It had been twenty-four years since she’d last seen it, but the place looked the same. Junk filled from the floor all the way to the ceiling. It was a horrific sight. There was never any room to move around and people were never invited over. It would be too embarrassing to invite people over, they would find out that she lived amongst filth, and would think poorly of her.

The bathrooms reeked of urine and mold, they hadn’t been cleaned in over 2 years. The trash cans were overflowing with tissue used to wipe feces. Sometimes the tissue would not make it to the trash can, and feces would get on the walls and floor. Old clothes and food flooded the hallways and the living room, leaving the aroma equivalent to a dead body.

Finally, she opens the door to what was once her room. She couldn’t even see the room. From the door to the bed, there were clothes, food, old toys, anything you could think of, stacked from the floor to the ceiling. You couldn’t see the TV or get to the closet. All of her memories were gone, all the time she spent in that room trying to keep it clean because it was the only part of the house that she could go to and not feel dirty and ashamed.

This is what it was like growing up with a parent who’s a hoarder. Nothing was ever clean, and she’d get in trouble or yelled at for trying to clean up. Hoarders tend to be control freaks over possessions that don’t even matter, and once you try to organize their mess, they attack you in rage. She hated when people used the word ‘hoarder’ in a joking manner because to her, it is a mental illness that should be taken very seriously.

Since her mom’s mental illness was not taken seriously, she now has to inherit this junkyard of a home. Even though she spent many years telling her mother to clean it up, and that she would come and help her if need be. When she was younger, her grandma told her that if anyone outside of the family seen the condition of the home, she and her sister would be taken away from her mother due to child abuse. She lived with this fear every day.

I can’t believe that little girl was me, the little girl who grew up in a hoarded home, who is now a minimalist. Junk triggers me, and I’ll do anything to stay in a clean environment. This is why visiting the house that I grew up in after twenty-four years is quite traumatizing. I can’t help but have flashbacks and nightmares from the sight of it. I never got to have a regular life. Never had my own personal space due to the doors not being able to close because of junk. I was afraid to make friends because I thought they would ask to come over, or they would wonder why I would always come over to their houses, but they couldn’t come to mine.

This still affects me to this day. I have been on my own for a long time, and I still haven’t invited any friends over to my place because of fear of judgment. Even though my house is spotless because I clean almost every waking second that I can. I made a promise to myself that my home would never look like the one I grew up in. I hadn’t always been this clean of a person though, and I did not realize this until my first relationship.

My first boyfriend and I lived together, and he would always fuss about how I never cooked or clean. I honestly thought he was exaggerating, until one day it just hit me. I could never explain to him why I had such a hard time doing these things, I could never give him an explanation, and he always wondered why basic life tasks were so hard for me. It finally hit me that I didn’t cook a lot because I never had a kitchen to cook in or a dinner table to sit at. Where I grew up, the sink was filled with roaches and maggots. The stove had pans sitting on top of it, with molded food inside. The refrigerator had food expired from ten years ago.

I would get yelled at if I ever cleaned up. It was almost like reverse psychology. Anything that I was supposed to be doing to become an adult, like cooking or cleaning, I was banned from doing. I did not have the freedom to do those things. Being scolded for trying to clean up your home is probably one of the mind-boggling things I had to deal with. It just didn’t make sense.

To this day, the home still looks the same. You can tell that I don’t live there anymore because it looks even worse, and it was hard to think that it could get any worse than what it was. My boyfriend would always ask why he couldn’t come in, and one day I just finally broke down and told him. There was no use in holding this secret in, it would be too big of a burden. After I told him this, everything made sense to him. Why I didn’t cook or clean as often as I should, he finally knew all the reasons why. I was scared of what his reaction was going to be, but to my surprise he accepted me. Maybe because he went through his own trauma as a child, something opposite from having a hoarder parent though. Maybe because I acknowledged that I had this problem, and soon began to resolve it.

See, what most people don’t understand is, that hoarding is not just someone that never gets rid of old things or a mass collector. Hoarding is a symptom of mental illnesses like depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, and more. A person with depression may not clean up because they don’t have the will power to, or a person with depression may constantly buy things because it fills a void. A person who sufferers from schizophrenia and hoards, most of the time is not aware that the condition of their home is a problem. They sometimes don’t comprehend the concept of why they should clean, or get rid of things due to safety hazards.

At the end of the day, a child growing up in a hoarded home feels slighted. Nothing is ever normal. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, even just a regular weekend, wanting to hang out with some friends in your room. The child tends to build this wall of shame, embarrassment, and rage. Just wanting their life to be normal.

After escaping all of this, here I am twenty-four years later in the same spot. Responsible for my mother’s mess. I am left here to inherit this junkyard of a home. I made a promise to myself that if I ever have children, I will allow them space and instill in them confidence. I will leave behind things that they can benefit and prosper from, and their children, and their children’s children.