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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hoarding~ "Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding"

Publisher:  Gallery Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Date published:  January 2011
Pgs:  311  Plus Reading Group Guide
Paperback Edition and Ebook

"To be the child of a compulsive hoarder is to live in a permanent state of unease. Because if my mother is one of those crazy junk-house people, then what does that make me?"

When her divorced mother was diagnosed with cancer, New York City writer Jessie Sholl returned to her hometown of Minneapolis to help her prepare for her upcoming surgery and get her affairs in order. While a daunting task for any adult dealing with an aging parent, it’s compounded for Sholl by one lifelong, complex, and confounding truth: her mother is a compulsive hoarder. Dirty Secret is a daughter’s powerful memoir of confronting her mother’s disorder, of searching for the normalcy that was never hers as a child, and, finally, cleaning out the clutter of her mother’s home in the hopes of salvaging the true heart of their relationship—before it’s too late.
Growing up, young Jessie knew her mother wasn’t like other mothers: chronically disorganized, she might forgo picking Jessie up from kindergarten to spend the afternoon thrift store shopping. Now, tracing the downward spiral in her mother’s hoarding behavior to the death of a long-time boyfriend, she bravely wades into a pathological sea of stuff: broken appliances, moldy cowboy boots, twenty identical pairs of graying bargain-bin sneakers, abandoned arts and crafts, newspapers, magazines, a dresser drawer crammed with discarded eyeglasses, shovelfuls of junk mail . . . the things that become a hoarder’s “treasures.”

With candor, wit, and not a drop of sentimentality, Jessie Sholl explores the many personal and psychological ramifications of hoarding while telling an unforgettable mother-daughter tale.

My Review:

Jessie Sholl's book is absorbing and enlightening.  It stands alone as a book revealing the heartaches and horrors of being the child of a hoarder.  And, she carries us along with her as she writes her very novel-like history of dealing with her own obsession to make her mother different -- cured of her hoarding, and "normal."

Ms Sholl is an accomplished author.  Her writing is clear and concise, taking us swiftly along her story as if she's sitting in the same room telling us...spell-binding us. This is a story that will give yet unheard of insight into both the hoarder's mindset, and that of those who try to make their own lives make sense. It may also open some eyes to their own pre-hoarding tendendancies.

One of the most profound inside confessions of Ms Sholl is the horror she and her family experienced when she contracted a bug from her mother's house.  This was something I would literally have lost my mind over!  This singular incident would have sent me over the edge and made me react differently altogether to my mother and her hoarding.  However, Jessie Sholl's love of her mother reveals itself in a very telling manner...which I won't spoil by detailing here.

While Ms Sholl gives a comprehensive account of her mother's background and life as a hoarder, as well as her own life as a daughter secondary in her mother's heart to hoarding, Jessie also explains the disease in total.  An awful and seemingly discouraging property of hoarding is that it cannot be "cured."  The medical world has finally come to see it as a mental illness that seems to be triggered by a tremendous loss in some instances, but there is nothing that can "fix" the problem.  When teams and family come in to clear out the home, and therapy ensues--the hoarder only resists, relapses and continues.

I found Jessie Sholl's book to be immanently readable and enlightening. It has made me want to know more about hoarding and hoarders in general.  Frankly, it's become less a disorder to laugh at on "Hoarders."  Any time we can understand a disease at its roots, we can be more sympathetic toward those whose life it affects.  And when we can reach that point, it makes us more whole as a community.  This is the treasure of Ms Sholl's book.  She is the crusader that will hopefully give hope to children of hoarders, and understanding to those of us who look from the outside.

5 stars for this enlightening book and congratulations to Jessie Sholl

*Please share in comments anything you have to say about hoarders you've encountered and how it's affected you.




This is a book I would like to read. No, I am not a hoarder but I have seen the show a few times and my mouth hung open. Honestly, I feel sorry for these people, it is an illness. Great review and a book added to Mt. TBR.


I absolutely loved her book. It is so nice to know other book bloggers out there are reviewing it!

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