Coming Clean: A Memoir

Coming Clean: A Memoir

4.6 9
by Kimberly Rae Miller

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Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused


Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room—the product of her father’s painful and unending struggle with hoarding.
In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home, her childhood consumed by concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends, and the emotional burden that ultimately led to an attempt to take her own life. And in beautiful prose, Miller sheds light on her complicated yet loving relationship with her parents that has thrived in spite of the odds.
Coming Clean is a story about recognizing where we come from and the relationships that define us—and about finding peace in the homes we make for ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An only child to loving parents who were such chronic hoarders that they had to flee their over-stuffed Long Island house rather than face cleaning it, actress and journalist Miller delineates her harrowing childhood and secretive home life. Miller’s bus driver father, a brilliant, however emotionally remote man, collected papers and broken electronics, while Miller’s government-employed mother was a twin whose untreated childhood scoliosis left her shrunken and with a low sense of self-worth, although fiercely devoted to her daughter. Home life spelled a weird combination of obsession and inertia— collected stuff and unused purchases were piled so high that little room was left for the family even to eat or sleep or use the bathrooms; and filth and mold invited rodents As a child Miller realized her family wasn’t like other people’s families with tidy, presentable homes; far from it. A fire destroyed one home when she was in second grade, while the large house they moved into was soon rendered similarly uninhabitable, so that Miller never invited anyone home and had to adopt a “decoy” house to be dropped off at by friends. Eventually she went to college at Emerson in Boston where she kept a clean living space, as she did when she later moved to L.A. and New York City. The reader senses in this horrific story that Miller is still tiptoeing around her family’s dirty secret and hardly revealing the half of it. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Actress and writer Miller chronicles her father's obsessive need to collect things. "Every night before I went to sleep…[I asked] for the things I wanted most in life: new dolls, a best friend, and for my house to burn down," writes the author in this gripping, graphic re-telling of her childhood growing up with a father obsessed with hoarding. A fire would destroy the rats, fleas, piles of junk, newspapers, clothes, cracked picture frames, broken radios and unopened boxes of stuff that filled every square inch of their house. When fire did break out and all was lost, including Miller's pets, she felt nothing but guilt (her pets weren't supposed to die), which quickly turned to anger as their new house soon became consumed by her father's relentless need to collect. She was unable to invite friends over since, within a few years, the new place "started to resemble the remnants at the bottom of a garbage can." A broken boiler and broken pipes created a soggy mess of the entire house, where only one of three bathrooms worked and, then, only intermittently. "The downstairs had become a relative swamp ground…the inches of trash would squish beneath our feet, creating an unsteady terrain," writes Miller, and the house was filled with "floor-to-ceiling piles of boxes and bags of paper and knickknacks, things that had been purchased and put down and long forgotten." Despite all the filth, Miller knew her parents were "doting, fallible people that gave me everything they had, and a whole lot more." Eventually, Miller was able to place a name on her father's condition and slowly learned that it was OK to let close friends know about the situations she'd endured. An engrossing, sympathetic exploration of living with hoarder parents.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Meet the Author

Kimberly Rae Miller is a writer and actress living in New York City. Her writing on food, exercise, and positive body image has appeared in Condé Nast’s blog Elastic Waist, Yahoo’s Shine, Social Workout, and in Figure magazine. Additionally, Kim writes about New York living, celebrity gossip, and shopping for CBS Radio and CBS New York. In 2010, Kim was featured in Katharine Sise’s breakthrough career guide Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career. She blogs at

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Coming Clean: A Memoir 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is Kim's story of always remembering where she's from and always remembering to not settle.  Kimberly studies people, she want to emulate a self-assured, easy going school girl. But every day she returns to the rat infested, mildewed house reminding her of who she really is. The thing that really impressed me about this book is that Miller managed to describe the horrors of growing up with her parents and the continued frustration of her father's mental illness, while at the same time making a very convincing case that her parents were caring and loving people who did the best job they could raising her. Miller does not try to villainize her parents. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes autobiographies as well as anyone who is interested in mental illness. The other thing I love about it is that even though it's a very deep book, the topic itself isn't inherently disturbing so I feel really comfortable recommending it to people (as opposed to Etched in Sand or Another Forgotten Child, which focus on physical child abuse for example). It's a deep book, but it's also easy to read and relate to. I can't recommend it highly enough.    
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my friend, Sid: granddaughter, daughter-in-law, and ex-girlfriend of hoarders. Because hoarding killed her. We are all affected by hoarding, even if it mostly invisible to us, or feels like it is those people, over there, on that TV show.  There's a house, or apartment on all of our streets where there's hoarding going on; there are people whose lives are at risk from asthma, pneumonia, or other diseases from living in a hoarding house; there are those who drink or self-medicate to deal with the pain of seeing someone they love seeming choose a collection of soiled fast food wrappers over relationships with real human beings.  Hoarding is a terrible disease, and the author of this book does not gloss it over.  The horrible shame of living in a house where broken water pipes and piled up paper mean it SQUISHES underfoot, where it is crawling with fleas, and rats... that was her childhood. And yet, somehow, she portrays the parents who raised her in this squalor as lovable, if broken people, without excusing or minimizing the damage it did to her, the way even years later, she has PTSD and nightmares.  It is a terrible read, because I wanted to rescue that child, and it is a wonderful read, because somehow, I wanted to keep turning the pages.  It takes a very talented writer to make that happen.   I wish I could make everyone I know read this book and get a better understanding of what it looks like, feels like, smells like, to live this life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. Having known a couple who couldn't throw a thing a way and had tiny paths through their house, I was very curious about this book. It was exceptional. The author did a fantastic job of relating her thoughts and feelings. I found it to be very uplifting and traumatic at the same time. A really great read.
KLJ25 More than 1 year ago
The author is brutally honest about growing up in a hoarder's home and it is very hard to read at times. But the book was so interesting I finished it in one day. What I remember is her total fear of anyone learning about her house & parents, how she got around not inviting friends over, kept herself clean and went to school. The second half about her adult life, when the memories returned was just as heartbreaking, how she tried to help her parents over and over again. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars I don't read a lot of memoirs, either because they are generally dry recitations of facts or the author seems to use her life just as fodder for comedic punchlines. By contrast, the humor in Miller's book is the gentle humor each of us experiences in our own lives, when we realize that our only options are to cry or to laugh. Having read about Miller's childhood and her ongoing battles with her parents' hoarding, I came away amazed that she not only survived but also managed to maintain a loving relationship with both parents. What struck me most, however, was Miller's surprise that she was not the only person in the world who had to deal with hoarding. While perhaps not so extreme as to qualify as hoarders, my mother, husband, and sister-in-law's mother are (or were) extreme shoppers or lovers of paper and broken appliances which might come in handy "some day." I can assure Miller that many of us watch "Hoarders," not to laugh or "for fun," but because the program enables us to say, "There but for the grace of God go I." Reminding yourself that someone else is always worse off sometimes is the only thing that enables you to go on. I wish I could give Miller's book to every child living with a hoarding parent; I firmly believe it would help keep them from sinking into the despair which almost led Miller to commit suicide. I highly recommend Coming Clean to anyone interested in understanding hoarding from the inside.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have so much respect for Kimberly Rae Miller; she was able to write a very thoughtful memoir without condemning her parents. While events were often harrowing and left me aghast, she allowed me to see the grace,compassion and love she has for her parents. We truly can become who we want to be inspite of difficulty in childhood. She is my new hero.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
abySB More than 1 year ago
It was truly an amazing read. What stands out is the author's unfailing love and respect for her parents.