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Coming Clean: A Memoir Kindle Edition
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Kimberly Rae Miller puts a very human face on the issue of hoarding. Her father has no memories of his childhood, at all. His parents were hard-core alcoholics and whatever happened to him in his youth was protectively erased by his brain. Her mother grew up unloved by neglectful parents. She suffers with an extreme spinal condition because her parent's couldn't be bothered to get her a back brace as a child. Kimberly's father starts as the catalyst for the hoarding situation. He's fond of papers, any paper, and radios. Their house quickly fills of them. Her mother is angry at the mess, but also ultimately resigned to it. She eventually becomes a compulsive shopper who adds to the hoard.
The hoard slowly takes over the family's life. Their first house burns down in a fire, spurred on by the mounds of paper, killing all the family pets. Her parents separate for a time, partly to keep CPS from discovering their true living conditions. The boiler explodes, and they have to start taking weekly showers at a local gym. Then they discover a surprise living in their attic, the reveal of which literally had me screeching at my Kindle.
This is a very well-written memoir, better than many I've read from professional writers. The author is likable and down to earth. I think some people will be confused, maybe even put off, by her forgiving nature to her parents. But I get it. My interest in hoarding actually comes from my husband's family-- both he and his mother have hoarding tendencies. Yet, I grew up in a dysfunctional environment, and I could relate to every inner struggle with her parents. I wish her the best of luck going forward and dealing with her parents as they continue to age.
I don't read a lot of memoirs, either because they are generally dry recitations of facts or the author seems to use her life just as fodder for comedic punchlines. By contrast, the humor in Miller's book is the gentle humor each of us experiences in our own lives, when we realize that our only options are to cry or to laugh. Having read about Miller's childhood and her ongoing battles with her parents' hoarding, I came away amazed that she not only survived but also managed to maintain a loving relationship with both parents.
What struck me most, however, was Miller's surprise that she was not the only person in the world who had to deal with hoarding. While perhaps not so extreme as to qualify as hoarders, my mother, husband, and sister-in-law's mother are (or were) extreme shoppers or lovers of paper and broken appliances which might come in handy "some day." I can assure Miller that many of us watch "Hoarders," not to laugh or "for fun," but because the program enables us to say, "There but for the grace of God go I." Reminding yourself that someone else is always worse off sometimes is the only thing that enables you to go on. I wish I could give Miller's book to every child living with a hoarding parent; I firmly believe it would help keep them from sinking into the despair which almost led Miller to commit suicide.
I highly recommend Coming Clean to anyone interested in understanding hoarding from the inside.
In my reading I found that many hoarders have similar stories to my dad. Maybe they weren’t the children of abusive alcoholics, but they were emotionally neglected at some point in their development. One of the more popular theories behind the triggers for hoarding indicates that people who were neglected emotionally as children learn to form attachments to objects instead of people"
I am not sure that I would be able to do it more than one time.