The Help

I’ve told everyone else, I guess I might as well tell you.

I’ve hired help. Well, actually I purchased her.

That sounds hideous, buying a servant, but I really needed to do something.

You see, my husband, Don, has always done most of the vacuuming that gets done around here. He doesn’t do it often, especially for a family with multiple cats, but I didn’t like to complain because he could then tell me, with some justification, to do it myself!

This has worked okay for people with a high threshold for dust bunnies but, and it’s a big but, Don has a torn (nay, shredded) tendon in his ankle, has been in quite a lot of pain, and is having surgery in a couple months.

The vacuuming was looming as my job.

So I purchased help. Her name is Minnie.

What I bought is a Roomba iRobot vacuum cleaner. And I love her!


photo from the iRobot website

We named her after the maid-with-attitude in the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. If you’ve read the book, or seen the movie, let me just assure you, we won’t be letting our Minnie make any pies!

The way this works is the gizmo has all kinds of sensors so it can easily negotiate going from  hardwood floors to area rugs, even over 1.5 inch fringe. It can go under the bed (yes!), under chairs, right up along baseboards.

She is round but she can do corners. She has a brush that rotates, with long fingers that reach into corners and pull dirt into her maw.

She can zoom right up to stairs and stop just in time, pivot, and go back the other way. She knows not to throw herself off.

When I first got her, all I could do was watch her. She uses no discernible pattern for her work—she runs around in ways that seem completely random and, yet, she seems to find what’s there. When Don vacuumed, I would point and say, “You missed a spot.” With Minnie, you just have to trust that she will come back . . . And she does!

When she is finished, she takes herself back to her charging station and plugs herself in with a cheerful little ringtone—beedle, beedle, beedle-bee. Ding, ding ding!

In fact, she is relentlessly cheerful. No matter how often I ask, she makes a happy startup noise, like she is excited to help, and off she goes. She can work for about an hour on her rechargeable battery and it recharges quite quickly. And then she’s ready for more! The difference between her attitude and Don’s is, well, remarkable.

Once in awhile, not often, she gets stuck. And she asks for help. Really, she has a little voice. I’m never sure what she’s saying, because I am usually in another room, having fun or relaxing, but I hear her voice and go check.

There’s a app for my phone, so I can even get Minnie working without getting out of my recliner. It keeps track of how long she has worked, too. She came to work for us just before Christmas and has vacuumed a total of 37 hours since then! She’s vacuumed 66 times and she keeps track of “dirt events” during her work. I’m not entirely sure what that means—I think it’s that she notices enough dirt that she hovers over a spot to do deep vacuuming. I can’t bring myself to tell you how many dirt events she has addressed while here . . . it might negatively influence your opinion of me.

And what do the cats think of her?

They don’t mind her much! While they have not taken to riding around on her like all those cats on the internet, she is not nearly as noisy or clunky as our big canister vacuum and she doesn’t swear loudly while working, like some vacuumers who will go unnamed. . . .

I will admit, she’s not for everyone.

She works rather slowly. If you got a call that unexpected company was coming in an hour, you’d want to haul out your big vacuum and work fast.

She can’t do the whole whole house at once, at least not one with the kind of dirt events we have. I have her do two rooms at a time and kind of rotate her around so she does one or two areas a day, and then starts the rotation again.

She won’t always get every bit of dirt. Her motor blows some stuff away, like the lint created by weaving. Sometimes she tells me she’s done and I say, “No, no, no—get back to work.” But she takes that well and cheerfully starts up again. She has never once said, “Do it yourself.”

You do have to do maintenance on her—empty her bin and sometimes turn her over and clean out her brushes and be sure the sensors are clear. I think, though, I’m probably supposed to do maintenance on my big vacuum, too . . .  I just never did.

She didn’t come cheap. We didn’t get the top-of-the-line model. It costs nearly $900 and that’s crazy talk!

We got the Roomba 690 and she cost about $250, although I must’ve gotten her on sale because now the prices seem to be in the ballpark of $325. Yes, that’s a lot of money, especially when I won’t be getting completely rid of my big vacuum any time soon (although we have not used it once since Minnie came here to live!)

