My kids have had chores since they were little. Getting them to do their share of the housework has taken major effort on my part for just as long. In this era of sheltering at home to flatten the Coronavirus curve, however, we’ve faced some the same frustrations as many others.
Here’s my biggest one: Mom is the only one who notices most of the messes, but this mom is neither willing nor able to tackle each and every spot of filth by herself!
My solution? I bought a “space gun.”
Okay, so this is actually the body of a Dyson stick vacuum, not a futuristic weapon. Here are the rest of its parts.
I’d unpacked the new cleaning tool upon arrival, carrying it into the kitchen to charge at a convenient outlet. When my older son walked in and saw it on the counter, he exclaimed, “Hey, what’s with the space gun?!?”
“Hey, what’s with the space gun?!?”
My son made a beeline for the new vacuum. He couldn’t resist picking it up and pulling the big, red trigger. That’s exactly the reaction I was hoping for.
Specifically, I bought a Dyson V8 Animal+ model vacuum. Here’s the manufacturer’s page for it. Honestly, though, I only chose† the model I did because it was the least expensive one on sale at Costco when I was ready to buy.
Due to COVID-19, my extended family of six is all working and learning at home, and our main kitchen is getting heavy use. Someone cooks at least three meals and many snacks every day in there. It’s not uncommon to run the dishwasher several times daily, just to offer a snapshot of how much eating is going on. It’s a small victory to get my guys to use a plate while they graze, so crumbs land everywhere.
When the weather is good, we take advantage of the space and privacy offered on our kitchen-adjacent deck, but that also means lots of seasonal pollen being tracked inside. And we are gardening in containers out there, too, so add dirt.
My kitchen floor is always filthy now, and having a tween sweep twice a day hasn’t been enough to keep me sane. Sorry to be graphic with these photos, but this is an honest snapshot of life in quarantine at our house. I didn’t need to “pose” the crumbs to get several pictures. Family life is not always pretty!
I’m not promising that any new tool—even a stick vacuum that looks like a space gun—can change your life or magically turn untidy kids into efficient household staff.
I do, however, argue that it is easier to accomplish difficult jobs like housework during a pandemic when we acknowledge individual team members’ inclinations and try to work with them rather than against them.
While Mom thinks a vacuum is merely a helpful tool for getting crud off the floor, a kid who can pretend he’s aiming a ray gun is welcome to entertain that fantasy if it encourages him to do his chores willingly and, preferably, expeditiously.
As with every new vacuum I’ve ever bought, stupid Dyson offers minimal designated storage for a whole bunch of loose parts. I actually experienced a feeling of exasperation and frustration upon beholding all the attachments. I was unboxing an item purchased in search of a simpler way to clean up my kitchen floors!
The Dyson V8 Animal+ came with a “docking station” you must screw into a wall to use. It has cord-routing channels to keep the separate charging cable in the right place and give your stick vac a home, but only two of the included attachments can be stored there.
Naturally, I improvised an elegant solution for the other five parts. Ahem.
Eagle eyes may notice I’ve affixed white stickers to every accessory that came with this pricey yet sanity saving Dyson. I’m hoping even my kids will understand that the “electronics” attachment is a better choice for vacuuming a computer keyboard than, say, the motorized floor head with its beater bar.
And, yes, someone has already tried vacuuming the surface of his brother with that beater bar. It went about as well as you’d expect, but, thankfully, no one lost an eye to the crevice tool.
For anyone who’s curious, I’m also posting a PDF of the family chore chart that I created in the early days of sheltering in place due to COVID-19. Jobs are color coded to indicate which member of our nuclear family is assigned to do what, with some tasks in black text left unassigned to leave room for schedule variations due to school and work and my own varying level of ability due to chronic illness.
Anyone who’s done housework will recognize that my chore list doesn’t come close to acknowledging all the jobs necessary to truly keep a home in order. This document is our starting point, useful for my family because it is all too easy for Mom to become the default for it all, and nagging all day long exhausts me and ruins family harmony.
Full disclosure: I still have to nag my kids to get their chores done. The value of the chart is to save me some breath over which job it is, this time, that’s been overlooked in favor of another round of Animal Crossing or Rainbow Six Siege. I remind the boys that they have chores; the chart reminds them exactly what they are expected to do.
I’ve also taken pains during this crisis to point out to my male children the inherent sexism of assuming the lady of the house is there to clean up after them. I may be a stay at home mom, but I’m also a feminist and an intellectual whose greater talents lay outside the domestic sphere.
Who knew a “space gun” could be such useful tool in the quest for a clean home and gender equality?
†I’d been researching rechargeable battery stick vacuums for a few months before COVID-19 encouraged me to take the immediate plunge… to avoid murdering my filth-flinging family.
I actually would have gone with the LG CordZero A9 because of its superior features if all else had been equal and I’d been making a planned purchase. The LG’s $500 list price (vs. my not-top-of-the-line Dyson’s $379, discounted to under $300 at Costco that day) nudged me to choose “good enough” and get my floors cleaner right away.
The superior features I gave up? Removable/swappable battery packs are the biggest loss, but also lighter weight and a charging base that can free stand compared to Dyson’s mandatory wall mount. Either Dyson or LG are capable of frequent quick trips around a room the size of my kitchen, however, and either one easily cleans up more crumbs than my kid with a broom while handily beating the full size vacuum for convenience and maneuverability.