My mother was an accumulator. I keep my house as clean as possible.

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  • I grew up in a house covered in stuff from my mom’s hoarding.
  • Now I clean my house twice a day and my son knows he can’t wear his outdoor clothes at home.
  • I try to remind myself that I am no longer in my childhood home and in control of my life.

Every morning before I have breakfast, I scrub the toilet, clean the bathroom sink, wipe down all the kitchen counters, and vacuum. I put the things in their place, arrange the pillows on the couch, then step back and breathe.

My goal is to feel clean. To feel worthy of something. Worthy of something. To live, even, perhaps.

I grew up in a double-wide trailer with three other siblings, an often absent father, and a mother with a hoarding problem. For a while, things were just crowded. But over time, we were buried.

There was only a small walkway through the piles to reach our rooms – and even our beds were half buried under old newspapers, magazines and dirty clothes. It gives me chills to think back to the way things were. I remember the shower and feel my stomach turn; even the place designated to clean us was filthy. We were literally chock full of filth. We had fleas. And I don’t mean our pets had fleas – I mean we had the fleas.

Now I’m a mom myself and I try to keep my house as clean as possible.

I left my house when I was 18

One of the best things about growing is the ability to create your own habitat. I turned 18 and I flew. First there was a dormitory, then a university house, then apartments in a big city. And later, a little house for me and my little family.

I had always wanted a dollhouse – a living space that I could control. I imagined how good it would be to carefully arrange the furniture to my liking and to insist on a cleanliness that no one could deny me. Nothing that I didn’t approve of would fit into the structure. I wouldn’t even let a fake miniature newspaper walk through the doors.

But I don’t need a dollhouse anymore. My house is the dollhouse and I am the master. I clean at 6 a.m. and again at midnight. I clean until my hands hurt; I clean beyond what anyone else would rationalize. I clean as much as necessary, in an attempt to undo what has been done to me.

Today I can forgive my mother

Sometimes I wonder how my mother could love us and let us live like this. Love is not a prerequisite for perfection and mental health is fragile. My mother must have suffered. Even though I still have a hard time feeling clean, I know she never meant to hurt me. It is easier to forgive today than yesterday.

That said, it’s a tightrope that I walk. A black stain on our white tiles is enough to sow panic; the crumbs under the table give me goosebumps. My 7 year old son has learned that he is never allowed to wear his “outerwear” indoors.

It’s possible that my need to feel clean is wrapped too tightly around my sense of self – which I realize could be just as destructive as the two not being related at all.

I am doing my best. I try to remember that whether or not I grew up feeling like trash myself, I’m not here anymore, in this place, fighting to rise above the trash. I came out. I made myself a nice little house.

I wipe down every surface in my sight and pray that feeling clean now will fix what happened inside of me when I thought I didn’t deserve so much attention. than the space around me.


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