For the most part, I know the people who come into my home don’t judge me if it’s messy. Because I know messiness doesn’t equal hoarding. I’m not neat and tidy. I have trouble with organization. I blame this on years of living in cluttered and unorganized surroundings. I didn’t learn the skills to keep up a house. My friends all had chores to do growing up. I never did.
Once, I asked my mom if I could do the dishes. I wanted to do chores to earn an allowance. I wanted to be like all the other kids.
She let me for a while. We only used plastic utensils so I washed them and dried them and put them back in the drawer. After a week or so of this, she didn’t let me wash them anymore because I did it wrong. Or, I dared to spill water on the counter. I can’t remember which. For a bit, she continued to give me an allowance just because, I guess.
I remember it very clearly. For some holiday, my parents had received a large tube that was filled with Tootsie Rolls. The lid had a slot for coins so it could be used as a bank once the candy was gone. My allowance was tucked safely away in there, $5 at a time.
One day, my mom decided to take it all. Yes, I know I didn’t earn the money in there, but she wouldn’t let me complete chores to earn it. She gave me the money anyway out of the kindness of her heart, I guess. Then she just up and took it one day. “I buy you things all the time,” she said and took the cash without explanation.
I realize my parents probably had a bill to pay or something. But at the time, it just reinforced the idea that I wasn’t normal. Other kids were allowed to do chores. Other kids earned allowances. Other kids didn’t have their allowances taken away because their mothers decided their child had been given enough things and didn’t deserve the money anymore.
I felt worthless.
And that’s what the psychology of living with hoarders does to you. It makes you feel worthless. Ashamed. Since hoarding is an anxiety disorder and often related to OCD, you are also made to feel worthless because you can’t live up to impossible standards set forth by the hoarder. My mom made me feel useless on a daily basis. I couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t even clean things right, which is very strange when you’re surrounded by clutter and piles of junk. What does that do to a child’s mind?
Everyday when I got home from school she’d say, “God, I can tell when you’re home,” and proceeded to inch a coaster a little bit more to the right or move my backpack so that it leaned at just the precisely right angle. She’d laugh at me and while she probably thought she was poking innocent fun at my obvious lack of care, it cut deep. Because nothing about her criticisms made sense. I realize now that those criticisms came from a diseased mind. Of course they wouldn’t make any sense. Still, when she said I was messy, I thought I must have been really messy. I mean, look at the rest of the house?
I felt like I was to blame somehow and was actively made to feel like I was the reason the hoarding started in the first place.
But more on that later.