No, Dustin is not a new cat, nor any other animal. Neither is Dustin a lodger, or a guest or a new family member. Not a human one, anyway. But an extremely effective worker, mostly found under the front window in our living room...
A decade or so ago, when I first heard about robot vacuum cleaners, I thought they sounded like a great idea. But they were very expensive, and reviews suggested that they had a lot of flaws. Quite apart from the infamous stories about dragging dog mess over expensive carpets, I was concerned about tiny pieces of Lego, or little electronic components that might have fallen to the floor.
So I hadn't thought about them much until a couple of months ago when we were in a shop that had robot vacuum cleaners on special offer, at a price that was similar to that of regular vacuum cleaners. Not that we needed a new vacuum cleaner; the one we have works perfectly well. But it's noisy, and a bit heavy to take upstairs, and I find vacuuming one of the most tiring household chores - so I didn't do it very often. I aimed for once a week in the main part of our house, once a month upstairs. I rarely succeeded in either aim.
We have mostly hard floors, so I did also clean them with a dry swiffer, and mop with a wet one. My aim for that was once a week upstairs and twice a week in the main floor. I didn't always succeed in that aim, either, although it did help to reduce dust and thus sneezing and - most importantly - snoring. Every so often I would read an article about dust mites, and shudder, and determine to vacuum more often. But 'good intentions' do not lead to a good place...
And mostly it didn't matter too much. Cyprus is a dusty country and if someone visiting the house feels judgemental about dust, it's their problem, not mine. Before it got too bad, I would take action, if somewhat half-heartedly. If guests were expected, I would at least dust the tops of shelves and mop the floor in the living and eating areas of the house if I hadn't done them on the previous Saturday.
This year I have been a lot more tired than previously. I said in an earlier post that it was perhaps due to my advancing years, and two different people pointed out that my years are less than theirs, so perhaps not. It's not as if I have any chronic health conditions. But Covid in January left me very tired. I thought I was mostly myself by the end of the month, ten days after I was finally released from isolation, but I am not sure that I ever fully regained my prior energy. And I've never had a lot of stamina.
I was beginning to feel more myself by the end of March. Then I had a booster vaccination in April, which made me feel extremely grim for 24 hours, and fatigued in the extreme for a couple more days. I still don't feel as if I've returned to normal. My brain is foggy, my energy levels fluctuating even more than they used to. If I have a busy, active day (and my 'busy, active' days are calm and relaxed compared to those of many people I know) I can't do much more than sit and read a day later.
All of which, combined with a generous financial gift, came together to convince me that a robot vacuum cleaner would be a Good Thing. We didn't just buy it in impulse, even so. We came home, and researched the many available options - most of which are now reasonably priced - and eventually decided on a 'Roomba'.
There are buttons on top to tell it to clean, or to go home. But the instruction manual recommended downloading an app for our phones. My phone doesn't have room for any more apps, and I'd rather use the actual buttons anyway. But Richard downloaded it, and that's when we learned that we had to give it a name. 'Roomba' seemed rather boring, so I Googled for a site that listed names others have given to their robot vacuum cleaners. None of them appealed until we came to 'Dusty' - but, as I pointed out, we didn't want it to make the house dusty. We wanted it to eat the dirt, to suck the dust in... and thus it got its name. And we sometimes started referring to it as 'he'.
One of the reviews I read said that these robot gadgets lurched around the room like drunken babies, and when we set it off for the first time, we could see what the reviewer meant. It started off in a fairly straight line, bumped into something, changed direction, set off until it bumped into something else... it seemed entirely random, and we could hardly take our eyes off it.
The cats were puzzled too, disturbed at first, but quickly accepting that it didn't mean any harm. And over the course of the next ninety minutes or so, it managed to find the entire main floor. I hadn't vacuumed the rug for about ten days, and had swiffered (but not mopped) the floors a few days earlier. So it had to work hard. But I was still rather shocked when it returned to its base after about an hour and a half, and we opened the dust container to check and empty it:
We were surprised it hadn't choked and stopped. According to the app, it had found 39 'dust events' - places where it was so dirty it had to do a kind of twirl to get properly clean.
We thought we had better run it again the following day, and did so. It struggled a bit on some of the lighter-weight rugs, so we lifted those out of the way - they're easy enough to throw in the washing machine. More of a problem was its proclivity for trying to swallow electrical cables, of which we had rather a lot on the floor: at the back of the TV, around my computer, and elsewhere. It was a good incentive to find ways to move them off the floor.
On the Saturday, when I would normally procrastinate about cleaning as I so disliked vacuuming, I had a burst of enthusiasm for dusting the shelves, and even lifted the chairs so Dustin could clean under the dining room table:
Mopping suddenly became less effort, too, as less dusty floors meant less general mess... so I didn't have to keep stopping to clean the mop. Dustin has cleaned upstairs, too, and is excellent underneath the bed. Twice a week seems to be about right for upstairs. We had read that it was supposed to be able to sense stairs, so we watched it the first time it ran upstairs, hoping it would see the stairs coming and move away. I sat on one of the top stairs watching it approach... and was ready to catch it, if it didn't turn around.
What happened was that it stopped, rather precariously balanced with about a quarter of it hanging over the edge. A red light came on, and a message appeared on Richard's phone, telling him that Dustin was teetering on the edge of a cliff. We rescued it, and decided to put the cat litter box at the top of the stairs, as it's fairly heavy and bulky, and would prevent the robot from toppling over or sending out the SOS.
About ten days ago, I remembered that it's probably six months or more since we last moved our big sofa to clean underneath. Sure enough, when I moved it, this is what I saw:
It's been quite a revelation having this robot vacuum cleaner. I didn't think the house was THAT dirty, and assumed that once or twice per week would be sufficient to keep it clean. But we've been running it six times a week in the main part of the house - we give it a rest on Sundays - and still it sucks up a significant amount of dust every day, albeit not as much as the first time. Here, for instance, is today's offering, after about six weeks of use and something like 55 hours running time in total (according to the app):
The white bits that fell out when I opened it are probably plaster dust; considerable work is happening upstairs, which will be the subject of another blog post when it's finished. But there's not much of that. The cats are moulting as the weather warms up, so no doubt a large part of the dust is due to cat hairs, but even so... the house must have been much dirtier than we realised, and it may be months before we can run the Roomba less frequently.
And I'm happy to report that both sneezing (notwithstanding the plaster dust) and snoring have reduced considerably.
I saw ads for these but thought they wouldn't actually be any good. Now with this post I'm convinced to at least investigate whether they'd help in an appointment. Thank you :)
Dear Sue, I truly enjoyed reading about Dustin, and I pray he will be a real blessing to your home (pun intended)
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