Growing Up With a Hoarder
Kimberly Rae Miller grew up in a flea-infested home filled floor to ceiling with junk. Read an excerpt from her new memoir, "Coming Clean," about how she survived her family's secret shame.
I could pass the flea bites off as mosquito bites most of the time, but there was a constant fear that one would jump from my hair or clothes in school and people would see them. That people would know that I was flea infested.
The dogs fared worse than we did though; there weren't enough flea collars in the world to keep them safe. I hated seeing my little Cocker Spaniel Jewel's coat turn from light blond to a rusty red color from the fleas' blood-drenched dander.
The downstairs had become a relative swamp ground. It never seemed to dry out from the flooding, and so when we did walk through it, the inches of trash would squish beneath our feet, creating an unsteady terrain. The living room, dining room, and den, spaces I thought my father would never find enough things to fill, had floor to ceiling piles of boxes and bags of paper and knickknacks, things that had been purchased and put down and long forgotten. We gave up the kitchen and survived solely on fast food and hermetically sealed snacks we could keep in our bedrooms.
I often felt like I had two different families. There was the family we were at home, where we lived every man for himself. There wasn't room anywhere anymore, in the four-bedroom house with the two-car garage and attic big enough to convert to an apartment, for us all to fit somewhere together, and so we each found our own station. My mother spent most of her time on the small corner of mattress that was left for her to sleep. Over the years, her mattress had started to slide off the box spring, pushed aside by the spoils of her constant shopping. The side of the bed she slept on teetered at a 45-degree-angle, while the half of her mattress still firmly planted on a flat surface had been taken over by stuff. The rest of her time was spent in front of the computer. As the house deteriorated, so had my parents' friendships, and so my mother spent most of her time talking with people she had met in AOL chat rooms, people who couldn't see her twisted body or garbage-filled house.
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