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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 While a daunting task for any adult dealing with an aging parent it’s compounded for Sholl by one lifelong complex and confounding truth her mother is a compulsive hoarder Dirty Secret is a daughter’s powerful memoir of confronting her mother’s disorder of searching for the normalcy that was never hers as a child and finally cleaning out the clutter of her mother’s home in the hopes of salvaging the true heart of their relationship—before it’s too lateGrowing up young Jessie knew her mother wasn’t like other mothers chronically disorganized she might forgo picking Jessie up from kindergarten to spend the afternoon thrift store shopping Now tracing the downward spiral in her mother’s hoarding behavior to the death of a long time boyfriend she bravely wades into a pathological sea of stuff broken appliances moldy cowboy boots twenty identical pairs of graying bargain bin sneakers abandoned arts and crafts newspapers magazines a dresser drawer crammed with discarded eyeglasses shovelfuls of junk mail the things that become a hoarder’s “treasures” With candor wit and not a drop of sentimentality Jessie Sholl explores the many personal and psychological ramifications of hoarding while telling an unforgettable mother daughter tale


10 thoughts on “Dirty Secret

  1. says:

    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 pedestrian issues and adventures She tells us in detail about meeting her husband having a repetitive stress injury even about adopting a dog and subletting her apartment These events seem to have little or nothing to do with her relationship with her hoarding mother or even one another It feels like Jessie Sholl did a lot of writing exercises using her life and then strung these together It's like a collection of well written blog posts than a memoir and certainly not a memoir about growing up with a hoarder once you're past the first 100 pages The mother barely even reappears after thatI feel like one of two things happened Either Jessie Sholl wrote a memoir of her life and someone maybe Sholl herself decided the hoarding aspect would be the best way to market it Or Jessie Sholl tried to write a memoir of her relationship with her hoarder mother but didn't know how to take the focus off herself


  2. says:

    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 YeechMost 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 struggle with Repetitive Stress Injury the chapter that goes into a depth of detail about the author's struggle with depression the chapter about whether or not they got their fancy dog from an animal hoarder and the chapter about the author's trip to Europe bankrolled by her BadHoardingMother where she met her husband It's like being confronted with a hoard of story choices about what to include and what to discard seem arbitrary or unmade altogether In a similar way when she describes her mother's house whole paragraphs become nothing than laundry lists of items her mother is saving The hallway is packed with stacks of even ignored mail her phone gets shut off on a semiregular basis because she can't find the bills two ironing boards a mound of ratty looking sweaters winter boots and coats and snow pants heaped directly underneath an empty metal coatrack at least one box of marshmallow Peeps milk colored storage bins that I know without checking are empty an oversized plastic pail containing ironic jugs of Lysol and Pine Sol and dozens of unopened white plastic Savers bags with the receipts still stapled to the topIt gets to the point where it almost stops being a description and becomes a slightly obsessive catalog which does not make for interesting readingBut the main reason that I didn't like this memoir was because I had no sympathy for the narrator The book to me did not read as the story of a good person caught up in bad circumstances It read as a recounting of the self involved drama created by the author in relation to the worsening health of her parents and her mother's mental illness When her father just recovering from a heart attack and major surgery is having a middle of the night health crisis the author responds by fainting twice shouting at the 9 1 1 operator and demanding to speak with her supervisor I get that not everyone is at their best in moments of crisis but that seemed part and parcel of her general behavior It is hard to feel warmly towards a woman who gets irate and defensive over a potential sublet tenant who will be reuired to mail in six months worth of rent up front in advance mentioning that her agent thought the apartment was 'kind of dirty' while blithely failing to let said tenant know of the months long scabies infection that she and her husband have been dealing with since returning from her mother's house She calls her mother's neighbor who shovels the walk and expresses concern for her mom as The Mean Lesbian because that is how her mentally ill mother refers to her That's not funny That's just mean spirited I wish this book had been a deeper or insightful work about hoarding but at the end of the day it's not much than another contribution to the Grown Women Who Still Blame Their Mothers For Everything genre This one just happens to have a hoarded house as a backdrop


