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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Look
I feel like everyone knows someone who has a problem with hoarding but it's hard not to look at hoarders and think, 'wtf, just clean it up!'

Jessie Sholl bravely throws herself (and her family) into her haunting and amusing memoir. The best thing about this book is that it's 100% readable, a page-turner really, and it's also extremely informative about hoarding...
Published on December 31, 2010 by A Far And Away

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, quick read
I really enjoyed Sholl's book, though I took two stars off for the amount of time she spends contemplating herself and elaborating on her own problems as opposed to those directly caused by her mother. I understand that many of the issues the author has had to cope with are in some way related to the stress of her mother' illness, but I (and I assume most other people)...
Published 7 months ago by Alex


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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Look, December 31, 2010
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
I feel like everyone knows someone who has a problem with hoarding but it's hard not to look at hoarders and think, 'wtf, just clean it up!'

Jessie Sholl bravely throws herself (and her family) into her haunting and amusing memoir. The best thing about this book is that it's 100% readable, a page-turner really, and it's also extremely informative about hoarding and having someone with a mental disorder entwined in your life. Sholl combines her own stories with researched facts about hoarders that fit snugly in the story. She delves into the complex cycle of hope, frustration and defeat intermixed with humor and honesty will ring true to anyone who has loved a person with a mental illness. If you've dealt (or are dealing) with mental illness/hoarding you'll read this book and think, 'I'm not alone, this is my story too.' If you haven't had a personal experience with a hoarder this will give you insight into the behavior and open your eyes to a new world.

There are many facets of the book beyond the hoarding - daughter-as-mother relationship, parents growing older, etc. Sholl explores these areas in a subtle, genuine way. Bravo!
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sholl shows it all, with love, January 1, 2011
This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
My mother is a schizophrenic hoarder. This sentence is hard to type, but reading Jessie Sholl's candid and caring memoir about her somewhat similarly affected mother has made it a lot easier, because I'm reminded that I'm not alone, and that in the absurdity and sadness of the situation there is still room for compassion. Jessie describes the emotional landscape around her mother with clarity and precision; I found myself nodding along at thing I recognized from my own life. With this book Jessie has found a way to help dispel the shame and secrecy around this painful condition, not just for herself but for others. A very inspiring memoir from a very good person.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mental illness through the generations..., January 3, 2011
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
Jessie Sholl's new memoir is the story of how a child grows up with a mother who's in the grip of a mental illness. Whether bi-polar, depression, Asperger's, or any of a myriad of diagnoses that could be attached to her mother, Jessie went through most of her life ashamed of her mother. The mother, Helen, was a "hoarder" and acted inappropriately much of the time. Jessie never knew how her mother would behave in any situation; I can't think of anything much more difficult for a child than never being able to count on a parent for help, never knowing how the parent would react, etc. And "through the generations" is the unfortunate fact that much of Jessie's mother's illness is attributable to the mental illness in her own immigrant family.

"Dirty Secret" is as much the story of how Jessie, as a young adult, was able to let the "dirty secret" of her mother's behavior be known, as much as it was revealing the "dirty secret" of her mother's home in Minneapolis. We all have "secrets" we feel we must conceal from others. The problems we try to hide from others are often heavier than they should be and when we acknowledge/talk about/reveal them, the result is most often a feeling of complete liberation.

Jessie Sholl is a good writer and her story is replete with those curious "details" about others' lives that are most interesting. She waited to write her memoir until she seemed fairly comfortable with the facts of her mother's illness and the effect on the lives of those around her.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and brilliantly written, December 31, 2010
By 
Caroline Leavitt (Hoboken, NJ 07030) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painfully true, March 7, 2011
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
My mother was a hoarder, so the subject of this book was inherently interesting to me, and I read it as soon as I could get hold of it. I found myself saying "YES!!" time and again because so much of the mother's behavior was familiar: valuation of "stuff" above everything else (including her family), resistance to getting rid of anything, denial that there's a problem, tendency to blame someone or something else for the clutter, inability to organize, insistence on the unique value of every item, etc.

The author points out that not all hoarders are alike: e.g., her mother was a compulsive spender, while mine was a compulsive saver. But, while severe hoarding is often triggered by a trauma, the behavior can be remarkably similar despite different circumstances: my mother was a child of the Depression, while the author's mother grew up in the sixties, but they still had kitchens full of out-of-date products they couldn't bear to throw away. Other authors have described the syndrome in more clinical terms, but this book gives the sense of what it's like to LIVE with a hoarding parent.

