Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding” as Want to Read:
Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,126 ratings  ·  324 reviews
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. W
Paperback, 308 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by Gallery
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 Dirty Secret, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
D.J. Click on the book on your shelf, then click on 'edit review' - you will have that option because you gave it a star rating - then just write your revi…moreClick on the book on your shelf, then click on 'edit review' - you will have that option because you gave it a star rating - then just write your review in the box below the stars.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,126 ratings  ·  324 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding
Jul 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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 rated it liked it
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
Sep 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
C.J. Omololu
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Rachel Willis
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Caroline Leavitt
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 has now
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Bree Neely
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Parts of this book are fascinating -- but, others, not so much.

I found myself skipping pages as the book bogged down.

Less about hoarding than the struggle to deal with a family member's mental illness, Jessie Sholl has written a memoir of her complicated and troubled life. Her inability to separate her mother's behavior from her identity and how she worked through that is the ultimate heart of the book -- but the story could have been told in far less space.
McGuffy Morris
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Diane S ☔
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
It takes a very courageous daughter to have wethered a challenging childhood and come out of it with love and compassion for her family and the mentally ill and it takes a courageous mother to let her tell the story and insist on full honesty, Loved this book and the hope that shines throughout it.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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!
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jessie's mother is a hoarder. It's the dark, dirty secret in her family. Any one interested in the subject of hoarding will love this book. It's well written and insightful. Ms. Sholl writes an evocative book filled with emotion and puts a face and a legacy to the subject of hoarding.
Brenda McDearmon
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I checked out this book from the library while there finding resources on a similar topic. Once I got my bag of books home, this was the first one I started reading and then had a hard time putting it down. We once had a neighbor who was a hoarder. All kinds of stacks of stuff were on the porch, and she was obviously unstable. We all felt so sorry for her but never tried to help, because 1) she appeared not to want any and 2) her situation looked like it needed the assistance of experts, and we ...more
Charlotte Mackney
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
First 40% of the book genuinely a solid 4/5 stars. Then turns into some weird writing exercise about scabies and Prague?
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this down, such a page-turner and intimate insight into a particularly heartbreaking stripe of familial dysfunction.
I may be one of the few who hadn't watched the reality show about hoarding. My great aunt was a hoarder and I was one of the few allowed in her home. I think I felt fearful of seeing that again. When I saw this memoir, though, I had to read it.
Jessie's mom, Helen, is a hoarder who began this behavior shortly after her husband died. It seems that hoarding is often triggered by a stressful event. Jessie guarded what she thought of as a shameful secret and somehow reflective of her as well. Thro
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 03, 2011 added it
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Megan Welsh
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For those who want a book about a daughter saving a hoarding mother from the depths of her piles of possessions: this book is not for you.

For those interested in an honest, personalized account of the physical, social, psychological, and emotional toll of hoarding: read this book.

This book is all about description. Sholl describes experiences living with her mother, learning to live physically and emotionally separate from her mother, and visiting a house that looks so dysfunctional to her while
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
  • The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter
  • Diary of a Hoarder's Daughter
  • Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
  • Coming Clean
  • The Boy at the End of the World
  • Cure for Wereduck (Wereduck, #2)
  • The Wereduck Code (Wereduck, #3)
  • Wereduck (Wereduck, #1)
  • The Jumbies (The Jumbies #1)
  • The House We Grew Up In
  • Growing Up Amish
  • Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope
  • Stray
  • The Key-Lock Man
  • You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir
  • Claire of the Sea Light
  • God's Double Agent: The True Story of a Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom
See similar books…
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.

A note on my ratings:

Related Articles

In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
37 likes · 24 comments
“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
More quotes…