In the early days, these attempts were either met with evasion or coldness that made it clear those loved ones were not welcome anymore. Remember that hoarding is, essentially, an addiction. Forcing my father to part with his things usually caused him to lash out and otherwise act like he was in the throes of withdrawal. Shouting, throwing stuff at the walls. Some of the biggest dust-ups that I've witnessed in my family, including burnt bridges with relatives, took place on clear-out days.
And for all that effort, you knew it would only be a temporary fix for the symptom, not the underlying issue. It was like opening up a festering diabetic wound and cleaning it before patching it up and letting it fester again. What you really need to deal with is the diabetes. But how do you cure someone who doesn't want to be cured, or who can't even recognize that they need to be cured at all? It only sounds easy to someone who's never tried it.
Related: I Grew Up In A Racist Militia: 5 Things I Learned
Keeping Everything Means Keeping Nothing
During these clear-outs, dozens of lost items would turn up behind or under heaps -- a favorite childhood toy, an important letter, school yearbooks. At which point I would barely get a few seconds to decide whether I wanted to keep it or throw it away as the junk collector guy stared me in the face.
I was aware that my dad had a problem and that the clear-out was a good thing, so I'd often decide against selfishly keeping some of my stuff because I didn't want to feel like a hypocrite. There are so many things I now greatly regret tossing -- mostly toys and storybooks that constituted an important part of my childhood. My father's obsession with keeping everything meant losing it all. There's a symbolic life lesson in there somewhere.
And I did have my own stuff as a kid. I also had a good education, and an internet connection before most of my peers. I said before that none of the squalor was a result of poverty. We were almost performing poverty; we'd be eating on the floor, living in dirty surroundings, having most of our stuff rendered unusable by junk and dust. At the same time, my dad was working with influential people, including TV personalities and film actors. But there was no thought of ever having any of them over to visit. How would you ever make an outsider understand?
Related: 5 Ways Growing Up Inside Scientology Was A Nightmare
You Are Constantly Worried About Becoming A Hoarder Yourself
In a sense, I was also a hoarder as a kid, mainly because I had no concept of disposing of stuff. I had no practice. My grade school backpack and study desk at home were always full of two-or-three-year-old tests, paper planes, crumpled-up paper balls, and used pen refills I couldn't bring myself to throw away.
As I got older and became aware of how unusual and destructive these habits are, I became fixated on avoiding them. I constantly and obsessively evaluate my behavior for hoarding patterns, wary of getting too attached to things. As frequently happens with parents and offspring, we wind up over-correcting to a stupid degree. I actively ask people not to give me gifts for my birthday, for fear that I'm not going to use them and they're going to sit around gathering dust. Sure, lots of people insist that you not get them anything, but I bet they don't grab their friends by the shoulders and beg with a desperate look on their face. "No, you don't understand, you really can't get me anything! Please!"
There was this one time when I was so freaked out at the thought of someone surprising me with something for my birthday that I tried to convince them that I thought that the entire concept of gift-giving is stupid (which I don't). Every time I leave something lying in a place for a bit, I start fretting over whether I'm showing hoarding tendencies. That's something to always remember: When you meet someone who obsessively avoids some seemingly innocuous habit, remember that we're all haunted by the thing we're terrified of becoming.
And remember those kids who always seemed determined to keep you at arm's length, who backed away when you got too close. If you ever wondered what you'd done wrong, there's a good chance it was nothing at all -- they just knew that if things progressed, at some point you'd want to come over. And for one reason or another, they were desperate to make sure you never saw their place, or what went on there.
Eamon Rafi is a regular Cracked contributor writing under a changed surname so that this avoids the detection of his family. Check out his other work for Cracked on his regular profile, or his hastily compiled portfolio.
Support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.
For more, check out Yo, Man, Check Out This Rocket Launcher: Cracked In Kurdistan - Cracked Goes There With Robert Evans:
The first-ever Cracked Podcast LIVE TOUR is coming to a city near (some of) you this spring! Tickets on sale now for Chicago IL (April 11th) and St. Paul MN (April 12th).
Follow us on Facebook. And we'll follow you everywhere.