Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter” as Want to Read:
The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  549 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
On the front lines with extreme hoarders

The Secret Lives of Hoarders is much more than harrowing tales of attacking the ugliest, dirtiest, and most shocking hoarding cases in the country. It is a behind-the-scenes look at this hidden epidemic- what it means, how to recognize it before it gets out of hand, and how to deal with it.

Through his work with hundreds of clients i
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by TarcherPerigee (first published April 12th 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret Lives of Hoarders, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Secret Lives of Hoarders

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Janette Fuller
May 16, 2011 Janette Fuller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
According to a study by Johns Hopkins University,there are an estimated 12 million hoarders in the United States. Hoarding is not about how much stuff a person has. It's about how we process things. Most people can easily make decisions about what to keep and what to toss or donate, and then they follow through. A hoarder can't.
Matt Paxton, founder of Clutter Cleaner and star of the A & E Reality Show Hoarders, has written a book about some of his experiences working with hoarders.
"The Sec
May 18, 2011 Jeannie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone having to deal with a hoarder in their life
Shelves: i-own
This was interesting but kind of got boring for this could be because I'm a faithful viewer of the show and have learned most of what he discusses from there...not sure. All I know is I went gung-ho into reading this one as soon as I bought it and it just fizzled out for me. Matt is a true pro in what he does and really cares about the people he works with and I give him a huge thumbs up for that!
Sep 26, 2015 Cyndi rated it it was ok
This book was not what I expected. I guess I was hoping for more of the show, "Hoarders." I thought it was going to be stories about hoarders -- which there were some -- but most of it was about what to do with hoarders. The first quarter of the book was good but since I'm not dealing with a hoarding situation, the rest of the book lost my interest. BUT if you have someone in your life who IS a hoarder, this book is chock full of information and I would highly recommend.
Jul 25, 2011 Jen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Very dry. Too explanatory and not enough juicy tales. And the writing is clearly not great.

Well preferred Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.
Jul 19, 2011 Carissa rated it really liked it
It has all the fascinating horrors of the "Hoarders" TV show without having to actually see all the dead cats.

I was a little disappointed it wasn't entirely case studies and stories. The stories were there, and they were well written, but they were interspersed between advice on helping and dealing with hoarders.
May 12, 2016 S rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It talks about different levels of hoarding, and follows people who are at at some level of the spectrum, from what caused it, cleaning everything out, and their long-term results. There are also resources at the end. The writing style was pleasantly smooth, and it was an easy read; I admit to organizing more than normal while reading this book. 4*
Jul 11, 2015 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I've never seen the TV show Hoarders, so I wasn't familiar with Matt Paxton. What comes through in his book, which describes how he helps people with hoarding tendencies, is how he treats them with respect and kindness -- all the while describing his techniques for helping them declutter for good.
Dec 05, 2011 Natalie rated it really liked it
An interesting, quick read. I like that Paxton clearly defines his company's process and their standards for assessing and assisting hoarders and their hoards without being sensationalist or judgmental.
Jan 28, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
This is probably the ideal book for family and friends of hoarders.
Mar 10, 2017 Donia rated it liked it
Shelves: own-but-unread
Interesting and fast. You really need to watch the show to understand everything he refers to.
I'm kind of obsessed with those hoarding shows on TV, which makes me feel like a terrible person. When I watch those shows, I feel voyeuristic and judgmental, but I CAN'T STOP. And I think it's because I could totally see myself as a hoarder, had I made a few different life decisions. I guess I watch to remind myself of what I don't want to become.

And I guess those are the same reasons I picked up this book, although let's be honest - I was really hoping for more juicy, real-life details and sto
Kitty Jay
Somewhat embarrassingly, I had to dig under a pile of papers on my desk to find this book. The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton, however, does a marvelous job of explaining the difference between "messy" and "hoarding".

I have never seen the show Hoarders, which always struck me by the way people spoke of it as vaguely exploitative. I know a number of people who watch the show purely to motivate them to clean their houses, and to gasp in revulsion at the detritus that accumulates in a hoa
Moxie Carroll
Jul 15, 2011 Moxie Carroll rated it really liked it
Matt Paxton, author, is as approachable and informative as Matt Paxton, clutter cleaning expert on the television show "Hoarders." This book is a very useful first exposure to the challenges and struggles of being a hoarder, or being someone who loves a hoarder.

