Let a robot vacuum help you out when you have a disability

March 28 | Guest post by Addy
Cute cat not included with purchase of iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaning robot. (Photo by: Eirik NewthCC BY 2.0)

Vacuuming isn't hard. But when you have a chronic condition that causes fatigue issues like I do, sometimes it falls by the wayside. There are other more pressing cleaning concerns (dishes, kitty box, cleaning the bird cage) that seem to take priority, and once those are done, I've tapped all my reserves. "The spoon theory" describes it best: when you have a chronic disease, you have to pick and choose.

We recently received a cast-off robot vacuum, and suddenly I always have clean floors. All I have to do is touch a button and it goes. Even at my tiredest, I can push a button. Sometimes I have to "guide" it, but most often not. It even gets most of the hard to reach places that would be missed in normal vacuuming (under the couch, bed, and bird cage).

These things are amazing, and if you are busy and have very little time, before you leave to go somewhere, push a button and let the little thing go. When you get home, you have clean floors, and you just have to put the little guy back in his home to charge and empty him.

Now if I could just find a machine to fold my clothes for me…

Anyone else find ways to make cleaning easier when you have a disability, robot-aided or not?

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  1. They ARE amazing! I have an older first- or second-generation Roomba, and I love it. Set it to start when you leave for work and come home to a clean floor!

  2. These are definitely on my 'to buy' list. I don't have a chronic illness, but I often come home from grad school and am absolutely exhausted and can barely make food for myself. As of right now, this means that I hardly ever clean anything.

    Word of warning though – if you have pets/children/generally messy people, do a walk around to make sure there's nothing major (like poop) or you'll have some interesting tracks throughout the house…

    4 agree
      • They're loud, but not as loud as an upright vacuum. Probably similar in volume to a handheld.

        • I think the difference is when you are using the vacuum, it doesn't matter that it's Loud because you are vacuuming and only vacuuming. But with a roomba, you may be vacuuming and watching TV or vacuuming and reading… and when you aren't actively generating the noise it seems louder!

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  3. Addy, thanks for this. I have been wondering about these for awhile now so it's good to hear from someone who uses one that they find it useful. I just have a few questions if you don't mind? Or if anyone else knows I'd really appreciate the feedback.

    I wonder about how often you would have to use something like this as they don't appear to have much storage for any dirt and dust they've collected. Do you use yours daily and approximately how much area does it cover over what period of time?

    Also do you only use it on linoleum, tile or wooden floors or does it also work on carpet?

    Do you have pets and if so does it pick up the pet hair?

    Also I was wondering about the energy rating and if the recharging takes long and uses a lot of power?

    Sorry, I know that's a lot of questions and right now I have this fancy new husband creature who does the majority of the vacuuming but something like this could be a great little gadget that would free him up for more important husbandly duties like canoodling and such, so I'm keen to find out more.

    3 agree
    • I use mine (which is several years old) in the main living/dining area downstairs at least once a week, sometimes more often if the floor is particularly dirty. I have wooden and linoleum floors right now, but it works really well on carpet, too. Apparently the newer versions have a sensor that changes the position of the brush automatically depending on floor type, so it probably works even better on hard floors than the one I have.

      I have two cats, one of which has copious amounts of very fine, long hair. There is hair all over the place, all the time. The Roomba is pretty good about picking up most of it, better than my upright vacuum.

      It's hard to say how long it runs because I don't pay attention. It will automatically stop vacuuming when it detects that the floor is clean, but since my floors tend to be pretty dirty it often goes until the charge runs out. 20-30 minutes maybe? Of course, my model is old so the new ones may hold more charge or run more efficiently. It holds maybe twice as much as a Dustbuster, but again the newer models might be different. I try to empty mine every other use, but sometimes I forget and it still works when I let it go longer.

      I don't know about the energy rating, but I would guess that it uses less power than an upright. It's way quieter, which leads me to believe that it's not working as hard but that's just my hunch. I guess it takes maybe an hour to recharge? Two? Again, the newer ones might charge more quickly.

