Squeaky clean

So we have an apartment. It’s lovely. Furnished and decorated, if not exactly to our tastes (hence the trip to Ikea). But in order for it to be move-in ready, we are doing lots of cleaning. (Anyone who knows Andy or me will not be surprised by this.) Right now, with a week off from school and teaching for the national holiday, this is our focus.

It’s great to have time to clean and clean well without the rest of life getting in the way. However, we are tottering on the edge of sanity: how much cleaning is enough? Where will we draw the line? When will we just move in? How sore do my hands have to be before I stop scrubbing the refrigerator and its many, many crevices?

We enjoyed the familiarity of a warehouse full of goods, even if they were all labeled in Chinese.

The cleaning began on Sunday right after we became Sam’s Club China’s newest members. That’s right—there is a Sam’s Club nearby and we joined. Neither of us has ever had a membership to any of the buy-in-bulk stores, but this seemed reasonable since it would allow us greater access to products we easily recognize. Sam’s Club provided us the opportunity to buy large quantities of very American things like paper towels and tissues as well as more typical items like glass cleaner, bleach, multipurpose cleanser, dish soap, and a mop.

Once we checked out, we wheeled our cart to the nearest exit. Just like when we left Ikea, we knew we had to get to a taxi. This exit put us nowhere near a taxi. We weaved through the bus parking, over some speed bumps, and up and down curbs until we finally came around to the front of the store. We joked that we could just take the cart, that we would say we thought it was part of our membership, that we couldn’t possibly carry all those cleaning products without it… but we didn’t have to defend our shopping cart off-roading experience at all. We just called a cab, put our stuff in it, and returned the cart. It was a little anticlimactic, honestly.

Bulk bags of rice in case you forgot we’re in China.

Then it started. Wiping and scrubbing. Mopping and scraping. Floors and walls and ceilings and furniture and appliances and light fixtures and sinks. Toilets. A shower. A tub. Closets. Shelving. Windows. So many (at any other time lovely) windows. Curtains that need to be dry cleaned. It felt overwhelming in part because in the past when I’ve moved I’ve brought my own furniture… This time we have the place itself and someone else’s furnishings. And their (real or perceived) dirt.

We finished Sunday without too much trouble. Monday we worked all day, except for lunch and when we went out to buy a vacuum cleaner. Today, though, we are exhausted.

Cleaning a furnished apartment is like cleaning someone else’s house. It’s strange because it feels intrusive but it isn’t and also it’s really hard to tell when enough is enough.

I called myself the “Wizard of Clean” after disassembling the refrigerator and cleaning all its parts in the bathtub.

This afternoon my hands, though gloved for much of the scrubbing, begged me not to dunk them in anymore cleaners, diluted or not. My cuticles ache. Is that even possible? At their request, I sat down and told Andy I was done for the day. My body was tired and my brain was itching to work. Herein lie the perils of desk jobs, I suppose. Even with my stamina as a runner, I am no match for day after day of physical labor.

Wednesday we will clean some more, but we’ve decided to take a break for more than just lunch. Thursday we will brave Ikea again to get bed linens and order larger items for delivery. Friday we plan to move our things from the aforementioned “polished turd” to our new place. Thank God. After this week off, I’ll really need the weekend.


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