Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mr. Clean 

I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to own less stuff. I’ve sometimes fantasized about a fire claiming everything I have, just so I could start over, but with much less stuff. I’ve fantasized about having some estate agency selling off everything save a handful of books, a bicycle (two of the three I own are less loved) and a couple of irreplaceable wool sweaters. Despite all of those monastic aspirations I somehow own three vacuum cleaners. As a point of order, I own two Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners and one Dyson (compact) vacuum. A man should never have the same number of vacuums as bicycles if the number of bicycles exceeds one. I don’t even own a car. If you know how expensive the Roombas can be, let me assure you they were purchased at great discount from Canadian Tire, whose yearly Autumn sale includes the previous year’s Roomba models.

So yes, I have two robotic vacuums for less than the cost of the single Dyson. The Roombas roam my abode regularly. I have yet to unpack the Dyson. Why? The Dyson is extremely powerful and if you vacuum the top floor long enough, it may eventually suck the dust from the floor below. Herein lies the core of my dilemma. The fact that I have a small house spread over 4 floors is my primary problem. I’m not carrying the Dyson up and down four flights of stairs. My “compact” Dyson weighs in about the same as a retired space shuttle. It is also very clumsy to carry, not because the handle isn’t handy but because the six-foot hose ends with a cleaner head assembly that resembles Thor’s Hammer. The Roombas on the other hand, never leave the floor on which they live. Living Room Roomba has the easiest task with a single open room to clean while the bedroom Roobma works in both the bedroom and the bathroom. They are terrible vacuum cleaners. If they were Molly Maids you’d ask for your money back. But here’s the clincher – they are terrible vacuum cleaners that clean all of the time with very little input from me. Occasionally I have to rescue one from being stuck under the couch or stranded behind a door but generally the only finger I lift is to press a single button. Because If you clean terribly all the time, you eventually wind up doing a pretty good job. Sure I still have to sweep up under the odd piece of furniture but the Roomba vacuums do go under the bed and couch and even if they do a half-ass job, that is one half of an ass of a job I don’t have to do. They are like little pets that clean up after you, rather than the other way round.

Something I learned about cleaning the bathroom was, if you do it frequently and quickly, then you never have to “scrub” anything. Because I hate cleaning the bathroom, I’d rather give a wipe over a clean toilet and tub than have to kneel scrubbing tile and tanks. In a sense, you never have to clean again, if you are always cleaning. Meaning you never really have to scrub anything gross because you’re really cleaning up before it really gets a chance to get that dirty. This applies to vacuuming too. The more often you do it, the less arduous the task. Cleaning frequently trumps cleaning well. In this scenario, flexibility and frequency beat power. Dyson made a very powerful vacuum that I never use. Roomba made smaller, worse vacuums that work all of the time, with little to no effort. Thus these little whirring, brushing and sucking robots are the clear winner. The fact I have to sweep the stairs or “Swiffer” the baseboards is a comforting thought to the greater win of never have to herniate myself lugging a Dyson up and/or down stairs.

This low-effort cleaning regime is also a result of making something a habit like a muscle memory you don’t have to think about that much. The other side effect of this is if you’re keen to clean promptly and easily, you are also keen to keep your home as uncluttered and easy to clean as possible which takes me back to the beginning. I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to own less stuff. So why do I have three vacuum cleaners? The circle of life continues.



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