What I found most compelling about the book, however, is how well the author described the children-of-hoarders mind-set: She felt responsible for taking care of her mother, and obligated to keep trying to put her mother's house and finances in order, even when it was clear to everyone around her that her efforts were futile. It's almost impossible to convey how life-consuming this sense of responsibility for one's parent can be; but, based on my own experience, I feel that the author totally nailed it.

I suspect that the annoyance some reviewers felt with the author is because she was as obsessed with "taking care" of her mother as her mother was with hoarding, and the process of trying to shed her obsession with her mother can sound like hating her mother. But I felt that she (mostly) walked the fine line between frustration with her mother and compassion for her mother's illness. This is an admirable and courageous book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ssshhhh....it's a secret, February 4, 2011
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
"My mother calls me almost every night. She needs me. But if I can't take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of her, too?"

I am a Monday night fan of the A&E tv show Hoarders. I watch with equal parts fascination and horror as a therapist specializing in hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorders enters the hoarder's home and the camera pans from one room to the next, each packed from floor to ceiling with so much stuff you can't even recognize what all that stuff is.

Dirty Secret is the story behind the scenes of one of the people that end up on such a show. Jessie Sholl shares with the world what had been a secret for the majority of her life...her mother is a hoarder. Unfortunately, that fact seems to have a more negative effect on Jessie than it does her completely unaware mother.

We all know someone who's a packrat and we might think of them as a hoarder. We would be wrong. Saving a few (too many) sentimental belongings here and there, not wanting to get rid of favorite magazines, having a collection of trinkets displayed throughout the house is a packrat. Think packrat on steroids and that's what you'll see when you walk into the home of a hoarder. Stacks, piles and collections that have long outgrown the table, shelf, drawer or bin where they were first kept. Not only things that one "might need someday", but things one will never need someday. Ms. Sholl's mother had three non-working coffee makers in her kitchen, several pairs of the same shoes...still in the bag she brought them home in. And more. Stacks of mail; bills with due dates that have come and long since gone. Dirty dishes, empty food and drink containers, clothes, organizational tools that sit empty and cabinets full of cleaning supplies that have never been opened. Obviously.

I guess, like most people, I'd always thought of hoarding as a bad habit that just got out of hand; or a behavior that could be controlled if the person exhibiting the behavior really wanted to control it. That belief is inaccurate. Hoarding is a diagnosable mental illness much like OCD. That's not to say it can't be controlled. But, it is to say, it's not as easy as "just saying no" to another shopping trip or not bringing home another treasure found at a neighborhood garage sale. A hoarder can't just stop being a hoarder any more than a schizophrenic can just stop being schizophrenic. Therapy, medication, behavior modification...it takes a lot more than willpower...or the pleading of a loved one.

More than this being the story of a hoarder, it is the story of how one mother's hoarding impacts the lives of those around her. Ms. Sholl makes no attempt to downplay the effect her mother's hoarding had on her childhood or the continued influence it has on her today. And, while I don't argue that the disorder definitely upsets everyone in the hoarders circle, I wonder if it was her mother's personality flaws (lack of compassion, inability to express feelings, no respect for boundaries, intimacy issues...) that had the more negative consequence. As much as my heart ached for Ms. Sholl not having the mother she deserved, my heart ached equally for her mother not being able to be that mother and the hand life must've dealt her to make that impossible. Fortunately, Sholl had a father and stepmother to fill that parental gap. Who did her mother have?

I loved this book. I loved reading about the hows, whys and whats of hoarding without it being dramatized for ratings (hoarding is dramatic enough on its own) and I loved analyzing the mother-daughter relationship that had many strengths in addition the weaknesses. It's one of those books that forces you to feel. What you feel will probably depend on your own experiences. That's the beauty of a book like this. It won't mean the same thing to one reader as it does to another.

I can assure you of one thing, though. As an employee of the public school system who's exposed to the germs, viruses, illnesses, etc. that one can only be exposed to being in the same building with 600 children who may or may not practice good hygiene every day, after reading about Ms. Sholl's bug experience, I will never again complain when we have to use extra precaution because one of our kids has gone home with lice.

