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Coming Clean: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Kimberly Rae Miller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,289 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room—the product of her father’s painful and unending struggle with hoarding.

In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home, her childhood consumed by concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends, and the emotional burden that ultimately led to an attempt to take her own life. And in beautiful prose, Miller sheds light on her complicated yet loving relationship with her parents that has thrived in spite of the odds.

Coming Clean is a story about recognizing where we come from and the relationships that define us—and about finding peace in the homes we make for ourselves.

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2013: Most children who grow up in dysfunctional families don’t realize at first they’re any different from anybody else—but Kimberly Rae Miller is more observant than most; from childhood, she had a growing sense that there was something wrong in her household. A brilliant guy who ended up driving a bus, Miller’s father was an extreme hoarder, and the family’s normal-from-the-outside (at least for a while) Long Island home was a mess (or treasure trove, depending on your point of view) of useless (or fascinating) papers and junk (important stuff). In Coming Clean, Miller, an actor and writer, chronicles her weird childhood and adolescence, but what’s really unusual about this buoyant, winning memoir is that for all that the author describes the familial dysfunction in heartbreaking, copious detail—and for all that she sometimes lost patience with her parents—she never stops showing that she loves them. As readers we come to love them, too—partly because, whatever else, they managed to raise such a smart and witty and generous daughter. —Sara Nelson

From Publishers Weekly

An only child to loving parents who were such chronic hoarders that they had to flee their over-stuffed Long Island house rather than face cleaning it, actress and journalist Miller delineates her harrowing childhood and secretive home life. Miller's bus driver father, a brilliant, however emotionally remote man, collected papers and broken electronics, while Miller's government-employed mother was a twin whose untreated childhood scoliosis left her shrunken and with a low sense of self-worth, although fiercely devoted to her daughter. Home life spelled a weird combination of obsession and inertia—collected stuff and unused purchases were piled so high that little room was left for the family even to eat or sleep or use the bathrooms; and filth and mold invited rodents As a child Miller realized her family wasn't like other people's families with tidy, presentable homes; far from it. A fire destroyed one home when she was in second grade, while the large house they moved into was soon rendered similarly uninhabitable, so that Miller never invited anyone home and had to adopt a decoy house to be dropped off at by friends. Eventually she went to college at Emerson in Boston where she kept a clean living space, as she did when she later moved to L.A. and New York City. The reader senses in this horrific story that Miller is still tiptoeing around her family's dirty secret and hardly revealing the half of it. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (July)

Product Details

  • File Size: 2470 KB
  • Print Length: 271 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0544025830
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing (July 23, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B77UDXO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
139 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GROWING UP SURROUNDED BY GARBAGE June 11, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Growing up as the child of severe hoarders, the author of Coming Clean: A Memoir describes in great detail what that was like for her.

In her narrative voice that felt like a conversation, she revealed how her home was not just an embarrassment that she had to keep secret, but that sometimes the house was festering with the detritus of the clutter until pipes burst, mold grew, rats proliferated throughout, and at one time, a homeless person was living in their attic, unbeknownst to them.

One side effect for the author was how socially isolated she was....and I felt such compassion as I read about how she found a way to role play the kind of person she wanted to be through acting, and even by emulating those whose behavior she wanted to incorporate into her own.

Health problems made it imperative for long term changes in the living conditions, but after cleaning up repeatedly over the years, moving her parents to new places, and even hiring people to clean....none of these actions solved the problem permanently. At that point, Miller began researching the condition of hoarding and learned a lot about the childhoods of those with the condition.

Now a successful writer and actress living in Manhattan, Miller describes honestly and with great understanding of herself and her parents the small changes that have occurred over the years...perhaps because she finally detached. She was also able to create her own nest and develop a relationship that was satisfying for her. One point she emphasized: no matter how frustrated and angry she occasionally got with her parents, she always loved them and knew that they loved her. In many ways, the bond between them grew despite the horrific events of their lives together. Five stars.
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87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hoarders' Daughter June 8, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Kimberly Miller's dad keeps piles and piles and piles of receipts, lists, articles, magazines... and any and everything else. Their house is so full of wet, rotting junk that the kitchen and bathrooms are unusable. The three of them can't even be together in the same room there is so much garbage piled in the house. This house of garbage controls Kim's life so thoroughly that she can not escape always feeling that she is nothing more than "the girl who lives in garbage."

Kimberly studies people, she want to emulate a self-assured, easy going school girl. But every day she returns to the rat infested, mildewed house reminding her of who she really is.

Her chance to escape this life comes through a full ride scholarship to Syracuse, her dream college is Emerson. Emerson offers no scholarship and yet, "As a little girl, I used to lie in bed, thinking, 'maybe if I endure all my pain now, I could be happy when I am older. Emerson felt like my reward for the years of shame I'd logged." Her first year at Emerson is that dream come true.

