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Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Child of Hoarding & Addiction

This is pretty serious stuff for first thing in the morning, but our son was asking me about the house I grew up in, so it got me thinking about it. First, my parents were hoarders, alcoholics, and had a lot of other problems, too, but at their core they were loving. I wouldn't be who I am without their support. They just didn't teach very good habits at the same time.

The house I grew up in was small, old, decrepit, and filled with junk. The floors were covered. The furniture was covered. We had rooms we couldn't even go in. And we're talking gross stuff, too, not the rich people who buy too much stuff. When I started visiting the houses of neighborhood kids I realized just how different our house was. I wouldn't even want to have friends over. That's about the time I started trying to literally dig my way out of it.

It started with a shed...

I hated being in the house. Felt trapped at times. We had an old, falling over shed out back. I went in their one day--I was probably 8--it was filled with garbage, and I decided I wanted to turn it into a fort. I spent days and days pulling out garbage, bringing in abandoned furniture, and even obsessively sweeping dirt into a smooth floor and walkway. I did my own landscaping with discarding bricks and stones. It probably looked ridiculous, but it felt good!

By the time I was done, that old shed was as sparkling as a rotting shed with a dirt floor could be.

I brought in my set of pocket-sized novels and set them on an old book shelf. I loved it. Of course, it rained and ruined most of the work, but still, it felt good!

I did the same thing with a corner desk and book shelves in our living room, cleaned the lower levels off and cleaned out the corner, then set up my own little den in there with couch cushions, an tiny old black and white tv, my used Nintendo, had my own little bachelor pad. It was awesome. But, still, the rest of the house was awful and I was getting bigger (both vertically and horizontal; eating habits were good in the house either).

So, finally, I decided one day that I would take the master bedroom that no one was using and was practically piled to the ceiling with junk, and I was going to make it my own. This was about 5th grade. It took forever and I don't have any idea what I did with all that junk now, but I cleaned it out completely, cleaned the wood floors, rearranged furniture until it was PERFECT. And it was awesome...

My own space. A sanctuary.

Later that year or the next, we finally moved from that house. I remember standing in that room, the only clean one of the house, and throwing a bouncy ball around, listening to the echo. I was going to miss that room, and I didn't know where we were going, but I was happy to get out of that town and felt a sense of pride knowing that I'd transformed my little world. I was excited about the possibilities.

We moved on...

And I've claimed a spot in each house since and kept it pristine... for the most part. I do still have the tendencies of a hoarder; I mean, I didn't exactly learn how to be normal from my parents. That behavior was engrained at an early age. When I get overwhelmed with work and life, I start to pile, but my anal retentive side always kicks in and I go on a cleaning/organizational spree. Gets to the point where I'm organizing cupboards with labels facing out (worked at K-Mart for a while). Like I just did this morning after talking with our son and starting to feel that cluttered panic again. Like claustrophobia. I start looking around at each thing that should be put up, any dirt that might be the floor. It gets a little intense. It's like a monster creeping up on me and I have to fight back. It'll probably always be there.

To cut a potentially longer blog shorter (maybe someday I'll write an autobiography and fill in the gaps and details that correspond with this story) digging out of that hoarding probably defined who I am as a person now. I was fat as a kid, I fought against that, lost all the weight and discovered that controlling what I eat and how hard I work for it, I can transform myself. Same with growing up poor and without opportunity, I found that dependent upon how hard I work, I can transform my life. So, perhaps I have my parents to THANK for that. If I hadn't grown up that way, maybe I'd be a lazy bum now. :o)

Anyway, my main purpose wasn't to rant, but to get other people's stories and, yeah, to share the story of someone fighting against passing on those tendencies to the next generation.

We won't allow our kids to know what that life was like.

So, we fight every day to make sure we're staying afloat, moving forward in our careers and giving the kids a nice place to live and nice parents to live with! We're not always perfect, but it's so much better!

So, please share your stories! 
How did growing up with hoarding shape your life? Did you become a hoarder? Do you have tendencies? Did you beat it? It does feel good to get it out. I mean, it was a big secret growing up, but that was just more reason for the hoarders to not deal with it. Keep it hidden and it doesn't exist, right?


Thanks for reading!

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