Related to This Book


One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act

Barry Yourgrau (Author)


Hilarious and poignant, a glimpse into the mind of someone who is both a sufferer from and an investigator of clutter.

Millions of Americans struggle with severe clutter and hoarding. New York writer and bohemian Barry Yourgrau is one of them. Behind the door of his Queens apartment, Yourgrau’s life is, quite literally, chaos. Confronted by his exasperated girlfriend, a globe-trotting food critic, he embarks on a heartfelt, wide-ranging, and too often uproarious project—part Larry David, part Janet Malcolm—to take control of his crammed, disorderly apartment and life, and to explore the wider world of collecting, clutter, and extreme hoarding.

Encounters with a professional declutterer, a Lacanian shrink, and Clutterers Anonymous—not to mention England’s most excessive hoarder—as well as explorations of the bewildering universe of new therapies and brain science, help Yourgrau navigate uncharted territory: clearing shelves, boxes, and bags; throwing out a nostalgic cracked pasta bowl; and sorting through a lifetime of messy relationships. Mess is the story of one man’s efforts to learn to let go, to clean up his space (physical and emotional), and to save his relationship.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35290-0
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 288 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“An absorbing look at a mysterious compulsion.” — People

“In his droll, engaging memoir,…[Yourgrau] writes with self-mocking humor as he embarks on a project to get rid of his clutter once and for all.” — Wall Street Journal

“Terrifically funny…What can we say: Hoarders seem to be hot.” — USA Today

“Yourgrau sets out to understand the literal and emotional weight of the objects we save…[A] gorgeous writer.” — New York Times Book Review

“Battling his hoarding proclivities with aplomb, Yourgrau documents his winding journey to unpack his home and mind.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

Mess is Barry Yourgrau’s autobiography by way of neurosis, a twenty-first-century version of the Confessions of Zeno. Sometimes shocking and frequently self-mocking, it charts the tough negotiation between shame and fixation, between clinging to the past and moving forward, between being devoured by one’s demons and facing them down.” — Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree

“All of us who live—or have lived—in unmentionable and unspeakable abodes owe it to ourselves to have our anti-domestic pathologies turned into something as funny and charming as Mess.” — Lawrence Osborne, author of The Forgiven

“A funny, smart, and moving memoir about the accumulation of STUFF: what it means to us, why we keep it, and how we deal with our personal ‘collections.’ (Great book, btw.)” — Roz Chast, author of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

“My favorite Bohemian unpacks his life, and his heart. I will never look at clutter the same way again. I love this book!” — Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure

“Barry Yourgrau is America’s Kafka, if Kafka were hysterically funny, weirdly relatable, and had just a little bit of a hoarding problem. Mess is a total Yourgrau feast—I wept with laughter (but then why couldn’t I throw away my Kleenex?).” — Sandra Tsing Loh, author of The Madwoman in the Volvo

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