This is Kim's story of always remembering where she's from and always remembering to "not settle."

The love she has for her parents is abundant and yet there is complete frustration, embarrassment, shame, and anger for them as well.

This reminded me of Liz Murray's Breaking Night and of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
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84 of 90 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Treating Hoarders with Compassion July 23, 2013
I've often thought that some members of my mother's side of the family might be hoarders. They collect things in large quantities and have items tucked into strange places that they never knew they had. I find that I have ended up with piles and piles of books that I will never have time to read and subscribe to more magazines then I will ever have time to read and have enough "extra" shampoo lying around that I will probably never have to buy it again.
However, after reading this book I know that no one in my family is a true hoarder. The author, who grew up as the only child of a father who was a hoarder and a mother who enabled his hoarding describes a new house the family purchased that slowly, over the course of her adolescent years became unlivable. The boiler broke but her parents were too embarrassed to have someone in to see their filth so it was never repaired and they didn't have hot water. The kitchen was so dirty that they could not have fresh food because of all of the bugs and so only ate take out or food that was sealed. The pipes leaked and the floor developed a squishy texture of water and debris. Clearly, I do not know any hoarders. I know people who enjoy stuff. People a bit more like the author's mother who takes refuge during her depression in the thrill of online shopping. But not hoarders, who are willing sacrifice their health, their safety and the safety of their children to surround themselves in ever growing piles of stuff.
The thing that really impressed me about this book is that Miller managed to describe the horrors of growing up with her parents and the continued frustration of her father's mental illness, while at the same time making a very convincing case that her parents were caring and loving people who did the best job they could raising her. Miller does not try to villainize her parents.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes autobiographies as well as anyone who is interested in mental illness.
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing June 20, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was an absolutely amazing memoir that was pretty much perfect as far as memoirs go. I think what I loved most about it was her attitude. She wasn't self-focused, she didn't feel sorry for herself, she presented every side of the story fairly and was just humbly honest. Her writing is also amazing and keeps you constantly engaged, caring deeply about all of the people involved, and wanting to know what happens next. There was never a point that I got bored or wanted to put the book down. I read the whole thing in two days.

It was also enlightening to read about hoarding as a pathological condition since I've never really been exposed to it at that type of extreme. I had no idea people lived like that or struggled with hoarding in that way. I'd heard of the TV show Hoarders (which is not affiliated with the book in any way) but have never watched it.

One of the things I think she explains the best is the cycle that people get trapped in when they have struggles like this (think alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.). She describes the codependent cycle pretty much perfectly, and describes why it's so hard to break. You don't walk away from it blaming anyone or feeling sorry for anyone, just appreciating a family's story and the struggles they faced.

The other thing I love about it is that even though it's a very deep book, the topic itself isn't inherently disturbing so I feel really comfortable recommending it to people (as opposed to Etched in Sand or Another Forgotten Child, which focus on physical child abuse for example). It's a deep book, but it's also easy to read and relate to. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great book!
Published 8 hours ago by BARRY MILES
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject but mediocre writing
I really wanted to like this book because I love memoirs about unique/challenging childhoods and authors who overcome them. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Beth
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Such a great read. Heart wrenching but also so loving. You can really feel the conflicting emotions throughout the entire book.
Published 1 day ago by Nicole A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved every bit of it
Loved every bit of it. I wanted to know how they would get out of the mess. I wish it would have contined.
Published 2 days ago by Lauren
2.0 out of 5 stars Glad I'm not a hoarder.
I gave this book two stars because I don't know a lot about hoarding or have never known anyone. Someone who has experienced hoarding may relate more. It was a decent read.
Published 2 days ago by love2read87
4.0 out of 5 stars Great quick read
Very interesting read. I had a hard time putting it down....fascinating topic and loved the narration from the daughter's perspective of an unusual upbringing. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Kathryn A. Benton
3.0 out of 5 stars Leaves questions unanswered
An interesting read but could have done with a good edit as it's extremely repetitive in terms of content - parents fill a house, daughter gets friends to help clear it when they... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jax
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved every page
Fascinating read, anyone who has trouble getting rid of stuff should read this!
Published 5 days ago by C. Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it. Truly loved it. So well-written, and such honesty. Highly recommend.
Published 5 days ago by Nony
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More About the Author

Kimberly Rae Miller is a writer and actress living in New York City. Her writing on healthy living has been published on Conde Nast's blog network, Social Workout, Yahoo's women's network Shine, and in various magazines. She also contributes entertainment news to CBS Radio and CBS New York. In 2010, Kim was featured in Katharine Sise's breakthrough career guide Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career. You can read her personal blog at

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