I Just Wanted to be a Normal Kid

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.475810_plastic_fork

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.

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4 thoughts on “I Just Wanted to be a Normal Kid

  1. Hi Brenda; I just found your blog. Very interesting and well written. I wanted to comment about your twitter remark regarding “attention seeking” as I work in psychiatry. I lost count of the times I read a Nurse’s Note that “the patient spent the evening in attention seeking behaviour” As I have explained to many nursing students, “if the house is on fire and you run outside yelling for help, isn’t that attention seeking behaviour?”
    Keep writing.
    By the way, my Mother was a hoarder who fussed about the way I cleaned things, after I started washing the floor, because nobody else did, and I was tired of sticking to it. I was 9 at the time.

    1. That comment about attention-seeking really resonated with me, which is why I retweeted it. Sometimes, you have to shout. And thank you for the support. It’s good to know we’re not alone in these things. Hoarding forces us to grow up too fast in some ways.

  2. donna

    As I read this i was reminded of being the only one who would clean the bathroom. I couldn’t stand the stuff around the sink and the filth aroiund the toilet. I too was criticised for the way I cleaned. I would wash the dishes and pots and pans because the sink was full and everything was dirty. All of this when I was around 10. Of course, the cleaning never met the expectations of mom, but the rest of the house was full. I too lived with the clutter and piles since the age of 4. I know this because that was when my brother was born and his birth was very traumatic. He lived but was a preemie.That birth began a spiral downward in her life. My father was an enabler. He was a work-a -holic to get away from the mess. He tried to stop her,by giving her less money to spend, but she would spend it on stuff instead of necessities and complain because she didn’t have enough money to buy food. He would then give her more money. thus, the cycle continued. Hoarding has so many issues and does make adults out of children too soon.

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