I thought long and hard about spending that much money. But I remembered reading an article that said that, since we can’t buy time, it makes sense to buy what we can afford that will provide us with time.

I could afford Minnie and she has given me time but also less guilt. Instead of thinking, “I should vacuum,” and then ignoring that thought and doing something fun instead, now I fire Minnie up AND do something fun instead. To me, that is worth the money I spent on Minnie.

Don will have surgery in a couple months and I will be doing the lawn mowing or snow shoveling or both, as can happen in April. I’ll be doing the cooking and running errands.

But I’ll leave the vacuuming to the help.

63 thoughts on “The Help

  1. No judgement from me. 🙂 I remember years ago, we had a pool, and I purchased a little machine similar to this that scurried around the bottom and kept it sparkling clean while I sat on the recliner enjoying the sun and a good book. Worked for me as it’s working for you. And, I thank you for the review because who knows when I may want one for myself. 🙂

    • I’ve heard about the pool gizmos and they make a lot of sense to me! There’s a mopping robot from the same company as Minnie but I haven’t heard anything about how it works.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I’ve often thought about hiring an actual person to do some cleaning but my Puritan/frugal roots won’t allow that–that would make me feel slothful. Minnie is the perfect solution!

  2. I can’t wait until you post pictures of your cats riding on Minnie. It might take a little time but I think it’s inevitable. Thanks for your review…wonder how my Graycie would like it.

    • You know, I think the first post I ever read from you was the one where Graycie had just come into your life! I’ve been pleased with how nonchalant the cats are about Minnie. At first, they were, like, “what the hell???” but now they don’t give her a second glance.

  3. The first thing I did on reading your post was follow the link. Who knows….? I do hope your husband’s surgery goes well, and that once he’s convalesced, he doesn’t resent being done out of his hoovering duties 😉

    • If Minnie had a mouth, my husband would kiss her on the lips. He hated vacuuming (hoovering!) But there are other jobs for which he needs a healthy ankle–we both want his surgery behind him.

  4. It was delightful to meet your new maid, I often wondered what kind of service it gave. Sorry, to hear about Don’s bad tendon,I can imagine that he will be very ready for surgery.BTW ,that was a very reasonable price for home service.😁

    • Don in very, very ready for surgery but we put it off until early April because of the issues of dealing with winter. We have a behemoth of a snow blower–too big for me to manage. So, he’ll be out there today, dealing with the foot of snow we got yesterday, and then his foot will throb for days.

  5. Wonderful post! I’ve always wondered about these vacuum’s. I have two fairly large dogs and one sheds in clumps of fur. I can’t help but wonder if his hair would clog her up or fill her up fast.

    • She has a bin that collects dirt and I usually stop her and empty the bin after about a half hour. I will say that she can get clogged up. I take the time, every 3-4 uses, of turning her upside down and de-clogging her. Weirdly, I kind of like doing it because I can see how much she accomplished!

    • Your experience was very like mine! Yes, my dining chairs have legs that are too close together for her to get between them so I have to pull them out from the table. My floor are generally pretty cluttered with small pieces of furniture (and 4 weaving looms!) so there are definitely places she can’t fit.

  6. I hate housework of all sorts which is not a good thing for somebody with as many animals as I have. I can’t say whether that guilt or the guilt of employing somebody else to do my dirty work would be greater so this sort of help would be ideal. However, having defeated a Dyson or two, I have a horrible feeling I might have to go ‘high end’ with these otherwise it might not be powerful enough to cope with my ‘dirt events’ which would probably knock yours into a cocked hat 🙂 Thank you for the review – I have often wondered about these little robots.

    • I can see how this model could be a “gateway drug” to a more expensive and powerful robot vacuum, especially since I’ve been so happy with this one that I would expect the fancy ones to be very good, indeed. Even though Minnie doesn’t pick up every little thing, there is always ample evidence of all she did catch–I am astounded how filthy my house is!

  7. OH YES!! Of all the modern inventions around this one has always appealed to me. Not because I have a big area to clean (I don’t) or I don’t have time (I do) but just because I think it would be so much fun to be painting AND having a little robotic cleaner whittling around doing it’s thing and cheerfully putting itself away again – it’s very Jetsons and appeals to my ever so slightly there geeky side! Sometimes you can just have fun right?

