Pittsburgh, PA

Daughter comes to terms with cluttered home: "Mom held on to things because she was forced to let go"

Amy Christie

Growing up, Jacqueline LeKachman always avoided inviting any friends to her house because she didn't want them to be shocked by the way it looked inside. She kept dreaming of having a house where people would actually get a chance to sit on couches or even to see the floor without other things covering it, and that affected her relationship with her mother.

As an adult, she knows the reasons that drove her mom to keep as many things as she could. As they're slowly rebuilding their relationship, the daughter now realizes that the losses her mom went through made her very reluctant to part with things.

What are the details?

As she walks through her Manhattan apartment, Jacqueline keeps looking at the floor and is reminded of the many times in her childhood when the living room floor was full of handmade cards and plenty of other things. Because of the way her home looked when she was growing up, she is careful to be neat and has no misplaced shirt or dish anywhere in sight.

However, the past still has connections with how she feels today as an adult.

"Having a parent who hoards, sometimes I feel untidy regardless," she shared with Insider about how her mom's habits affected her as a child and years on.

"Growing up, I knew that my mom loved me. She always made my top favorite chicken-salad sandwich for lunchtime. She wrote notes wishing me luck on my tests. And when I said I wanted to be a writer, she had my amateur stories bound," Jacqueline said.

The problems started after they moved

Jacqueline and her family lived in four other states before finally settling in Pittsburgh. And that's when things started to pile up.

"When we settled in Pittsburgh, my mom's clutter got worse: dusty childhood drawings, discarded plastic bags, and decade-old mail. The mess littered all household surfaces, rooms became unusable, and our foosball table didn't see field time for years," she recalls.

As the objects gathered and free space was hard to find at home, Jacqueline constantly avoided meeting her friends at her place.

"As debris multiplied, I made sure to avoid my peers' gazes each time we discussed getting together. Once, after six years of invitations to her house, my friend Lexi exclaimed, 'I've never visited your place.'"

Jacqueline would usually make up an excuse to prevent any reunion inside her home, but that time was different. Somehow, she took the plunge and told the truth about what was going on.

"This was generally where I quipped about dad needing quiet time for work or our house being 'disorganized right now.' To my surprise, I confessed. 'My mom has a problem, and our house is messy. Like, can't walk messy,' I said," Jacqueline recalls.

Her friend was definitely surprised, and a moment of silence passed. And then they shared a huge hug.

Those moments marked a bond between them, and based on that understanding, Lexi always invited her to come to her house.

"She kept inviting me in after that. Visiting Lexi's house, I was awestruck. So people had clean floors and couches that you could sit on? I wondered if I'd ever have such a life. I spoke out when my family's dog, Asta, was constrained within a 12-by-12, litter-free space. Watching her, I felt a kinship," the woman said.

She asked her mom why they couldn't make the house look all nice and clean, and she was met with a sigh.

Jacqueline got upset and still couldn't believe it would ever happen. And talking to her dad didn't help either.

"When I told my dad how I felt, he'd joke about living in a glorified filing cabinet. One day, he told me: 'As a kid, I loved inviting friends over. I regret that you can't. But there's a bigger picture here.'"

The past helped Jacqueline find a way to understand her mom

"She had to leave graduate school to care for her ailing mother. For the holidays, my mom was alone with her last parent as she passed away. I imagined how I would feel without my mom, who gifted me a trophy for performing in my school musical, and who saved all her parents' china for me. Would I cling to things if my mom were ripped away? And suddenly, I understood her. Mom held on to things because she was forced to let go," Jacqueline said.

And when her daughter left for college, the mom had to let go once again.

Then, one day, something unusual happened.

"After I went to New York for college, mom had to let go of me. Having my own space, I analyzed how our relationship worked. So many questions remain unanswered. But recently, my dad sent me a photo of their spotless living-room floor. Mom had cleaned."

Jacqueline was so surprised that she called to find out what had motivated her mom to finally find the energy for the long-awaited cleanup.

"'I don't know why it happened,' she told me when I asked. 'I was looking for something, I suppose.' 'What prevented you from doing this sooner?' I questioned. 'I was always busy with you and your siblings,' she said. 'I may have done better at balancing, but you're always my priority.'"

Once they were done talking, her words brought added meaning.

"It wasn't overdone; it was just honest. Our communication has since improved, even though her hoarding still affects both of us. After my boyfriend left, I felt relieved that I wouldn't ever bring him home," Jacqueline added.

While she is still trying to accept that things can't always be neat, she feels that there is hope for the future and that they communicate better each time they see each other.

"I'm still trying to deal with the mess, to acknowledge all the uncertainty. But that photo of the clean floor and our talks mean more to me than anything I've ever owned. They show that even if the past leaves marks on the present, the future holds more promise," she concluded, feeling hopeful about what the future has in store for her family.




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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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