Every vacation back to Malaysia, one of the things so many my friends, both local and abroad, like to say is “must be nice seeing your family again and enjoying their homecooked meals” As a person who grew up in a house run by a hoarder (my physically and mentally abusive father frequently proclaims himself as “the king of the house”) with living conditions that are deteriorating rapidly with time (the house has never been renovated, at all, in the past 30 years), I cannot relate to this statement. I’m nice enough to reply with a smile but the truth is I have been unable to enjoy a true, fully homecooked meal for the past 5 years, if not more. Here’s why.
Actually you might not even need to read the contents of this post to find out why – just look at the pictures. The kitchen is exceptionally dirty, rundown and in a condition that’s so nasty, only my grandmother is willing to cook in it.
A drink for breakfast and takeout every meal
With the exception of breakfast (which is just a drink with some oats, usually no real food), we eat out or takeout literally every meal of the day and have been doing this for years now.
- Lunch is usually complete takeout to eliminate the need to clean up (since it’s difficult as it is to clean this nasty kitchen) – just put the containers in a plastic bag and throw away.
- Dinner is mostly takeout, my mom typically goes out to buy ready-made meat dishes from the “economy rice/mixed rice” stalls. Rice and vegetables are made at home by my grandma. However, this is getting increasingly difficult due to her age (80+) and the worsening state of the kitchen.
Cockroaches, failing appliances, hoarder junk and more
This situation above is due to the reasons mentioned in my comprehensive walkthrough of the hoarder house (see: kitchen/dining room section). Some highlights from there include:
- The kitchen is infested with cockroaches (particularly at night)
- The kitchen is difficult to clean and work in since it was poorly designed from the start (e.g. sink is far too low for a person of normal height, no cooking hood over stove, etc.) and no renovations have ever been performed, period, since the house was built 30 years ago.
- There is not enough physical space for many things, including but not limited to an adequately-sized drying rack, due to a combination of old design and the fact my hoarder dad’s junk occupies a non-trivial area of the kitchen.
- Appliances are old and falling apart. For instance, the gas-based stoves stopped working properly years ago and we have had to use portable electric stoves instead. The age of the house means there aren’t enough power plugs in the right places, so my grandma has to drag out a series of extension cords for the stove (and put away after frying the vegetables, because the extension cords run through the sink area – see image below)
- The dining table is old, difficult to clean and surrounded by junk. This also limits seating capacity to 5 for a table that could technically fit 8-10 people if not for the junk. Containers occupy 1/3 of the dining table, further limiting eating space.
The sad thing is some Malaysians I have encountered have actually told me pampered or that it’s not so bad. These people either A) have never experienced a kitchen this sick that makes them want to throw up and/or B) are docile enablers of abusers who continue to ensure abusive parents continue to propagate themselves throughout time and society at least in the Malaysia/Singapore region.
Forget about getting a maid
But what about getting a maid to clean everything up? Unlike many middle-class Malaysian households, we don’t have and have never had a maid. For obvious reasons that they will run away the moment they see the state of the house and the downstairs bedroom (usually for the maid) is completely filled, literally from floor to ceiling, with junk and so is the attached bathroom (yes, means no bathroom for guests, not like anyone would want to visit).
Also my mom’s paranoia and distrust in people makes her afraid that a maid might steal things in the house. Breaking news: It’s a hoarder shithole of a house, there are no valuables to steal. I don’t think even thieves want to have to sort things they could sell from copious piles of junk.
Smash and rebuild is the only solution
The state of the kitchen (and the house in general) is beyond cleaning or even localized renovation. Everything is old, nasty and falling apart – the only practical solution is to toss literally 95% of the house out (including furniture and appliances, which are mostly in a dilapidated state), rip the entire house except the structure out and renovating from the ground up.
But my family won’t do it. I mean they can certainly afford to renovate, financially, but they seem to be comfortable and not want any change. My dad, a violent hoarder with probably loads of other mental issues, thinks the living situation is fine and all the house needs are a few touchups and fresh coat of paint. My mom, a manipulative abuser who is also a minor hoarder and has Stockholm syndrome, has claimed she can’t tolerate the living situation for years and will probably move out sometime after Half-life 3 is confirmed.
This is why I “escaped” to study abroad a decade ago and have been living in other countries since. After a massive amount of cleaning up on the low-key over the past 5 years whenever I’m back on vacation, I have also decided this time that I have done all that I can do, that my parents and grandmother are beyond saving, and I am never returning to this hellhole house ever again in my future vacations back to Malaysia.