      One of my favorite features is the tiny spinny brush (imagine a weed whacker with a little whisk brush on the end) that cleans right up to the edge of things, something my upright doesn't do. It helps with the clumps of cat hair that collect at the baseboards and around furniture legs.

      3 agree
    • Another note to add: we used to have one (2007), and kept it under the desk in the bedroom on its charger. I guess we kept accidently knocking the vacuum off the charger, because eventually (not even a year) the battery died.

      Be mindful where you keep it with that rechargable battery!

      4 agree
    • We use it daily, it takes about 45 minutes to charge and will run for about the same amount of time. There are fancier ones that have "electronic boundries," but if you get an older generation model, you can just put physical objects in the way and it will work around them. We usually empty it after each use, and in the 45 minutes it can usually get a decent sized room. We use it on our Carpet and linoleum floors and it works great on both. We also have 3 cats, a dog, and a cockatoo, and its great about picking up the hair. Not sure about the energy rating, I'm sure if you look at the specs, you will find more information on that.

      1 agrees
    • Mine has a self empty function where the dirt gets sucked into the big canister at its dock. If he gets full he goes home, empties then continues on his way!

      4 agree
  4. When I was in a wheelchair/on crutches, I had a really hard time with laundry. I actually ended up bringing my laundry to a fluff n fold option laundromat. They charge by the pound, but they wash and fold it all for you! Some things were worth paying for, and that was definitely one of them.

    2 agree
    • this is super subjective depending on your abilities/preferences/space, but i found keeping up with all the kids' clothes almost impossible until i just stopped folding them – everything is on hangers. it's faster and easier for me (but may or may not help others).

      1 agrees
  5. I love the spoon theory! Its the best way to explain chronic illnesses to healthy people.

    Totally know how you feel, I'm currently battling a severe form of asthma along with CFS. Not fun at all, and spoons seem to disappear quickly. For me, it helps to have my hubby help out with the chores. So, I can still do what I can (kitty litter, cooking) and he does some of the chores on his own (dishes, cleaning the bathroom).

    Also, I've started cleaning just a little bit each day. So instead of doing everything on one day, I divided it up over several days. Like empty the trash on Wednesdays, laundry part 1 on Thursdays, laundry part 2 on Friday, etc. That way, I'm just doing a little bit each day and the house still looks awesome.

    Finally, make sure to take care of yourself first. Get plenty of rest and don't ever push yourself. Sending spoons and hugs your way. =)

    4 agree
    • Thank you! I actually feel very lucky because I've found a very successful vitamin/take care of me regimen that keeps me going more than normal and out of most pain. (I've got fibromyalgia.) The hubby helps, but I feel bad when he has to do everything. I'm learning to do a little at a time, but its not always easy, this just made everything a bit easier.

      3 agree
  6. I *love* spoon theory. it helps so much. I second Chrissy – sending you lots of spoons.

    Since mine is a visual impairment a lot of my cleaning stuff is about making sure it's actually clean. What I can see as clean and what everyone else sees as clean are often two VERY different things. So I do a lot of touching of surfaces to make sure they're actually clean.

    2 agree
  7. i love ours! though after 6 years of use its on my husbands to repair list… it does great with pet hair!

    we run our 3 times a week in the middle of the night. it doesn't wake us or the kids, ours is programmable. I don't know about the energy rating, ours is pretty old so would be different from a newer model. Our charge only lasts an hour or so and ours rarely docks itself, it usually gets stuck somewhere so in the morning i find it and redock it and by the next time its ready to go, this really doesn't bother me, we have weird chairs the it tends to get stuck on. I think it takes about an hour to recharge.

    1 agrees
  8. I think that when living with a partner, division of labor is key. I'll do what housework I can (folding laundry, putting away clean dishes), and my husband will do things I cannot, like hand washing dishes and shoveling snow. This way I get to contribute to the household without hurting myself.

