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

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  1,777 Ratings  ·  302 Reviews
A fascinating look at compulsive hoarding by a woman whose mother suffers from the disease.

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
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by Gallery Books
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Jul 08, 2011 m rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well written, at times even a page turner. However, it's a bit of a bait and switch. I picked it up thinking I was going to read "a daughter coming clean about her mother's compulsive hoarding" not "the memoir of a woman who grew up with a hoarder." There's a difference. When the book deals with the hoarding mother and the author's relationship with her, it's very interesting. Sholl should have kept to this ground. Instead, she takes long detours to tell stories of her own pedestria ...more
After reading this book, I do not feel like I have any greater understanding of hoarding behavior than I did going in. I do, however, feel like I have a much greater knowledge about scabies infections much less patience with whiny self-indulgent justification memoirs. Yeech.

Most of this book is about family drama, much (but not all) of which is caused by the hoarding behavior of the author's mother. But then there are diversions - the chapter that goes into ridiculous detail about the author's s
Jun 25, 2011 Kathrina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs-bios
This was an uneven read. The parts of her story dealing with her mother's personality were really interesting, but so much of it was clouded with Sholl's really rather grating, whiney voice and privileged lifestyle that she seems to take for granted, it was hard to maintain sympathy for her. I guess I'd have preferred a biography/case study of her mother rather than a memoir of the author. And I don't mean to demean Sholl's experience -- her childhood was not easy, but Sholl spends more time car ...more
C.J. Omololu
Jan 03, 2011 C.J. Omololu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In DIRTY SECRETS, Jessie Sholl has written the rest of my character's story. This memoir about an adult daughter dealing with her mother's hoarding and the irrational and frustrating legacy it brings to loved ones could have been written by Lucy if she'd grown up and been able to maturely face the consequences. Through her dealings with her mother as she tries to manage the hoard, Scholl has written a book that gives much-needed insight into how one person's hoarding affects everyone around them ...more
From my blog:

In this candid memoir, Jessie Sholl explores the psychological disorder of compulsive hoarding. Intricately weaving the story of her life as the child of a hoarder, Sholl reveals the depth of pain and destruction that this disease can bring to a family.

As the story opens, Jessie's mother calls to tell her that she has cancer and must sign over her house to Jessie. Horrified that her mother has cancer, but even more terrified that she might be responsible for her mother's hoarded ho
Rachel Willis
I mistakenly thought that this book was going to be about a hoarding mom and what the child did about it. Instead, the author whined and complained throughout the book, jumping around to events throughout her life, some of which I had no clue as to how they connected to the premise of the book. I didn't want to read a memoir about the author, frankly I had no idea who she was prior to reading this. I wasn't interested in her vacations or music collections, or even her marriage.

I found the author
Jan 03, 2011 G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can’t tell you how happy I am she has written this very honest book about compulsive hoarding, and what it has done to her. Jessie Sholl isn’t playing the victim here, she is simply telling the story of her life, her mother’s illness, and how it affects her entire family, to this very day. Rather than being exploitive, Dirty Secret is a refreshing tale of healing, of understanding, and of survival. If you know no one who hoards, you will still be fascinated by this book. It’s definitely an emo ...more
Caroline Leavitt
This is no ordinary mother-daughter tale. Sholl's brilliant writing hooks you in the first sentence, and doesn't let up even after the last page (How could I ever stop thinking about this book?) A true tale of her mentally-ill mother's compulsive hoarding, the book is fierce, funny, deeply compassionate, and impossible to put down. I cannot wait for her next book, but right now I'm still compulsively thinking about this one.
Jun 25, 2011 Ciara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i guess this is the first memoir ever written by the child of a hoarder. i didn't know that going on. i am just kind of interested in reading about hoarding & i like memoirs.

i really liked this book. i was reading through some of the more negative reviews on goodreads, & the consensus among the people who disliked it seemed to be, "jessie sholl came across as totally unlikeable. she treated her mom like crap."

