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.
My father either sat on his mattress in the sea of paper that was his bedroom or in the driver's side of the car, and I had my room.
My bedroom was no better than the rest of the house. My parents, especially my mother, were generous in their shopping. Lacking for anything was never my problem, but I didn't value anything I owned. Everything that came into my house was garbage. It was easier to throw out my dirty clothes than to get the width of a laundry basket through the front door to a Laundromat. Every few months I would purge my room of the dirty clothes, unused spoils of late night shopping binges, and hallway debris that made its way into my haven into big black plastic bags until the floor was visible, but it would only be a matter of weeks before I had new things and new clothes to take their place.
The family we were outside the house was completely different. My father arranged his work schedule around shuttling me to my seemingly endless array of afterschool activities. I would go to kickline, voice lessons, and youth ambulance corp meetings, while he and my mother would sit in the car. Over the years they'd gone from fighting all the time to barely talking at all while in the confines of the house, but in the car they were still the same. When I would come out from dance class or acting class or my voice lessons or from a brunch shift at the restaurant I waitressed at, they were there, laughing.
"Hi honey, how was class?" was my mother's standard greeting, followed by "Okay Kiddo, where to next?" from my dad. And there always was a next place to be. We ate out almost every night, a byproduct of having abandoned the kitchen. In these moments we were at our best, because unlike in the car, which was almost always filled with bags of my father's papers, in a restaurant we were completely free. We laughed—loud and often in the kind of humor that only seems to make sense in families. My father could laugh so loud and for so long that the people seated around would start laughing, too.
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