Though repeated examples of people he has worked with (albeit with names changed and/or characters composited), Matt outlines what he considers the Five Stages of Hoarding. These are not medical definitions but instead are based on what h
Ashley Shaffier
Jul 07, 2012 Ashley Shaffier rated it liked it
This was an insightful book for anyone that knows a hoarder and doesn't know how to deal with the situation. It gave a lot of useful information about how to approach them and what techniques work like helping them make the decision for themselves rather than giving them an ultimatum. It also helped explain why people hoard certain things and that once it's cleaned they still need to deal with the mental issues.
The book was also helpful in determining if you are really dealing with a hoarder an
Lori Summers
Last fall I read a fairly comprehensive book about hoarding, "Stuff" by Randy Frost and Gail somebody (it's on my read shelf if you're interested), which was excellent and informative. This one is more how-to, more practical, and much more -- shall we say, casual? It's written by Matt Paxton, who became what passes for famous from being frequently featured with his company Clutter Cleaners on the A&E show "Hoarders." Matt is pretty awesome on the show, pragmatic and empathetic, and he knows ...more
Apr 26, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
"The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter" was a book I really wanted to read, because I really enjoy watching its author, Matt Paxton, on the A&E TV show Hoarders.

On the show, Matt is very common-sense with hoarders, while still giving them compassion in a “tough love” type of way. After reading this book, I think the book is somewhat misnamed. You won’t really learn about any “secret lives,” but the book is a great starting place for learning about hoarding, a
Aug 08, 2011 Karyl rated it it was amazing
Matt Paxton, owner of Clutter Cleaner and frequently appearing on A&E's "Hoarders," has written a book about his experiences with these troubled people. It's all the emotion and compassion of the show on A&E, without the sensationalism and family drama. Instead of focusing on the family members yelling at one another and placing blame, Paxton states over and over again that the hoarder needs love and attention and positive reinforcement, to be shown that he or she is worth having a clean ...more
McGuffy Morris
Aug 13, 2011 McGuffy Morris rated it it was amazing

This is a very interesting book, based on the cable TV show “Hoarders”, which airs on
A & E. The book is written by the owner of Clutter Cleaners, Matt Paxton, who also is an expert and speaker on issues of hoarding.

The book is full of case studies of hoarders, including how it begins, causes, and then recognition and resolution. There are reasons explained as to why some people begin to hoard. Also discussed are odd items people have been known to hoard. The psychology of hoarding is sorted
Lee Anne
May 25, 2011 Lee Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matt Paxton, billed as an "Extreme Cleaning Specialist" on the A&E reality series "Hoarders," is (along with Dr. Robin Zasio) one of my favorites on the show. He is often the voice of reason, and gives as good as he gets when the hoarders resist efforts to clean their homes.

I was expecting this book to be more case studies of individual hoarders, following them through treatment and progress. Instead, although it does have many stories of hoarders, it is really a guide to why hoarders hoard,
Jul 06, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
The Secret Lives of Hoarders is a great overview of hoarding. You may already be familiar with the author, Matt Paxton, if you watch the A&E TV show Hoarders since his company is one of the ones the show uses to help clean out the houses of hoarders. Paxton is definitely writing this book from the perspective of all the hoarders he has personally helped, but he also understands addiction as well since he explains that he used to have a gambling addiction that caused him to have to start over ...more
Carrie Bowers
Aug 08, 2011 Carrie Bowers rated it really liked it
Matt Paxton gets eyeballs-deep into the world of hoarders as he and his company, Clutter Cleaners, assist in cleaning up the cluttered existences of many people. Since Matt is not a psychologist, the books remains free of a lot of medical jargon, but rather he interprets the stages and degrees of hoarding into layman's terms, based on his own observations. He divides his book into diagnosing the stages, how to help, creating clean up plans, how to manage the actual cleaning up, and how to provid ...more
Loree Elton
Mar 10, 2015 Loree Elton rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone new to the concept of hoarding
An interesting read, very much in the voice of the author if you're familiar with the A&E show "Hoarders." There is good advice here, but the majority of the book is anecdotal in nature and reviews a small number of cases that the author has encountered in his work. So while there are some basic outlines regarding the who, how and why of hoarding, this is more a general overview or introduction for someone new to the concept. I would recommend this wholeheartedly to that audience. One of the ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
I "know" Matt from Hoarders, and from a spot of online communication. I think he's a genuinely good person, and for that reason, I really enjoyed hearing about cleanup from his perspective.

