How To Clean A Thing

We continue this department’s investigation into the getting-done of things that were left un-done and have no questions in mind for anyone about why they were not already done. We understand. We’ve got stuff to do too that gets in the way of anything being done. There’s probably verb tenses working against us.

How To Clean A Thing

The first most important task to do when cleaning a thing is to ask yourself. Having finished that, the next most important task is to determine: is this a thing which is bigger than you are, which is smaller than you are, or which is about the same size as you? If you don’t like the answer, are you able to alter your size enough to matter? Your relative sizes do affect how the cleaning gets done, and if so, whether it does, and good luck diagramming this sentence.

It is generally easier to clean a thing which is smaller than you. Your greater size allows you to intimidate the thing, by occluding its light or just by overpowering it. Even should matters not come to that, it’s useful to know that you could, if pressed, overpower (say) the pantry shelves or at least eat them. Not every interaction with things should be a matter of domination and submission, but the option helps clarify matters. So should you have to clean a larger thing, try to enlarge yourself, or to shrink the thing, and then proceed as you would with a smaller thing.

With that done, the next most important task is to determine what kind of cleaning the thing needs. For example, does it merely need tidying? Tidying is the best sort of cleaning because it is done by taking a thing and setting it atop another thing. By creating this stack of things, both are tidied. The stacks can themselves be stacked. It is within the Marquis of Cleansbury Rules to tidy your entire house by stacking everything in it on top of everything else. This is why when you visit the house of your tidiest friend the entire first floor is a vast, empty space, decorated with a single futon capable of seating two people uncomfortably and a wall-mounted television that only gets shows about people buying houses in Peru.

I should say, the tidying urge runs strong in my family. I’m not saying that we’re experts. But we are good. Behind my house is a stack of like four love seats, a dining room table, a roll-away dishwasher, 426 linear feet of books, and eighteen potted plants one atop the other in a writhing pillar of photosynthesis. But it’s all stacked, and neat, and won’t tip over as long as the guy wires don’t snap or we don’t get a breeze. If it does, that’s all right. I have my tidying instincts to rely on. I could stack all that into a good enough pile so fast it wouldn’t even use up all my stockpiled podcasts. Yes, I have a pile of unfinished podcasts. It’s only about fourteen inches tall, but you better find that impressive or I’ll come over and glare at you.

But maybe the thing needs a real, proper cleaning. If the thing is smaller than you, great. Pick the thing up and carry it to a riverbank or body of water. A pond, say, or if you need something larger a hyperpond. And now I’m thrown because my spell checker is not objecting to “hyperpond”. I can’t have put that in my dictionary. There’s no way that’s a real word, though, right? Is my spell checker broken? Flurple. Cn’tr. Flxible. No, these things are getting highlighted. This is all very disturbing and I don’t know that I can continue from here. Knwo. Cnotineu. Yeah, it’s just broken about hyperpond. Hyperlake. No, it allows that too. Hyperocean. That too. Apparently my spell checker thinks “hyper” is a legitimate prefix to any body of water. Hyperriver. Hypercreek. Ah! It doesn’t like that one. Hyporiver. No, it doesn’t mind “hyporiver”. Hypocreek gets rejected. I’m sorry to get bothered by this but if you’re not bothered by this, what are you bothered by?

My TextWrangler window showing the paragraph with words like 'hyperpond' in it and not underlined for being suspect misspellings.
The eternal debate: when you discover a happy accident like this, work it into the piece or separate it out into something else? On the one hand, breaking the flow of an essay is a kind of comic path that can feel very tired to the reader. It’s a little stream-of-consciousness and that can read pretty cheap as a joke. On the other hand, it’s delightful to be surprised like that and why not embrace that delight?

I have to conclude that there’s some serious cleaning-up needed on my dictionary. Anyway, uh, for cleaning up your things I don’t know, try working from the top and getting to the bottom and use small, gentle circular motions. That usually does something. Good luck.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

9 thoughts on “How To Clean A Thing”

  1. If this were a “Mary Worth” comic the inspirational quote would be “Is it bigger than a breadbox, John? Wait, am –I– still bigger than a breadbox, it’s hard to tell in here (under the sleeping mask/blindfold),John.” —Steve Allen “What’s My Line?”


    1. In honesty, after I mailed her a promptly written thank-you note on good-quality stationery, I set it on the mantlepiece on the side of the clock that’s harder to get to and I’ve tried not to think about it too hard or look directly at it lest I risk breaking it.


  2. Many years ago, I earned a Master’s degree in freshwater ecology. (but not in knowing where to put the apostrophe in Master’s, or whether to capitalize it). I have no recollection of hyperponds, hyperlakes, or hyperrivers, which WordPress is now underlining in red here. It is also underlining WordPress – that must be embarrassing. We also didn’t have hyporivers that I remember, although there was a term – I was going to say hyporheal, but Bing informs me it’s hyporheic – for water flowing underneath a river/stream bed. It’s possible all terms have changed since I got my degree, and it may now be insensitive to refer to water as “fresh”.


    1. I am all the more delighted and baffled by other people’s reports with this. Poking around the Internet suggests that nobody actually uses words like ‘hyperpond’ except for a couple of bitcoin enthusiasts telling each other how their thing is totally real money that’s at most five months away from becoming the reserve currency of the industrialized world, and also some people talking about hippopotamuses. I’m happy to talk about hippopotamuses, of course, because one of the many unbelievably stupid cartoons I loved as a child was Peter Potamus, and I still remember the stunned look on a friend’s face when I explained the cartoon’s premise and I got to the part where his hot-air balloon travelled through time. It brings me joy at least once each week.

      Does seem like it’d be useful to have a general term for bodies of water that are underneath other things, and ‘hypo’ makes sense as a prefix for that. That leaves ‘hyper’ with something to do, though. Maybe a ‘hyperriver’ could be for one of those freak cases where, like, a canal has to go through a bridge above a river or other canal.


    1. Oh, there’s some things that are Digimon instead of Pokemon but, yeah, gradually everything is becoming a cute animal-inspired shape. I’m mostly okay with this except it’s distracting to read a bookmon that I know is staring back at me, wondering why I don’t have a more interesting T-shirt on.


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