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

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Simon and Schuster, Dec 28, 2010 - Family & Relationships - 336 pages
A fascinating look at compulsive hoarding by a woman whose mother suffers from the disease.

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 late.

Growing 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.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - KRaySaulis - LibraryThing

I gave this four instead of five because parts of it had really confusing flashbacks. By the time she came back to the present I forgot where she'd started. But really, good book. Amazing book. All too familiar. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - PetreaBurchard - LibraryThing

I wanted to learn about hoarding to research a character I'm writing. In reading Sholl's book I came to understand hoarding in the context of real lives, real humans--even some I know. This is not a ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
5
Section 3
30
Section 4
52
Section 5
73
Section 6
82
Section 7
97
Section 8
112
Section 15
203
Section 16
222
Section 17
233
Section 18
244
Section 19
261
Section 20
268
Section 21
275
Section 22
290

Section 9
129
Section 10
151
Section 11
164
Section 12
180
Section 13
191
Section 14
200
Section 23
301
Section 24
307
Section 25
313
Section 26
319
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Jessie Sholl's essays and stories have appeared in national newspapers and journals. She is coeditor of the nonfiction anthology Travelers’ Tales Prague and the Czech Republic and a contributor to EverydayHealth.com. She holds an MFA from The New School University, where she currently teaches creative writing.

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