  8. With pets vacuuming is a chore to be faced sooner rather than later, so I’m glad you found a hands off way to deal with it. I assume your house is on one level? Otherwise, I guess you have to arrange a floor by floor rota.

    • Yes, it’s one level but I still do a rotation of rooms, if not floors. She could never manage the whole house on one charge, not with the cat hair we have! But, really, I run her for awhile almost every day and it has made me so much more relaxed about this place!

  9. Ah, this resonates, Kerry! We also have a roomba and she too, had to be named. We call her Gladys. Everything you’ve noted rings true here as well, and we’re very taken with our ‘help’. (Not long after we got her – before we moved here – we had a Christmas drinks party and someone noticed Gladys charging quietly in a corner. The result? A houseful of guests watching her demonstrate her stuff! They were all very serious about her – until it dawned on everyone that we were standing around, glasses in hand, watching the vacuuming! Perhaps we should have popped some canapes on top of her as she trundled around!

    • My sister named hers Hazel–there was an old American TV show with a maid of that name! I *love* the idea of having her serve snacks and, yes, I have found houseguests to be enchanted with Minnie, too!

  10. Thank you for this playful and inspiring post. If/when my very old yet functional vacuum cleaner stops working, I will think carefully about a robot vacuum… And I hope your husband’s healing journey goes well.

    • Thanks, Will! I hope Don’s healing goes well, too. I don’t think it’s complicated surgery, but it is still surgery, and that always comes with some uncertainty.

  11. Thank you for the delightful giggle. I loved the humor of this and would love to have one myself. Vacuuming has become a least favorite with a back that does not like that position. Sorry to hear about your hubby’s ankle and can see why it could be an issue for him. The “help” is a great idea.

  12. I’m so glad you shared your Minnie experiences with us. I hate housework and just mentioned recently to my husband that I wish we had the Jetson’s robot maid, because–like you–I cannot bring myself to hire anyone to clean. I’m about to research to see if there’s an affordable roomba model that can cope with our prolifically shedding dogs. Good wishes to your husband on his surgery.

    • The higher-end models claim to be very good for pet hair–but even my $300 model does a good job on the hair of many cats. I think just the fact that vacuuming now happens several times a week addresses the cat hair issue a lot–vacuuming NEVER happened that frequently when we humans had to do it! And i didn’t mention in my post that can use an app for your phone to schedule the Roomba–so it’ll just do its thing at a specific time each day!

    • Don loves Minnie as much, if not more, than he loves me for buying her! She holds a charge for about an hour. I tend to set her up to do two big rooms at a time and she can manage those in that time, with hard wood floors and area rugs. I’m not kidding, I love her!!

  13. Dan and I are now reading Robot Vacuum Reviews and are getting a bit dizzy with all of the choices. Plus each reviewer comes up with a different top choice. How did you ever decide? Who knows, this just might be our belated Valentine’s Day gift – ha! ha!

    Best wishes to Don before, during and after surgery. Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. That is except for the first 3 hours and first 3 days after surgery.

    May you continue to enjoy the clean space while you have fun! – You’ve certainly convinced us it is time to have more fun!!!

    • I chose the Roomba based on some reviews and also what I was willing to pay, plus a sense of “I want it now!” My guess is that the major brands are pretty similar and I had heard of Roomba. I really continue to like it so much! Thanks for the well wishes for Don–he’s is SO ready to get the surgery over with!

      • Thanks Kerry! We paused our search to give other areas of life attention. It is good to know the Roomba is living up to your expectations. May Don find joyful activities to distract him while he awaits his surgery!

  14. This is very entertaining. I think it would not be worth it in our house, but it is great that it helps you, especially if your ususal ‘workcrew’ is sidelined with injuries.

    • Thanks! I don’t know why I have such a bad attitude about vacuuming, of all household chores, but I continue to be very glad to have made Minnie a member of the family!

      • I think we all have preferences–maybe the noise or physical effort or big deal of it all in vacuuming deters you. I used to dislike things like folding laundry that I don’t mind now. Vacuuming doesn’t happen these days in our house due to wooden floors. Otherwise I’d try to buy a fleet of these things even though they seem too robotlike for my taste.

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