5 Life Lessons Learned from My Robotic Vacuum

 It’s not even a real Roomba, but it’s taught me patience, persistence and more.

Posted in , Aug 17, 2020

A cat playing with a robotic vacuum.

Recently, I bought an off-brand Roomba. I didn’t want to spend the big bucks on a name-brand Roomba—the highly publicized original robotic vacuum that has transformed home cleaning—but the truth is, I was tired of sweeping. (What is it about quarantine that makes the house messier? Oh right, we’re home All. The. Time.) Though the decision was strictly a practical one, I’ve found myself inspired by this little guy in a number of surprising ways; dare I say that I’ve learned a few practical life lessons by watching him zip around the house—just like I did by watching my cat, Bilbo.

1. Make Time for Both Work and Rest

My robotic vacuum beeps to life every morning at 9am, because that’s how I programmed him. He cleans for an hour or so—mostly cat hair, but also dirt and crumbs—and then zooms right back to the charging station. (Sometimes, he gets lost and I have to carry him back.)

If he gets stuck and I don’t quickly come to his rescue, he lets me know by beeping angrily. If I ignore him, he flat out refuses to clean. He simply says no. My vacuum is out of energy, just like I would be at the end of an intense clean. A good reminder that, in order to be productive, we all must take time to recharge.

2. You’re Not for Everyone (or for Every Cat)

Bilbo, our old Siamese cat, hates the new robot. Really despises it. When I first introduced them, Bilbo looked at me ruefully, as if to say, When will you get rid of this monster?  But the simple answer is: Never. I will never again live without my little robotic helper.

We did our best to acclimate Bilbo and the vacuum, which we named Frodo, in an attempt to signal to the universe (or perhaps to ourselves) that we are all one big family. This didn’t work. No amount of acclimatization convinced Bilbo that Frodo wasn’t out to kill him.

At the end of the day, it’s okay that Bilbo and Frodo don’t get along. I, too, have tried to make friends with people who simply aren’t for me.  Ultimately, I have learned that we shouldn’t waste energy on what isn’t meant to be. Frodo and Bilbo both have a role in our home, and we’re grateful for both of them.

3. Something is Better than Nothing

When I first read the reviews for my robotic vacuum, buyers warned that this machine wouldn't pick up “one hundred percent” of the debris. However, they pointed out that the little guy would likely circle back during his next session and scoop up whatever he had previously left behind. Frankly, that’s fine with me. Even seventy percent is a win; Frodo is doing his best.

As a perfectionist, I sometimes despair if I feel like if I can’t give my all. But Frodo reminds me that something is always better than nothing. Give what you can now, and get the rest later.

4. Hard Work Trumps Intelligence

Frodo is not that smart. Unlike a real Roomba, Frodo doesn’t connect to Wifi or map out our apartment prior to cleaning. Instead, he bumps along at random. Sometimes he gets stuck on a rug or knocks over Bilbo’s food bowl. (Bilbo howls at this.) That’s okay; he works really hard, and we appreciate that. At the end of the day, he does a pretty good job.

Frodo reminds me that if you’re not brilliant, that’s fine. Hard work covers a multitude of flaws.

5. Keep on Keepin’ on

Frodo gets stuck—a lot.  But boy, does he just keep going. Through dirt and grime. Through lots of hair—mine and Bilbo’s—through the cords we inevitably leave hanging, which he tries to gobble up. I commend him; it’s not easy, getting up day in and day out, cleaning up other people’s messes. What an inspiration. So, on the days you get stuck, or feel like maybe someone should have plugged you in earlier (get it together, Mari), remember to just keep on keepin’ on. Every day is a fresh start.

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