Accumulated dishes, dirty clothes, leftover food in the rooms, countless cockroaches and even larvae. These are some of the things that Brazilian model, presenter and singer Ellen Milgrau found in homes he has visited in recent weeks. I went there with a objective: to clean these houses to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants, struggling with depression.
Without encouragement, many of them had not been able to clean. “Sometimes the person can’t even get up to take a shower. There are situations in which it is not even fair to call a cleaning lady because the dirt is very critical, ”says the model. BBC News Brazil.
Cleaning other people’s homes is part of a series of videos the model has started sharing on her Instagram profile. ICT Tac early March. These publications have gone viral and have accumulated more than 30 million reproductions on this social network alone.
Ellen says the project, called CleaningMilgrau, is linked to the habit she has had of grooming herself since she was a child. He believes that the place where one lives must be free from dirt for everything to go well. “It seems like life only works when the house is clean,” he says.
The idea, says Milgrau, came to him when he needed to help a depressed friend who was struggling to clean his own house. “We used to say: let’s do an intervention, go to his house with the brooms and everything. We just talked, but there came a time when he really asked for help,” he says.
The model and her friend, publicist Lua Rodrigues, decided to record the cleaning in a video on TikTok. For Milgrau, who is also a influencer, this served as a test of content that would actually appeal to the audience. She says she was still evaluating how best to use the video social network.
“I thought about certain niches, like makeup, because I wanted to grow on TikTok. When we talked about recording cleaning, I thought to myself, this is content that I love and it can work” , explains Milgrau. To make them, they were inspired by the publications of the Finnish Auri Katariinabecome a global phenomenon cleaning the homes of people with mental health issues or other difficulties that prevent them from being able to clean the place where they live.
After the first cleaning, at his friend’s house, the publication was a complete success. In a few days, it exceeded two million views. The positive impact made the model continue with the videos. For her, it was a way to do something she loves, to help others and also to get to know her better from the public.
“With this, I can get out of my comfort zone and also show a side that a lot of people don’t know about me. They think that because I’m a model, I’m untouchable or born rich. None of that,” explains the young lady.
After the repercussion of the first video, Milgrau and Rodrigues began looking for a second person who was in a similar situation. Rodrigues advertised it on various websites until he found another case: a mother and daughter who lived together, suffered from depression and had a dirty house.
As the videos spread, Milgrau and Rodrigues began to receive many messages via email, Instagram and TiKTok from people asking for help. To choose, they they look at photos of the place and learn more about the history of the resident of the property.
“We can now identify those who are looking for us and who really need our help,” says Milgrau. At first, the model and the publicist did the housework alone. Rodrigues rarely appears in the videos, as she is responsible for the recordings. Considering the repercussion of the shooting, they managed to volunteers to help them.
As it is an independent production, they can only take care of one house per week. When she’s not cleaning, Milgrau pursues her modeling career or advertises on her social media. “It’s not with cleaning that we make money, so we can’t live on that at the moment,” he says.
Four episodes have been released so far. ICT Tac. For Milgrau, the most striking story was the third case, in which a 21-year-old girl lived alone and suffered from severe depression. “It was a very precarious situation. She was completely abandoned by her family after losing a loved one, she was friendless and lived in São Paulo. It touched me a lot,” he says.
realize that the young I haven’t cleaned the house in 10 months. There was trash everywhere and lots of cockroaches. “There was a moment during the cleaning when she [la joven] she broke down, started crying, felt guilty and was so ashamed that we were doing this for her. But we explained to her and everything went well, she was very happy“, he explains in the video.
another case striking for the model was the fourth episode: a mother who had lost custody of her daughter. “When we saw the pictures of the apartment, we said to ourselves: ‘the place is as dirty as we want it to be.’ But when we arrived it was much worse. The smell was very strong. He had been without his daughter for three months, was going through a depression and there was a lot of dirt.”remember the pattern.
The women in both episodes received free therapy through a psychologist who offered to help them.
Like the people he visits, Milgrau also suffers from depression: “I do treatment and I understand the difficulties these people face.” Psychiatrist Higor Caldato explains that it’s common for someone with depression not to be able to cope with the simplest tasks.
“One of the main symptoms of depression, in addition to sadness and irritability, is loss of energy and loss of pleasure in things,” he told BBC News Brazil. And he continues: “This means that often people are unable to perform the simplest daily tasks, such as those at home and also those for personal care, such as bathing and exercising. And it’s not because the person doesn’t want to, it’s because they can’t and don’t have the energy to do their activities”.
But he points out that not everyone with depression will have these symptoms. “Today it is very common for us to perceive what we call functional depressionwhat is it the patient who, in spite of his depression, carries out his routine activities, but at the cost of much effort, of much suffering“, He says.
“There are many symptoms of depression that are considered silly, like nonsense. Ideally, seek specialist help. As these are emotional symptoms, people cannot identify them in blood tests, x-rays” , he explains.
In the case of those who can’t even clean their own house, the psychiatrist points out that clutter can make depressive symptoms worse. “It makes the person feel incapable and further increases the feeling of powerlessness and inferiority,” says Caldato.
Cleaning the house, says Milgrau, is a small step in helping someone struggling with the disease. “In the comments, many say: ‘ah, in a week everything will be like before’. But I think they can keep it [la limpieza] because that might just be the boost they need to keep going. After that, they can sleep better and even think better, ”explains the model.
The best example of how cleaning can help, he says, is his friend who participated in the first episode of the project. “He keeps the house clean to this day and always sends us a picture to show us,” says Milgrau.