Friday, September 1, 2017

My Review of the Neato Botvac

As I'm sitting down to write this evening, Cinderella is cleaning my floors.

No, really.  Allow me to explain.

A while ago my husband received some extra and unexpected money, for which we were very grateful.  It came with a note saying it was hoped it could be used "for rest and relaxation."

And not long thereafter, Nathan and the girls were out running a few errands one morning, and came home with a surprise for me: the ultimate, most long-lasting form of rest and relaxation one can procure.

A Neato Botvac.

What is a Botvac, you may well ask?

It's like a Roomba, only {sorry, Roomba users} better.

* * *

The Botvac has an app you can install on your phone, which allows you to name your robot and then to operate it from your phone, which is very convenient and also fun.  It also means your phone will receive alerts if the Botvac gets stuck somewhere or needs the dirt bin to be emptied, and an alert when it finishes cleaning.  You can also access a map of the most recent cleaning, which usually shows quite accurately the areas the Botvac has cleaned.

A map of a recent cleaning.  Since our home has two rooms that are down steps, she doesn't do those rooms unless I move her in there and run a specific cleaning in either of those spaces.  So you can see on the map how her lasers plotted some general sense that those spaces existed, but she kept herself from going off the ledges into either of those rooms.

Our girls, as you may have guessed, immediately clamored to name our Botvac Cinderella, and so, we did.  {I initially wanted to name it Carson, to tell the truth, but the girls won out on this one!}

Her notifications are always charming and polite, such as, "Thank you for emptying my dirt bin."  You're welcome, Cinderella.  It's the least I can do.

* * *

The Botvac uses lasers to scan the rooms and create a map of your house (or whatever floor of your house it's cleaning) as it goes.  It will then plan the most efficient path to use to clean.  I find that it tends to find and clean perimeters of rooms first, and then go back and do the middles in very systematic rows back and forth.  It easily slides under our living room couch and big chair, so for the first time in, um, ever, those places are routinely clean, which is pretty amazing.

It can be used on both carpeted floors and wood floors, so Cinderella happily roams between the living room rug, the wood dining room floor, the vinyl kitchen floor, and the carpeted family room without missing anything.  And you know what I'm not missing?  The old days of wrestling with changing attachments for our old vacuum between the wood floor wand and the carpet attachment!

We do find that she gets a little perplexed trying to go under the dining room table amidst so many chair legs to navigate, so we usually flip the chairs, restaurant-at-closing-style, onto their seats on the table before running Cinderella.  I guess flipping all the chairs every evening is a teeny bit inconvenient, but when you consider that a small magical device is going to clean beneath the table, I guess I can deal with it.

A before and after of the floor under my three-year-old's chair at the dinner table.  This is pretty much the situation after every single meal, every single day.  A woman with more time on her hands might sweep and mop or wipe it up on her hands and knees.  Nowadays I pick up the largest things, let the rest dry out, and run the Cinderella.  Voila!
It has a small round side brush that it uses to sweep along the very edges of floors to bring things into its suction reach.  And as you'd expect, the Botvac can sense ledges such as small drop-offs between rooms or a staircase, and will not go over a ledge.  It also senses furniture and other large objects and circumvents them.  If the Botvac's battery runs low in the middle of a cleaning, it will return to its charging base until fully charged, and then "remember" where it was to resume cleaning once it is charged.  It also has a nice feature to run a "spot clean" in a given location, which I've found handy for our entryway rug.

* * *

My immediate response to Nathan's gift was overwhelming happiness.

A few moments later, guilt set in.  I actually felt like if we just worked harder to keep the floors cleaner we wouldn't need this exorbitant, luxury lifestyle item, and that Nathan getting it for our home meant a personal failing on my part.  I also felt guilty about the cost of it, because I have a tendency to be frugal to a fault in some regards.

While I was bemoaning my guilt about his purchase, Nathan set up the Botvac and started it running. The girls cheered as "Cinderella" vacuumed our downstairs for us.  And I stopped feeling guilty and started feeling exceedingly happy again.

* * *

I've noticed several unexpected benefits of having a Botvac aside from the quite obvious fact that, you know, she cleans my floors for me.

