and one on the way. She was drowning in unpaid bills, had stopped making mortgage payments on the house. Moving into a small rental house was the only way to stay afloat. Food stamps were the only way to feed her large family. Stephanie also mentioned the constant reverting back to disorder between sessions.
When Stephanie finally reached the floor about 5 days into the job she found the ubiquitous mouse droppings, dead spiders, and what looked like snake skin.
Having someone come and do the work is all well and good especially if you have children who deserve a safe and clean environment.
If this is you there may be some benefits for your children to have a cleaner come and keep on top of things and maintain hygiene.
But, please understand it’s not just clutter.
Know that having a cleaner - even a professional organiser - is not targeting the underlying psychological issues that bring about hoarding.
If you want to share this with your peeps feel free.
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