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Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  624 ratings  ·  134 reviews
Hilarious and poignant, a glimpse into the mind of someone who is both a sufferer from and an investigator of clutter.

Millions of Americans struggle with severe clutter and hoarding. New York writer and bohemian Barry Yourgrau is one of them. Behind the door of his Queens apartment, Yourgrau’s life is, quite literally, chaos. Confronted by his exasperated girlfriend, a glo
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published August 10th 2015 by W. W. Norton Company
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Michael Kocinski I'm reading it now. I like the writing. It's funny and glib and Yourgrau is obviously smart. I don't like how he handles his relationship and I don't …moreI'm reading it now. I like the writing. It's funny and glib and Yourgrau is obviously smart. I don't like how he handles his relationship and I don't like his lack of urgency--but he's a real person, not a character, and I understand he's 'going through' something. And if I'm being honest I relate to his habit of digressing into distractions and pining over heartbreak. So maybe I don't like him because I identify too well. What did you think of the book?

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Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Number of visible cardboard boxes in my place, empty or full: 45
Number of shopping bags with handles, large and small, in visible use: 22

Well . . . this one hit home.

The book begins with Yourgrau's girlfriend begging for admittance to his 700-square foot apartment. He is too ashamed of the way it looks to let her in. And when he mentions that he is embarrassed to allow repairmen through the door, it all came flooding back to me.

That's how I used to live.

My mother was an animal collector. I grew
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Personal struggle memoirs (though "Mess" is classified as mental health - hoarding book), like personal travel writing, are very hard to get the correct balance and tone. Talking about oneself is in itself not insightful or interesting. The world of social media proves that over and over. Likewise, traveling across the globe and sitting at the Taj Mahal while reflecting on roads not taken back in Kansas, or the author moaning over their continuing struggles with baggage claims, does an injustice ...more
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a mix of emotions I felt while reading this memoir of an extreme clutterer and how he, as the subtitle says, cleans up his house and his act.

First, I felt sympathy. After all, I know what my guest room currently looks like. It has become a dumping ground for unmade decisions and it’s one of my projects for February—get it fit to receive guests once again. It’s very hard in a society such as ours, which pushes consumerism and acquisition as the route to salvation, to keep clutter under cont
Julia Mitchell
Aug 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book is trying way too hard to defend the author's lifestyle habits with quasi-intellectual references and illusions to literature/history/romanticized views of why he is....a hoarder. It's not good. I couldn't even finish it even though this is the type of subject matter I'm interested in.
Erin Boyington
Jan 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Ugh. Whiny, self-absorbed New Yorker sponges off of his girlfriend and procrastinates cleaning up his messy apartment. I admit I gave up on this one. I just didn't care about his thoughts and feelings, or about his clutter, or about his reliance on psychobabble over action. ...more
Eva Smith
Feb 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
By the time I finished this book – skipping through much of the last section – I really didn’t like this Mess or the author.

He is a kept man – intellectual arm-candy with a British accent for a successful woman who feeds him and takes him with her on round-the-world trips. Otherwise Yourgrau sits in his small apartment – not a house – and dabbles at writing and surfing the Web. The apartment is a hand-me-down from his girlfriend who moved into a bigger apartment where he goes for food and entert
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm conflicted about this book. On the one hand I think the more stories we have about mental disorders, the better equipped we are to blast apart stereotypes and stigma about those illnesses. I have no doubt that someone will recognize themselves in this book, and perhaps be moved to begin the tough job of healing. If so, this book has done a service to those who are often disenfranchised and isolated, and should be commended.

