What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by an anonymous reader

I didn’t understand it when I was little. I knew our house was messy. I knew that every flat surface…. floor, table, bed, TV…. was covered. Covered in stuff. But, as a kid, I couldn’t see the problem. I thought we just needed to clean. Maybe if we cleaned, then I could have friends over. Maybe if we cleaned, we could have family over. Maybe if we cleaned, my mom would be in a better mood.

After I grew up, I started to realize that the conditions we lived in weren’t normal. I learned a word for it: hoarding. Nothing was ever thrown away in our house. Broken toys, baby clothes, paperwork…. all kept. Stacked in every corner.

I thought maybe it was an easy fix. Just talk to my mom. Offer to help sort. Get it cleaned up. My sister offered too. But… that’s not how it works. She was insistent that everything there was valuable. That nobody understood the value except her. That she was the only one who could sort through it all.

Ten years ago, she moved. Moved to get away from the mess. To escape the clutter and dirt. Yet… the house still hasn’t been sold. It can’t be. It’s full…. wall to wall… full of stuff. And still… she insists… it’s not a problem. She is cleaning it out all the time. It’s almost done she says.

I want you to know that hoarding is a mental illness. It’s not something you can just haul in a dumpster and fix. It will build up over and over again.

As as adult, I have gone the other way. I can’t stand knick knacks. I hate clutter. It makes me feel like a bad person when my house is messy. I don’t want to go back. I never want to live like that again. But instead, I’ve gone the other way. I’ve become OCD about getting rid of things. Donating to Goodwill is a moment of pure joy for me.

But, where does this leave my children? Will they follow my organized ways? Or will they react opposite? Or will they rebel against their childhood and become hoarders? Saving all the stuff that I never let them keep?

I want you to know that hoarding is a mental illness. It affects the children… and their children…. and who knows how far it goes.