First of all, it's quite motivating to the kids to know that a robot vacuum, for whom they have a mixture of love, admiration, and fear, is about to be unleashed on the house.  They are not altogether aware of her size limitations in terms of what she can actually vacuum up, and in their minds, she's going to eat all their belongings.  So, they are very motivated to clean up their things.  If I'm running Cinderella in the evening, before bedtime I'll just give them a warning about it and they're very good about picking up all their stuff so it doesn't get "eaten."  If I've skipped an evening and decide to do it the following morning, we'll work together on getting everything ready, so they can pick up their toys while I flip the chairs and move the kitchen garbage can, etc.

Secondly, it's motivating to me to know that I'm always pretty close to having the floors clean, and if I can just pick up things, close a couple of closet doors, and flip chairs, I'll then be one push of a button away from having Cinderella clean all my downstairs floors for me.  Suddenly those tasks seem very manageable, and very worth it.  Instead of getting the kids to bed and wanting to immediately crash in exhaustion (well, I still want to do that sometimes!), I'll find myself thinking, It's not too bad; if I load the dishes into the dishwasher, a machine will wash them for me.  If I gather laundry and throw a load into the washing machine, it'll be clean by morning.  Likewise, if I pick up the stuff on my floors, a robot will vacuum them for me! If Ma Ingalls could do all that stuff by hand, I can manage to do the preparations for my magical machines to do their work!

Thirdly, I've realized how much happier I am when my floors are really clean on a daily basis.  I love not feeling little bits of grit or crumbs under my bare feet when I'm walking around in the house.  And I've noticed I can let go a little bit of my frustrations with how dirty the kids get playing outside when I know that despite my best efforts, they'll be tracking a lot of that dirt back into the house.  It's really nice to shrug and say to myself, I'll be running Cinderella this evening!

* * *

And speaking of dirt in my house, you would not believe the amount of dirt this Botvac cleans on a daily basis.  At first we kept saying to each other, "Wow, this is both incredible and disgusting!  But she must be lifting dirt that's been settled into the carpet.  She won't keep getting this much every day."  But the weeks went by, and she kept filling that dirt bin every. single. day.  We are flabbergasted.  Horrified.  Gratified.  All at the same time!  It's amazing.  I'm so happy knowing all that stuff isn't on my floors.

Yes, this is after one cleaning.  I'm as horrified as you are, believe me.
I really believe these brilliant little things should become standard in most homes.  Anyone who has even a little disposable income even occasionally should get one.  {We are not, I might add, usually the kind of people who can drop a large chunk of change on something like this, but in retrospect, even aside from receiving some unexpected money, I would do this again in a heartbeat!}  If you think about it, almost everyone has a dishwasher.  And the Botvac is to your floors as a dishwasher is to your dishes, or a washer and dryer is to your laundry, for that matter.

I'm a mama to three small children, and I work anywhere from 15 to 40 hours in a given week.  Part of my work actually involves other people's young children traipsing in and out of my house throughout the afternoon.  In other words, in my life right now, the level of messiness is high and the amount of spare time is low.  So, having Cinderella "join our family" has been saving my sanity in a big way lately.

Is the Botvac perfect?  Well, no.  She does seem to get "stuck" from time to time in a place where she's not actually touching anything, so she's clearly just become confused.  {That's OK, Cinderella... I get confused sometimes too.  Where was I going with this kitchen towel? Is it clean or dirty? What am I doing?}  And once or twice I've seen her keep trying to go up against a closed door, back and forth, over and over - not banging into the door or anything, just sort of perseverating about a certain general direction.  And I must admit that our baby swing really confuses her; the base of it is just high enough for her to get stuck in but not high enough to keep her from trying to go over and into it.  So, that's another thing we're picking up and moving before running the vacuum most of the time.  But aside from a few quirks like these, I would have to say she's pretty near perfect, she does a fabulous job cleaning, and I love her.

* * *

The bottom line is this:

If you want to experience true and lasting joy, you need one of these.

If you'd rather keep cleaning your floors with the waters of your own miserable tears, I guess you don't need one.

Cinderella charging at her little station after cleaning my floors last night.
*Disclosure: I am not a fancy professional blogger, and this review was neither requested nor paid for by anyone.  However, if the creators of the Neato Botvac see it and would like to send me another Botvac for free, I will receive it with tears of gratitude and utilize it to clean my second floor on a daily basis, and I will thus most likely achieve Nirvana.*

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