I admire Jessie Sholl for sharing her story with us. I admire her mother even more for encouraging it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dirty Secrets Exposes an Inside Look at Hoarding, January 17, 2011
This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
Jessie Sholl has a dirty secret. Her mother is a hoarder. After years of trying to hide the fact that her mother has this disorder, Sholl has finally come out of the closet, so to speak. Her memoir, Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding comes at a time when shows such as TLC's Hoarders has piqued our interest in this little talked about disorder.

I received this book a few months ago for a blog tour and several times I picked it up to read prior to this month's tour. Each time I sadly put it down, knowing that if I read it too soon I would forget the details of this memoir. Finally, finally as we turned the calendar to 2011 I knew I could begin reading. Sholl, a writer by trade, provides an inside look at this lifestyle. Once I started reading, it was almost impossible to stop. Her story begins when her mother is diagnosed with colon cancer and Sholl must return to her Minneapolis home to help out. Upon her arrival she is greeted by the clutter she knows so well. From there, the book chronicles Sholl's childhood as well as the present day, alternating between them seamlessly. While her mother's hoarding didn't begin until the death of her boyfriend, Sholl can recount strange behaviors from back in her childhood. One incident Sholl shares occurred while she was in kindergarten. Her mother was so intent on making a shopping trip to Savers that she told Jessie to tell her kindergarten teacher that she needed to stay all day at school since her mom wouldn't be there to greet her when she got home. Unable to make herself give this message to her teacher, Jessie comes home to an empty house she is locked out of. She spends the freezing winter afternoon trying to shut herself between the screen door and door to her house in an effort to keep warm. When her mother comes home, she is not concerned for Jessie, just excited by the bargains she found. Even years before her hoarding came out, her focus on gaining possessions caused her to ignore her own children. And, Jessie's own father (the two divorced when Jessie was young) worried enough for his children's safety that he purchased a home near his ex-wife so that he could keep an eye on his children.

Now an adult, Sholl tries to be helpful to her mother who is aging, and appears much older than her actual age would indicate. She takes turns being frustrated by her behavior and wanting to help and protect her. However, when Sholl develops scabies from being in her mother's house and has a difficult time getting rid of them, her patience is stretched to its limit.

While it would be wonderful to say that Sholl cleaned her mother's house and it is now neat and tidy, that is not how hoarding works. This illness is ongoing, it is the way in which Sholl now reacts to her mother's continued hoarding that has shifted a bit.

While this is a memoir, Sholl includes different facts about hoarding, so that I was able to learn a great deal. Her personal story gives this book credibility and makes it difficult to put down. Sholl's own skills as a writer shine through as well. Dirty Secret was quickly devoured -after which I spent an entire day cleaning my daughters' bedroom, alternating between my belief that I have a hoarder-in-the-making, and relief that my mess does not compare to a true hoarder's.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding, January 30, 2011
By 
Whitney (Raleigh, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
This book is an quick easy read, unless you are a child of a hoarder, then it is a bit more difficult. It brings up many common issues that family members deal with on a regular basis with their mentally ill parents/relatives who are compulsive hoarders. This book is written with compassion, a bit of humor because humor is needed when dealing with hoarding and clarity. The pop culture media is hot on the topic of hoarding right now. The shows sensationalize the physical mess that a hoarder creates, but do not begin to scratch the surface of what growing up in a hoard, dealing with aging hoarders, the guilt of hiding their secret, the frustration in trying to get help, is really like.

For those dealing with the mental illnes, which is not unlike dealing with an alcoholic except on occasion an alcoholic knows there is a problem whereas hoarders are in deep heavy denial; go to [..]
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!, January 6, 2011
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This is a book that is written with sadness, frustration, love, and thankfully a lot of humor. This book is very enjoyable to read, and I couldn't wait to read more and more about her mother, father, stepmother, and her loving husband (Jessie is right, she is lucky to have found a man like him). The things she and her husband went through because of her mom's hoarding are both sad and hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed her mom's quirky personality and Jessie's sweet determination in trying to help her so many times. I recommend this book for anyone, regardless if they have or know anyone with a hoarding problem or not. This is a very common mental illness, and after reading this book you may realize that someone you never suspected of being a hoarder could be one indeed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, Compassionate Story, Beautifully Told, January 31, 2011
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This review is from: Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding (Paperback)
Jessie Sholl is a true heroine of an author, who tells a painful story with such courage, compassion, raw honesty, and stellar writing--I could not put this book down.
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Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding
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