my mom is not a hoarder like jessie's mom (my mom is basically homeless, so she
Jan 26, 2011 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I thought I liked this book better than I actually did. Jessie Sholl's mother is a hoarder and probably has other mental issues as well. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that the book's account of trying to deal with a mentally person rings true. Despite the title, however, this book is not really the story of a hoarder. This is Jessie Sholl's biography in which her mother the hoarder is a recurring character. There is way too much that is irrelevant to the story of hoarding ...more
Jan 10, 2011 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I picked this up because of my interest in "Hoarders", and related topics, and I was truly impressed with the book. The writing was crisp and the narrative compelling. Television shows barely scratch the surface of what drives a person to hoard, and this in-depth study of one woman's family was a fascinating read from start to finish. It touches on more than just hoarding--addiction, co-dependency, mother/daughter and father/daughter relationships, and depression.

Definitely a recommended read.
May 05, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone with parents who are nudging the line between thrifty and hoarder, this memoir caught my attention. Sholl begins her memoir with her mother’s announcement that she has cancer, and wants to sign over her house to her daughter. Sholl is stunned, not only by the news of her mother’s illness, but also at the thought of having to take care of the house, which she has avoided since her last cleaning purge a few years prior. Upon her visit to her mother, Sholl is horrified at the state of th ...more
Hoarding is the new Bi-Polar. The reasons why people hoard and what they hoard make for some compelling and very sad television. The episodes I see of TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive fill me with all sorts of emotions. I find myself routing for the hoarder to get better, I cry over the traumas that triggered their hoarding and I want to vomit at some of the disgusting messes they live with. Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl makes me feel none of these things.

Sholl doesn't give us a memoir about growing
Ellen Keim
Mar 12, 2011 Ellen Keim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I read this book. Not only did it give me insight into the hoarding phenomenon (or should I say syndrome?), but it also taught me a lot about codependency. Because that's what the book is really about: the author's struggle to disassociate herself from her mother's mental illness. Not that she isn't caring about what her mother goes through, but she has had to learn to stop "owning" her mother's problems. That's an important lesson to learn.

The book is well-written and easy to read exc
Jun 23, 2011 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I was really excited to read this book, because while I enjoy the show Hoarders, fitting a whole lifetime of hoarding and its affect on a family can't really be done in an hour. The parts of the book where Sholl talks about her mother, their relationship, and the condition her mom's house and mind are by far the best parts. Not so much author's various health struggles and her need to call her Mom and Dad "my mom" and "my dad" all the time. Her anger at Mean Lesbian Neighbor and the unfortunate ...more
Bree Neely
HMMMM. As much of a fan of hoarding as I am (in general and in specific), this book really didn't do it for me. The author goes into EXHAUSTIVE detail about this scabies issue she develops (from her mother's house) which, while compelling for the first 50 or 75 pages, eventually grows tiresome. She recounts every occurrence -- most of which are pretty mundane -- in similar fashion (perhaps to hide the fact that nothing actually happens in this book).

Fake example being: "My dad came and picked m
McGuffy Morris
Jan 09, 2011 McGuffy Morris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book sheds light on, literally, a dirty secret: hoarding. Ms. Sholl shows great courage in sharing this book, her secrets, and herself. I thank her for that. The book was very well done, and easy to read. I recommend it to anyone touched by hoarding, as well as those who want to understand it.
Feb 28, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a great book! It's a true story of a daughter (the author)'s perspective on her life with a hoarding mother. The psychology behind the hoarding is very well researched and really, truly insightful. It's sad, sweet, funny, and made me want to wash my sheets more and get rid of lots of household junk!
Feb 03, 2011 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I love the show Hoarders and thought this would be a compelling read. It was ok. I spent nearly the entire time I was reading this book itching from head to toe. Others will have to read it to find out why. No spoilers here!
Okay, first, a confession - I DID NOT want to read this book. This was chosen, via a vote, for the book club I'm in. I had absolutely NO interest in reading it, as those hoarding shows completely freak me out and make me physically anxious just watching a couple minutes of them. I had no plans of reading this entire book, just skimming a few pages and calling it good.

