le of magazines in the spare room or perhaps the mountain of unused sporting equipment in the garage? You won’t find a much better incentive than reading Mess, Barry Yourgrau’s lighthearted account of his two-year quest to clean out his New York apartment.
Yourgrau, a writer and occasional actor, can afford to be lighthearted. From his description, which includes dozens of plastic supermarket bags wafting about like tumbleweeds, things are beyond messy at his pad but don’t approach reality TV territory. He can still navigate the premises, at least, and find a spot to write an entertaining chronicle of his project.
You might ask: Does it really take 256 pages to clean out an apartment? Why not call 1-800-GOT-JUNK and be done with it? The answer, naturally, is complicated, and in Yourgrau’s view, it goes back to a peripatetic childhood, a difficult relationship with his father and (surprise!) an inability to let go. Throw a girlfriend short on patience into the mix, plus side trips to various therapists, support groups and clutter experts, and you have more than enough to keep things readable.
Fortunately for Yourgrau (and the reader), there’s a specific goal: All he has to do is get things presentable enough to host his girlfriend and her mother for dinner. Given all the baggage (real and psychic) involved, that’s easier said than done.
Will Yourgrau sort out a lifetime of messy relationships and get motivated to clean things up in time to host that dinner? Let’s just say the reader who roots for a tidy ending won’t be disappointed.