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All cleaned up?

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Remember when you were a kid and perhaps you got a new toy or if you were lucky, a new bicycle? For a week or two, when it was dirty, you would clean it up to make it look like new again.

I’ve been thinking, many people have been out of work for nearly a year. We have had the idle time to clean up the entire planet. I am not talking about employing some grand plan with government grants, large contractors or anything like that. I am talking about you getting your rear end out of a chair, turning off the television or computer and cleaning up right where you are.

If you are like me, you’ve likely had the time. The issue is having the motivation.

We take care of and clean up the things we love. Look around you. Do you care for and love your surroundings? The extraordinary and deleterious material strewn around tells the story, you don’t have to say a word – everyone knows.

My dearest friend, seven years my senior, has an excellent technique for doing this. Over the decades, he became the senior manager at many pulp and paper mills – old manufacturing facilities loaded with discarded junk.

When he arrived at a facility, he would first start with his own office. He would thoroughly clean it, using a flashlight to see in all the dark corners. He would pull all the drawers completely out of the desk and look for papers and so forth that had spilled over and gotten trapped in the inside back corners. He would assess the furniture in the room and discard anything that was not necessary for him to do his job.

Then he would start on the rest of the facility, for he could, now having brought himself to the level of standard he expected for the whole site, no matter how big it was. In these large old manufacturing facilities, the stream of 40-yard Dumpsters would become continuous. In a large manufacturing room, say 100 feet wide by 300 feet long, he defined it as clean when you took a 5-gallon bucket and could not fill it up by “flashlighting” the facility.

“Flashlighting” means not only checking all the nooks and crannies but going along the walls and shining the light on them so they cast a shadow from nails or other unnecessary material stuck in the wall (which you had to pull out, of course, no matter how high up it was).

This process continued outdoors until you got to at least the middle of the highway on all sides of the facility. Large facilities would take about a year to clean up.

Morale improved; people who had worked in the facility for years got a spring in their step.

You have had a year. Have you cleaned up your home and grounds? Would a stranger walking by think, “Someone who lives there loves that place?”

Notice, I didn’t talk about spending a dime on paint or anything other expense like that. Just your idle elbow grease. By now, we should have the whole world cleaned up – if we love this place.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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