That said, this was not a book I particularly enjoyed. It could have
Apr 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
It's hard to even explain how bad this book is. The ramblings of a spoiled, immature person who refuses to accept any facet of his situation. He is enabled by those around him to his continued delight. He constantly is looking for validation of his various mental health issues as if he desperately wants to be labeled with a diagnosis he can trot out as yet another excuse. ...more
This is a quirky book, from an admittedly quirky author. It’s about Barry Yourgrau's attempt to clean up his apartment. He isn't sure if he's a hoarder or not, he likes to think he's just a messy collector, but when his girlfriend comes to visit and can't get into the door because of all the stuff, well something has to be done. So begins The Project. Yourgrau has a tendency to desperately try connecting himself to almost anything, which is an unnecessary part of the narrative. Like the Collyer ...more
Douglas Lord
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Catalyzed by the shame and ‘hypersensitive intimacy” of his girlfriend seeing all the crap he’s living amid, Yourgrau begins to slowly dig himself out. The process, while quite honest, is fairly mundane; less an Updikean excavation than it is simply making a decision to make decisions. Unfortunately the author’s grandiosity streak is a bit much. He decides to “chronicle” his ordeal, to “descend into the existential bowels of my beleaguered self” and “be a questing pilgrim slob, on a twelve-stati ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I have to be honest: I did not enjoy this book. I wanted to, I really did. But Yourgrau is at his best when engaging with others, and this book is largely about him. His writing is most engaging when others are in the scene; when we, the readers, are alone with him and his thoughts, he becomes harder to tolerate. I wanted to find something likeable in him, but found him frustrating, annoying and sometimes just obnoxious. Admittedly, I am more like his Cosima: I don't understand clutter, hoarding ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm just starting the audiobook but already not sure about this reader who, by his tones and diction and pacing, simply sounds too organized and 'together'....

I'm going to stop listening at 25%. I retract my accusation that the audiobook reader sounded too disciplined - I guess I thought the book was about a "messy" guy and so I expected more rough edges in voice and approach. But the book is actually about OCD and one man's psychological reasons for clutter, so a crisp, clipped diction is
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I save books. I always save books. I have a lot of books. I don't plan on saving this book.

This is a self-deprecating story that, at times, tries to be poignant. Sometimes, it almost succeeds. It's really a story about trying to tell a story, and I never get the sense he actually got to the point...but he does change his girlfriend's name 3 times.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is another book I thought was well-written but by a fairly loathsome author. Honestly, my biggest question throughout was why the hell his girlfriend stayed with him.

Hoarding caused by early loss, depression, anxiety - whatever the root cause he seemed remarkably resistant to owning up to what a slacker he is. While she funds his extravagant dining and world-traveling, he spends his time philosophizing about the dust and surfing the net. And then getting angry with her for not being happy a
Jacqueline Masumian
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
In this memoir a hoarder systematically works to discover all he can about the source of his affliction, and the book makes for some interesting reading. The author tells his story via a number of sidetracks: visits to homes of pathological hoarders, sessions on various psychiatrists’ couches, and interviews with hoarder counselors who work to free their clients from odious treasures of trash. The reader becomes a voyeur, peeking into the lives of those tortured souls who simply cannot let go of ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I LOVE shows like Hoarders and I've read other books about hoarding that were really good, so I was excited to read this one. Barry Yourgrau realizes he has a problem when his long-time girlfriend locks herself out and shows up at his house - but he won't let her inside and she hasn't been inside for over 5 years because of his clutter/hoarding. After that she gives him an ultimatum about cleaning up, which he recounts in this book. Reading this book must be what it feels like to be inside a hoa ...more
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A terrific and unique memoir on hoarding, though in fairness Yourgrau is more a self-described "clutterbug," than a full-fledged hoarder. The author's humor and sentiment shines throughout, bolstered by his thorough research into the psychology and history of hoarding. Though personally I'm a neat freak, I enjoyed every moment of the book, and identified strongly with his struggles. "Mess" is really moving, smart, and funny, recommended for everyone who's ever had to wrestle with "keep" and "tos ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not a hoarder, but I definitely have clutter in my house. Barry Yourgrau tells his story about exploring what category he falls in (hoarder? clutterer? just messy?), figuring out why, and trying to fix it. His writing is witty, and he tells a good story, but it's a touch disorganized (see what I did there?) as it goes from one thought to the next. It does come around nicely in the end. I liked reading his thoughts, I just struggled to relate to them sometimes. I wouldn't have any trouble thr ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-borrow
Too much struggle and not enough cleaning. I haven't mastered the clutter in my home, so I'm not judging the author's messiness—just the way he has written about it. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the inertia he evoked so accurately mirrors my own situation that that's what made me uncomfortable? Or...maybe not. He could have cost out several chapters in the middle and brought us to the (happy?) ending much more expeditiously. ...more
Edward Sullivan
A revealing, frequently amusing, sometimes touching, absorbing look at one man's struggle to free himself from his penchant for hoarding while also examining the psychology and culture of hoarders. ...more
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-rwanda
I don't think the author is quite as funny and clever as he thinks he is. But then, I was never sure how often he was in on the joke.

