cover image Mess: One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act

Mess: One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act

Barry Yourgrau. Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-3932-4177-8

In this hilarious memoir, Yourgrau (Wearing Dad’s Head) regales readers with tales of his tendency to collect objects and keep them. He recalls a pivotal moment in his life when he refused to allow his girlfriend—her arms weighed down by grocery bags—into his apartment because of the piles of clutter covering every inch of his place. That evening she issued an ultimatum to him to clean up, and so began his faltering quest to sort through and throw out many of the items scattered around his apartment—including 45 cardboard boxes, 22 shopping bags, books and unopened boxes of books, 11 suitcases, and one baby grand piano. Throughout the narrative, Yourgrau examines the history of hoarding and famous hoarders, such as poet W.H. Auden; Homer and Langley Collyer, who were found dead in their Harlem home, one of them buried under “stuff”; and Aldon James, president of the National Arts Club. Along the way Yourgrau attends a Clutterers Anonymous meeting and visits various therapists, seeking assistance in his efforts to de-clutter his life and living space. Eventually, as he explains with wit and honesty, he begins to deal with the clutter, taking comfort that he’s not a hoarder but a collector, as he makes space for himself and that girlfriend he shut out five years earlier. [em](Aug.) [/em]