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The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter Paperback – May 3, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hise earned her pilot's license when she was 21. She has flown many types of planes. She is also a staff writer and professional freelancer.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee; 1 edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399536655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399536656
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cecilia A. Garrett on May 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
First of all, let me first say that hoarding is a topic and issue close to my heart. My mother is a recovering hoarder, and I am a recovering child of a hoarder (COH). I have walked the walk and talked the talk. I know what hoarding can look like at its ugliest stations--the damage it does to the person, to the property, and to those around them.

Matt (with Phaedra Hise's help) has set out to write a book to help families, friends, and loved ones first as they try to understand and perhaps even intervene in a hoarding-affected individuals life. He doesn't tiptoe around the dark reality of this mental illness, but he doesn't sensationalize it to sell the book either. His case examples, from his own experience working in extreme cleaning, represent a broad spectrum of hoarding scenarios--from a family whose home looks much like most Americans to the extreme level 5 hoarders who have no utilities in their home anymore. He treats both situations with respect and honesty.

Some have criticized Matt as being nothing more than a glorified junk guy, but this book should rid the public of this naive notion. Few people choose to do what Matt does for a simple reason--It's a TOUGH job and requires a HUGE heart. The same character and friendly personality Matt shares with his clients and friends are present in the book.

He shares his knowledge but defers to psychologists when necessary, acknowledging where his ability to "know" the disorder ends and respecting that boundary. His background, his own personal failures, as well his training as a grief counselor all translate into a solid, real person and a good read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a family member, loved one, or friend who struggles with "things" as well as anyone who has found themselves sucked into shows like Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
According to a study by Johns Hopkins University,there are an estimated 12 million hoarders in the United States. Hoarding is not about how much stuff a person has. It's about how we process things. Most people can easily make decisions about what to keep and what to toss or donate, and then they follow through. A hoarder can't.
Matt Paxton, founder of Clutter Cleaner and star of the A & E Reality Show Hoarders, has written a book about some of his experiences working with hoarders.
"The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter" is a first-hand account of how Mr. Paxton and his team help hoarders deal with the "stuff" in their lives. He does not dwell on the details of the clutter. He explores the causes of hoarding and the solutions to overcoming this problem. Mr. Paxton explains that hoarding isn't a character flaw. It's not laziness or forgetfulness. It's a mental disorder. The author works with therapists and psychologists to gain knowledge about this disorder. Mr. Paxton explains the five stages of hoarding and has identified the following kinds of hoarding;

The Animal Rescuer
The Information Junkie
The Shopaholic
The Do-It-Yourselfer
The Collector
The Food Saver
The Clothes Hoarder
The Memory Keeper
The Trash Master Compactor (Bags of trash that never get taken out to the curb or recycle items that never get recycled.)

The author explains exactly how he and his team approach a hoarder, work with the hoarder and his family, actually clean out a house and the process of staying clean. There is an excellent "Resources" section at the end of the book. The author lists organizations, top treatment centers, support groups and additional books to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As another reviewer said, Matt Paxton has walked the walk when it comes to hoarders and their homes. I've watched many episodes of the TV shows "Hoarders" (A&E, on which Matt appears), and "Hoarding: Buried Alive" (TLC), and am aware of a few hoarding situations in real life. I've always liked the way Matt comes across on the "Hoarders" episodes; usually I think he seems better informed and more effective at handling the hoarders than the designated "experts" on the show.

I expected this book to be rich in anecdotes about hoarding, and was not disappointed. What surprised me, was the depth of knowledge of the mental, emotional and even physical conditions that lead a person to hoarding behavior, the levels and types of hoarding, and especially the most effective ways to organize a recovery effort. While careful not to present himself as a psychologist or similar counselor, Matt nevertheless displays a firm grasp of essentials that goes far beyond the actual logistics of physically cleaning and clearing out a hoarded home. He makes a strong case that a team is needed, that includes the hoarder, family members, the hands-on cleaning team, and others who may include social workers, counselors, clergy, friends and even building inspectors, depending on the circumstances.

All that I've seen, heard, and read about hoarders, has left me feeling that it's all hopeless. Somehow, although he cites cases of backsliding, failures and other bad news, Matt's book has left me with a little hope. He's a man of empathy and common sense, who rebuilt his own life after hitting bottom from compulsive gambling.

Until now, I would have recommended a book such as Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things to someone who wants to understand hoarding. Now I would place Matt's book at the top of that reading list instead.
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