I think that the title (which, to be fair, was probably chosen by the publisher) is misleading. This is more of a guide for family members or other social support coping with a hoarder, assuming that a cleanup is imminent. Matt doesn't go into detail about psychology because he is not a psychologist, and he do
Main Idea: Paxton owns and operates a cleaning service that specializes in helping hoarders clean house and change their hoarding behaviors.

Why I picked it up: I was fascinated by the true story of the brothers Homer and Langley who were some of the more well-known hoarders in history. I wanted to know more about the condition.

I can only describe this book as fascinating. It was bittersweet to read the stories of the people featured in this book. Paxton cares for his clients and that comes thro
Jun 07, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
Matt Paxton is a funny guy and uses his humor to handle difficult situations while working with hoarders, but he also has a big heart and truly cares for these people. In the book, Paxton discusses some of his former clients as well as giving advice on dealing with your own clutter/hoarding problem. He also goes into how to help someone someone in your life with a hoarding problem. Paxton is not a mental health professional so comes at things from a different angle than his cohosts on Hoarders l ...more
Tyrannosaurus regina
The title suggests a kind of lurid tell-all, filled with descriptions intended to fascinate and disgust in equal measure, but this book isn't that at all. Part case study and part instruction manual, what struck me most was how non-judgmental, respectful, and most of all kind the entire tone of the book was. This is someone who is sympathetic to what some people are up against, and who has adapted and found several strategies for dealing with it in a very practical way.

Much like when I used to w
Feb 10, 2013 Stephanie rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but it took me a very long time to get through because of the subject matter. I am a big fan of Matt Paxton's reality TV show "Hoarders", but I also work with a lot of people that exhibit hoarding tendencies or are full-on "level 5" hoarders. I am a professional organizer, and I guess after going into these hoarded homes and trying to help the people clean up / organize / realize what is triggering the behavior / encourage them to seek or continue going to therapy, it felt l ...more
This book was interesting enough but it was depressing. I think it was just bad timing on this book. Our book club has been picking lots of books having to do with social disorders. It's kind of draining. The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking ....this is just like the show "Hoarders." Then I find out at the end that the author is part of the show. The thing I found disturbing was that Matt spoke of his clients almost like they were animals he was observing in the wild. Also I re ...more
Sandra Strange
If you've seen the TV program of hoarders, you know this author and his topic. This book uses his experiences with this sad group of people to discuss kinds and degrees of people who hoard--whether they hoard clothes, animals, garbage--or everything, giving insights about the psychology of these unfortunates and the people who suffer because of them or enable and defend their psychological problem. The book is well written and easy and fun to read if you're interested in people of all kinds and ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Meg rated it really liked it
Unfortunately, because I've seen pretty much every episode of Hoarders and listened to every episode of Matt's podcast (5 Decisions Away), there was a lot of stuff in here that wasn't new to me. Though there were some things that surprised and delighted me about what he does.

BUT it is still the perfect guide to anyone wanting to learn about hoarding, especially if there's somebody in their life they want to help.

Matt takes us through every stage of the process of helping a Hoarder clean up, and
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
  • Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding
  • Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It
  • Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding
  • Conquering Chronic Disorganization
  • Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why it Takes Balls to Go Nuts
  • The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor's Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945
  • Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring
  • The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life
  • "We Were Five:" the Dionne Quintuplets' Story From Birth Through Girlhood to Womanhood
  • Crazy All the Time: On The Psych Ward of Bellevue Hospital
  • Bodies Under Siege: Self-mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry
  • I See Rude People: One woman's battle to beat some manners into impolite society
  • I Can't Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors
  • Setting Boundaries® with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents
  • Switch

Share This Book

“For Wendy and Sam, the best rule was "everything has a home.” We made a list of their main household items and where they went - for example, pill bottles in the bathroom medicine cabinet, laundry in the hamper, and food in the kitchen cabinets. This may seem like a fundamental rule that everyone learns as a child, but many hoarders didn’t pick that up either because they grew up in hoarding houses themselves, or they grew up in traumatic households where finding a meal and avoiding a beating was a daily reality. Cleaning was the least of their worries.” 1 likes
“I’ve learned that for hoarders, every cleanup is a grieving process. We are asking them to say goodbye to items that are heavy with memories - some wonderful, some painful. But all are important and deserve respect. A hoarder finds safety in the hoard, in the stacks and piles, and he or she will grieve over the loss of those items when they are gone. The week after the house cleaning is usually the worst. Instead of being happy and enjoying the new space, hoarders go through a difficult process. They miss their possessions, which were their closest friends for years.” 1 likes
More quotes…