The White-Knuckled Neat-Freak

After growing up in a house of hoarders, a young woman channels her inner neat-freak.

| May/June 2012

  • Knick-Knacks
    Ours was a house of things, items saved and stored just in case. We didn’t have conversations or emotions; we had stuff.
    HARLEY ENGLE/HARLEYENGLE.DEVIANTART.COM

  • Knick-Knacks

My daughter has a private corner in the living room where grownups are forbidden. “The rathole,” she and I call it. If something is missing, a measuring spoon or my eyelash curler, it can surely be found in the rathole. She sits there, wedged between the couch and the bookshelf, stockpiling her pirated items, out of the watchful eye of her clean-freak mother.

Her collections spread like ivy to her bedroom, where she saves tiny piles of pebbles and seashells, twigs and acorns. Orphaned items find new belonging in Angie’s room, transformed in her 4-year-old imagination from their ordinary purposes to something fanciful. A handful of pencils becomes a sword collection. A mixing bowl takes shape as a Jacuzzi for superhero figurines. A broken coil of vacuum hose morphs into a black snake.

“Why are you keeping this?” I ask.

“It’s a rattlesnake,” Angela says. “A nice rattlesnake.”



I hand over the broken hose and wonder how my daughter can be so much like me, yet so different at the same time.