    1 agrees
  9. Hmmm… Anybody know if this transitions from hardwood floors to an area rug? What about stairs? Will it fall down stairs?

    • Our little robot guy has no problem transitioning from our linoleum kitchen floor to our carpeted living room. As far as falling off stairs, the newer generations have sensors that are supposed to prevent it from going down a drop off, they also have electronic boundries. If you go with one of the older generations, you can just put something in front of the stairs for it to bump into so it will go in the other direction.

      • I have an old one (model 400) and it stops at the stairs. ("Cliff avoidance system"!)

        1 agrees
  10. I have always wanted one of these. For me, vacuuming IS hard! Much of my pain is in my shoulders and hands, so holding a vibrating thing and moving my shoulders repetitively is absolute murder. It takes all my spoons for a day to do a smallish house.

    When living alone and with my elderly grandmother, I would just pay one of my friends $20 a month to come over and vacuum once a week. It wasn't much, no, and probably just enough to cover her gas to get there, but she would have done it for free if I'd let her so I figured it was fair enough. I also once paid someone $40 on top of whatever my Gran paid her for a pre-Christmas house cleaning to hang up four 18-gallon totes full of clean laundry. At the time I could fold well enough but hanging things is nigh impossible. (Now my mister hangs the few clothes of mine that need it, I don't fold my underwear anymore, and the rest of my clothes usually end up piling up in a clean basket because my shoulders can't handle folding laundry anymore.)

    Sometimes we just have to get creative with our solutions, and outsource the rest. Personally, I prefer getting creative, because I have more time and creativity than money. And now I want a Roomba. ๐Ÿ˜€

    2 agree
    • This would be perfect for you! Getting creative is a must too. I have a ton of creativity and it gives me more spoons if I let the creativity free. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1 agrees
  11. I couldn't live without mine. He makes me happier. My robot is a Deebot. It talks as it vaccums and shouts for help if it gets stuck. There is nothing about my robot I don't love, I almost feel the need to write him a little poem. Oh deebot dude, how I love you so, I could sit on the lounge for hours and watch you go, go, go. You have me wrapped around your little wheels, I will never let you go. That's why when you call "HELP, HELP" I come running, I'm never slow.

    4 agree
  12. I covet a Roomba so much! Much I have thigh length hair that tends to strangle things with wheels. Is there anyone out there with experience with really long hair and Roombas? Can a Roomba cope with hair or does it choke and die?

    1 agrees
    • I am a long haired lady, and our Roomba does a great job of picking up the never-ending collection of lady hair on the carpet. It has never clogged, but we do tend to need to empty the tray after every two or three runs of a small apartment. Still, it is very much worth it to have one. So far, only shoelaces or rubber bands have given it any trouble.

      1 agrees
  13. I have the LG version, and I am in love! I may not have any reason I can't vacuum myself, but I hate doing it so my little green LG is a life saver! I run mine overnight after i go to bed, empty the box in the morning and run it a couple of times a week (Living areas a couple of times a week, whole house at least once a week). I also have waist length hair and he handles it with Pizazz!

    1 agrees
  14. You've gotta be careful with those, though! My friend had one, and when she went upstairs her dog had an accident on the floor. When she came downstairs, there was dog poo all over from it being run over! Big mess, and hard to clean.

    1 agrees
  15. Where did you buy your devices from? Store? Price?

    On a side note, it's oddly comforting to read about all you chronic illness home-owners…I'm on the cusp of graduating and heading out to my own place, and have been terrified that I will fail miserably due to my multiple chronic illnesses. Thanks for restoring my self-confidence! I can do this ๐Ÿ™‚

    2 agree
  16. I love my Roomba. It's not only efficient but entertaining to watch. My only complaint with the Roomba is the regular cleaning of brushes it requires. Before each use, I have to disassemble the underside and pull out all the hair. Full disclosure: I have long hair and three cats (two are longhairs).

    1 agrees
    • Yeah, once they finally invent a Roomba that's somehow self-cleaning, it'll pretty much be perfect.

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