Take all the times he mentions some remarkable coincidence he discovers while he's procrastinating from decluttering by surfing the internet, and these barely qualify as coincidences, like discovering someone lived in Berlin while his father also lived in Berlin: he does mention once that his partner is unimpressed with these, but I'm not sure if he's acknowledging
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, reviewed
"Mess: One Man's Struggle To Clean Up His House and His Act" author Barry Yourgrau related the prompting of his girlfriend who chided him by saying he was the only male person she knew who collected hotel shopping bags, and gave him an ultimatum to clean up his 700 sq. ft. apartment or else! Yourgrau tells his story in an engaging comical way while exploring the more serious side of the new DSM classification of the "Hoarding Disorder."

Knowing he would need assistance, he sought advice and inter
Chris Craddock
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I like this book. It mentioned Poe & Baudelaire & Walter Benjamin. Walter Benjamin had a hoard of 2,000 books--excuse me--a library. Balzac was a glutton, and hoarder characters are in Gogol's Dead Souls and Bleak House. Krook dies of spontaneous combustion. Famous real life hoarders were Collyer Brothers. NY Fire Dept code for hoarder houses is Collyer Mansion. Author's GF is named Cosima, a foodie writer. His therapist is Lacanian, not Freudian, but is that a good thing? Can she really help wi ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
***I received this book for free as part of Goodreads First Reads Program***

I really enjoyed delving into the psychosis of hoarding along with Barry Yourgrau as he tackled his "Project".

When Barry realizes that not allowing his long-time girlfriend Cosima/Medea/Prunella into his apartment because of his "Mess" is a problem, he decides to clean it up. This clean-up morphs into a "Project", which as an intellectual and an author, he can't help but research and write about (and delay actually clea
Liss Carmody
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh. I thought it would be interesting to read about the personal struggle of someone with a hoarding, or at least a clutter problem. In truth this reads more like a memoir, chronicling both his efforts to clean up his flat over the course of two years and the psychological meanderings he goes through as he tries to unearth the root cause of his behavior. We learn a lot about his family, his foibles, his life choices and the things that eat at him. Unfortunately I didn't care very much. He sprin ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A funny and poignant look at hoarding,(although he never admits to more than a clutter problem). Also sums up the history of the research on the psychology of hoarding. The thing that I found absolutely fascinating was his inability to let anyone else use anything he managed to get rid of! I too frequently find myself thinking "Someone could use this!" when wanting to dispose of things. If I can find a place for them to go, I'm fine. Barry, on the other hand, destroyed things so they couldn't be ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is both a memoir and research project on the history of hoarding. At first the author's procrastination was annoying, then his style grew on me and I enjoyed the ride. Is hoarding a medical condition, a mental syndrome? Can it be "cured" with medication or cognitive behavior therapy? These are all subjects the author researches in depth. ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
An original take on hoarding/collecting. Although I am not a hoarder, I use this type of story to motivate myself to clean and get rid of stuff. I find hoarding to be appalling. A bit draggy at the end but all in all, I liked this book.
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh my heavens! This was at turns harrowing and amusing to read, perhaps because I could relate to the story so completely. Youngrau thoroughly investigates the issue of clutter/hoarding and the many suspected causes of the dreaded disease. Don't read it expecting helpful tips. ...more
Oct 04, 2015 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish, memoir
I was looking forward to this hoarding memoir, but after 50 pages, I just didn't connect with it, which is strange b/c I love a good hoarding memoir.

Also, I almost mist-typed strange and the autocorrect tried to change it to storage, which I find apropos given that hoarders need storage.
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect page numbers 3 17 Sep 14, 2015 10:31PM  

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Writer-performer Barry Yourgrau is author of "A Man Jumps Out of an Airplane: Stories" (new edition, May '17). His other books of surreal brief tales include "Wearing Dad's Head," "Haunted Traveller," and "The Sadness of Sex," in whose movie version he starred.

Audio of story, "Honky-Tonk,"" from "A Man Jumps Out of an Airplane" is on youtube:

Barry is also

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