Friday, August 27, 2010

Clean Livin'

How can something I depend on so much continue to let me down? No, I’m not talking about my adorable spouse or my distracted sisters. I’m talking about something that sits in the corner most of the day, but when I need it, I really, really need it. When it’s working well I love that darn vacuum more than any other machine in my house. But by golly, when it’s being contrary, it can drive me to the edges of insanity.

When we were first married we found a great deal on an expensive Kirby vacuum. A local college girl was looking for quick cash and was willing to sell it off, a gift from her grandmother, if I remember right. I was thrilled that we could own something so expensive, that would last us for decades (I assumed).

Several years, and several kids later, I was tired of it. After Jeff spent another whole Saturday afternoon taking it apart and tuning it up, because it seemed to have more bad moods than house full of teenage girls, I began toying with the idea of replacing it.

Periodically I let myself wander down the home electronics aisle, gazing longingly at the shiny new machines that promised so many things that my sturdy old Kirby just couldn’t anymore. There were new designs (canisters!) and new features (pet brushes!) that tempted me more than the rows of chocolate that lined the checkout lanes.

Finally a little extra money came our way and I did it. After spending a morning going over and over the same square of carpet because every bit of dust picked up by Sir Kirby seemed to just get dumped out the back again, I headed to the store. Within an hour I was back home, putting it together, and reading the instruction book cover to cover.

It turned out to be a glorious day. I couldn’t believe the suction on my new baby, and was over the moon once I tried out the attachments. I became a crazy woman, obsessed with picking up all the grime, sand, dirt and dust that my old machine had been missing for years. When Jeff came home he found me huddled in the bathroom, sucking dust bunnies out from behind the toilets.

I assumed I’d found the answer to all my house cleaning problems and couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to buy such a lightweight, powerful machine. But all perfect things come to an end. The naïve early days with my new fangled beauty eventually led me to reality. Once filters were full and canisters of grime had been emptied a thousand times, my new baby started to lose her charm. Little by little she once again lost suction, and left behind as much dirt as she picked up.

That’s okay, I told myself. It hadn’t been that expensive to start with. Maybe I’d just picked the wrong brand. I did some research. I read reviews. And I picked a new model, from a different company. But soon I found the same pattern. I brought it home, loved it, sang it’s praises for weeks, even months. Slowly, slowly we found ourselves back at square one. No matter how much I changed filters or wiped down canisters, I could never get perfect suction again. Then one day I got some great vacuuming advice from a neighbor.

Our latest vacuum had been hauled off in a moving van, headed for our new home in Washington D.C. The old house needed one last cleaning before we turned it over to its new owners. I went down the street to ask a neighbor if I could borrow her vacuum. This woman had money. Her husband built houses and their lifestyle reflected the success he’d found in his company. So imagine my surprise when she opened the door and handed over her own vacuum, which just happened to be the exact same (cheap) model I owned. I must have commented on her choice because I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“Oh honey, I always buy the cheaper ones. I used to shell out the big bucks for the fancy ones and they never seemed to last much longer than these,” she said, pointing to the machine at her feet. “I quit trying to keep up with that game years ago. Now I just buy the cheaper one, love it while it works well, then know I will be replacing it in a couple of years.”

I was enlightened. She had made peace with this process and given herself permission to invest in a new one when the time was right again. No more agonizing over which brand might be better than another. Just appreciate the superior quality of a new machine and know it won’t last forever.

I have to admit I hate the fact I add another metal beast to the local landfill every two or three years. And I wish I had better options. Sure, I’ve seen the commercials for those four hundred dollar jobbies. And maybe they do work great, for years and years. But I’m still skeptical. Even if I had that much to drop on a vacuum, what happens if I’m disappointed in a few short years? Would I eventually find myself back in the aisles full of fifty dollar models?

I just got a new vacuum this week. The first one I bought in New York lasted four years. I feel pretty good about that. I loved it so much I actually bought the same model again. It was glorious to go back to new. I spent a whole day just sucking up dirt, from the mini blinds to the stairs. And I didn’t beat myself up over my purchase. If I’m going to keep this family from drowning in a sea of dust and pet hair, I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do.

Now excuse me for a second.

I think I spotted a few dust bunnies behind the sofa and I can’t wait to get ‘em.


Cathy said...

Oh I like that advice. But, I also have to add that my Kenmore upright seems to be doing just fine....and it's going on 10 years. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

love it! Hilarious comment about the mood swings. Bet I know how you came to be familiar with a house like that.
Happy vacuuming!
love, Ellie