  3. says:

    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 biographycase 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 time carping about her adult experience than examining her rough childhood probing the results than the cause and to me this seems less helpful Scabies are hard to get rid of Got it But I want to come away from this book with a deeper understanding of why the scabies are there in the first place I'm actually terrified to consider that my bibliophile tendencies may actually be a genetically inherited mental illness related to or leading to some serious hoarding issues Someday someone's going to find my old dead body in amongst the floor to ceiling stacks of books I intend to read The mainstream ereaders become the abandoned paperbacks available to build my tomb I keep a stack of books in my car just in case I'm ever stranded on the road I'll have a good few weeks worth of reading material if I don't starve to death Really my obsession is absurd But knowing it's crazy is half the battle right?


  4. says:

    From my blogIn 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 terrified that she might be responsible for her mother's hoarded house Jessie boards a plan from NYC to her hometown in Minnesota to help her mother get her affairs in order before her surgery and to help her mom clean her house Through the mass of broken appliances duplicate items purchased from the local Savers store garbage unopened mail and books Sholl attempts to reason with her mother and come to some kind of understanding as to why she is a hoarder Although there is one specific event that intensified the situation Sholl clearly explores situations throughout her childhood where this disorder manifested itself in other ways disordered thinking compulsive shopping indecisiveness and times of abuse directed at ShollThe clean up is only a very small portion of the book Returning to NYC after the surgery Jessie discovers small bites on her ankles then welts and other bite marks over the rest of her body Then her husband David starts itching too Going from doctor to doctor and trying medication after medication Jessie's mother finally tells her what she thinks it is and it's pretty horrifying Another after effect of the hoarded house that will cause severe psychological and physical stress to Sholl her husband her father and her stepmother who were all in contact with the house in some way Fed up Jessie makes a vow she is never going inside her mother's house againBut can she keep that promise to herself? Can she control her compulsion to not want to clean her mother's house which may be just as strong as her mother's compulsion to hoard?I think this book was a very therapeutic endeavor for the author and helped her to understand her mother's disease in depth Sholl is a talented writer who offers an honest portrayal into an otherwise dirty secret Shows like Hoarders and Hoarding Buried Alive are providing some light into the disorder but I feel they are only scratching the surface and focusing on the cleanup rather than on the psychological aspect of the disorder the WHY it's happening is what I am interested in I have to wonder how many of these homes go right back to being hoarded after the cameras are turned off In this memoir Sholl is able to weave research studies and psychological input regarding hoarding into her story which helps to define the disorder to readers who may not otherwise understand why someone would hoard It would be very easy to tell a hoarder just clean it up or get rid of it but it is important to understand that the mind set of someone who hoards is very different and she is unable to toss something without feeling like they are throwing out a piece of themselves That's just my personal opinion This is a wonderfully written book that is very easy to read and and provides much needed insight into what is a publicly ostracizing disorder I can understand the author's hesitation in wanting to disclose her personal connection to hoarding but I applaud her for having the courage to do so We need books like this so we can understand this disease fully I highly recommend this bookJenniferhttpwwwcrazy for bookscom


  5. says:

    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 conseuences 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 Even during the most frustrating scenes Sholl shows an underlying understanding of the disorder and an empathy for the mother who is behind the mountains of mess As one of only a handful of accounts about hoarding and its effects DIRTY SECRETS is a must read for anyone who has a hoarder in their life or who is just interested in complex mother daughter relationships The book will leave you with a greater understanding of compulsive hoarding and how one family dealt with the issue It will also leave you very itchy


  6. says:

    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 marriageI found the author to be almost rude and just downright mean to her mom when she described their interactions I actually winced at some of the statements that she'd make to her Sholl's mom didn't ask for her help and while I can understand wanting to help your parent the fact is that the help was not asked for and I don't think her mom deserved to be treated the way she was At times Sholl seems to try and justify how she speaks to her mom describing her mild childhood abuse hair pulling and being made to walk around the block at midnight for getting into fights with her brother as if it were the most horrible thing in the world I've seen much worse and honestly just could not garner the sympathy needed to see Sholl's point of view I kept thinking if Sholl was so angry with her mom and couldn't get over what went on during her childhood why did she keep talking to her? So she could write a book about it? All in all I was highly disappointed in this book I went in expecting a tale of a hoarder and her daughter thus thinking that the read would center around hoarding Instead I was blindsided with numerous adventures and facts that seemed to be mainly filler It seemed like a waste of time and not at all what the description of the book promised I regret that I wasted my time on it