BUT, after just a chapter or two, this books completely pulled me in! This is a very well-written book, about mental illness and
Jan 06, 2012 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Girls Gone Reading
Dirty Secret does what no other book has done. It tells us what it is like to be the child of a compulsive hoarder. It explains, in detail, what long term problems arise when a parent puts things above you. Dirty Secrets brings you inside the mind of all the victims of this terrible disease.

Vivid and descriptive, Jessie Sholl made hoarding come home for me. From her description of scabies to the filth that covered her mother’s kitchen, I was mesmerized by the first hand account of this disease.
Aug 05, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I meant to put this on my currently reading list, only to realize that within a couple of days I 'm almost done with the book and most likely will finish it tonight.

It's a true story about a daughter's relationship with her mother and her mother's hoarding tendencies. And how as a young teen to her adulthood she try to deal with this issue with her mother. She really get into that how it was solved that issue, but how she tried to deal with her mother, and other family issues.

Coming from a dysf
This book blew me away. Ostensibly, it's a memoir of Jessie Sholl's childhood and adulthood (more adulthood) with her mother, who is a hoarder. But beyond being like the best episode of Hoarders ever, it's about what life is like for anyone who ever had to be the parent to their parent due to mental illness or addiction. Though the only hoarder I've ever had in my life was my ex-boyfriend (who could easily get this bad someday), nearly every word of this book hit me hard. Here is one of the man ...more
Jul 04, 2011 Laren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, medical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Sunday Book Review
I have always been a fan of shows like Hoarders. At first it was a “OMG” moment, and later grew to a “on no” moment. But even after years of watching the show it didn’t feel complete. Great, so they cleaned two rooms of the house, but what about the PERSON?

Dirty Secret covers this by placing the spotlight on one family as it tries to deal with this. The mother has cancer and the daughter tries her best to clean out the house before chemo recovery begins. You would think it would be easy! Here we
Jan 10, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This memoir was hard to put down. Jessie is 40. Her mom is a hoarder. Because of this disorder, Jessie has always taken the parental role in her relationship with her mother. Her mother is sweet and cute, but extreamly difficult to reason with because she is so self-unaware. Jessie's story is about her frustration and her struggle to distance herself from the disorder and its effects without shutting her mother out. This is really, really hard to do. I was getting frustrated for Jessie while I w ...more
Shannon Judkins
Jan 30, 2011 Shannon Judkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in 2 sittings and could not put it down. Very engaging story that reads like a novel. I was interested in Jessie's life as well as her mother's. This book had some universal themes that got me thinking about my own life, and what really stood out is that secrets will eat away at you (often unnecessarily!!) and having the courage to be authentically yourself - whatever history that includes - is incredibly liberating. When I finished the last page and reflected for a moment, I im ...more
Jul 09, 2011 Therese rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Whenever Sholl's mother was on the page, I was mesmerized. She was a tremendous, awful, wonderful, tanglible character. But when Sholl talked about herself instead, it just wasn't memoir worthy. A chapter devoted to her experience with carpal tunnell syndrome was just self indulgent and completely skippable, and Sholl describes almost all the incidental people in her life to be annoying and out to get her. The novel started out like a gripping novel but lost it's way after awhile. Would have bee ...more
Kelli Oliver George
A thoughtful, respectful book. All too often now, when you read, watch or hear about hoarders, it is done in similar terms that one would describe a freakshow act at the circus.

Sholl has not done that here. Furthermore, her relationship with her mother could easily resonate with any of us that have had to forge a different kind of relationship with a mother who is not always responsible. Sholl is frustrated with her mother, but she still loves her. And that clearly comes across in this book.
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Jessie Sholl is the author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding. She's also the coeditor of the nonfiction anthology Travelers’ Tales Prague and the Czech Republic. Her essays and stories have appeared in national newspapers and journals, and she holds an MFA from The New School University, where she currently teaches creative writing.

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“There's no demonstrable link between hoarding and early material deprivation. But there is a link between hoarding and EMOTIONAL deprivation. Many hoarders report being physically or sexually abused as children. My mother was deprived of love, affection, often even the acknowledgment of her existence, to say nothing of the beatings she endured. Her cold and chaotic childhood home was the perfect breeding ground for the mental illness that would end up affecting us all.” 3 likes
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