  7. says:

    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


  8. says:

    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 memoirsi really liked this book i was reading through some of the 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 crapmy mom is not a hoarder like jessie's mom my mom is basically homeless so she has nowhere to hoard but she is an addict she is mentally ill i have not really had a relationship with her in over fifteen years i have gone for years at a time without speaking to her she makes no effort to speak to me or have a relationship with me so it's not all about how i'm a jerk it's about how it's really difficult to deal with a parent who is an addict jessie makes a lot of salient points in the book comparing hoarding to alcoholism particularly in its impact on children mentally ill the conclusion jessie reaches toward the end of the book after seeing her mom through a bout of colon cancer helping her father through a heart attack a uadruple bypass contracting scabies from her mother's house is that you can't change other people you can only change yourself kind of a no duh conclusion as far as i'm concerned but then again i'm the child of mentally ill addicts the fact that i could not change my parents was something i definitely found out the hard way but it's pretty ingrained in my life at this point i really felt for jessie that she is nearly ten years older than me still struggling to learn that lesson i appreciated the fact that she was open about sometimes snapping at her mother yelling at her criticizing her or treating her badly i was amazed that she had the emotional strength to have even a crappy stressful relationship with her mom even one that just involves going out to dinner with her a few times a year because i do not have the strength to do that with my own mother it's exhausting traumatizing in a way that you can only really understand if your mom is really fucked up i guess one big difference between jessie i though is that jessie struggles with a lot of guilt shame about her mother's hoarding her mental illnesses their relationship with each other i just wanted to reach through the book help jessie get a grip on that shit anyone who thinks i'm a bad person because i don't talk to my momwell that's not someone i care to have in my life anyway because they obviously don't understand me or where i am coming from the book does meander a little bit it was difficult reading about jessi's teenage rebellion years she convinced her father to let her move into her own place with an older friend when she was only 16 just because it's always difficult reading about whiny teenagers jessie speculates that she inadvertently adopted her dog from an animal hoarder goes into a shit ton of detail about what caused her suspicions without ever really successfully conveying the scene to the reader she subletted her apartment to someone without warning her that she her husband had scabies maybe the apartment was infected granted they did everything within their power to disinfect the apartment there was no indication that the subletter got scabies but still she displayed a constant need to caretake everyone in her life to the point that she was arguably a nuisance than a help but it was still a pretty compelling well researched book it even includes a bibliography in the back for people who want to learn about hoarding i am always a big fan of a memoir with a bibliography


  9. says:

    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 in the book how she met her husband her trip to Italy with her husband her father's illness her travails in trying to sublet her apartment so she can go to Italy etc Most of this is not interesting nor is it relevant to her mother's problems; it's just what goes on in her life at the same time she is dealing with her mother's issues Sholl also goes into excruciating detail regarding a scabies infestation that is a direct result of her mother's hoarding There is so much detail about the scabies infestation that it could be the subject of the book rather than hoarding


  10. says:

    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 renter that sublets the author's NY apartment make it difficult to feel empathy for Sholl At times she is a champion for hoarders bringing attention to a problem that seems to be growing in our world and the mental illness behind it But despite knowing her mom's history and current mental status Sholl is often sharp tongued and impatient with her Of course I imagine it's a lot easier to have patience with a hoarder you don't know than the one that plants rubber snakes everywhere to freak you out and gives you scabies that just won't die I admire Sholl for her honesty hoarding isn't a mental illness that you can just take a little blue pill for and the author gives lots of information on hoarding behavior I just wanted about her mother's illness and struggle and less about repetitive motion strain and troubles with renters