Monday, April 30, 2007

Did you ever buy a vacuum you liked?

Published April 16, 2007

Eureka, Dirt Devil, Kenmore, Fantom.
They stood like soldiers up on a shelf.
Below them were their boxes that proudly proclaimed things such as "Bagless!" "12 amps!" "Rated 33.0!"
And I stood in the middle of the aisle sizing up one vacuum soldier after the other.
I was on a "Buy a Household Appliance" mission and there are few things in this world that are more humbling.
There are two ways to buy: As an educated consumer or flying by the seat of your pants.
Which is better? Beats me. I've never figured it out. All I know is that there was always something better than the one I bought.
I recently bought a new dishwasher, and I could not have been more educated. I studied online, and I studied the Consumer Reports' Buying Guide. I narrowed my choices, tucked the guide into my purse and went to nearly every store in the county that sells dishwashers.
My choices were nowhere to be found.
I showed a clerk in a popular large appliance store my choice in the buying guide.
She put on her reading glasses and looked at the page.
"Oh, those are last year's model numbers."
"But this is the 2007 buying guide," I told her.
"Yeah, but it comes out before the new models do."
See, you try to be an educated shopper, and they change textbooks on you.
I followed her to the model that she said used to be the model I was looking for.
"This one," she said. "See, it has three washing arms and an adjustable top shelf."
I wasn't looking at the dishwasher. I was looking at her, trying to figure out if she was telling me the truth. She seemed honest enough, but I couldn't be sure.
In the end, I wrote down the new model number and told her I'd be back.
As I was walking out of the store, I started thinking that my old dishwasher wasn't all that bad.
In fact, I didn't even need a new one. Just because the door was broken and the bottom shelf rolled down it and across the kitchen floor during loading or unloading was no reason to get rid of it. I could just keep using my leg to keep the shelf from rolling across the floor.
And it did get the dishes clean.
A couple of weeks and a bruised shin later, I was back in the store. My spirit was broken. My will to find the World's Best Dishwasher gone.
All I had left was faith in my fellow man so I bought the one the saleswoman recommended and hoped for the best. Although it has been fine, I still wonder about the lost model.
My trip to buy a vacuum cleaner was completely different. I decided we needed a new vacuum to clean our old house - yes, we still have both an old and a new house - and I went to buy one.
So, there I stood in the vacuum aisle, wishing I had my Consumers' Report Buying Guide. I narrowed down my choices by process of elimination and bought one - not the least expensive, but definitely at the low end.
It seemed to work fine, but what do I know? I found my buying guide and opened it to "Vacuums."
My chosen model was not among the top 10. Shoot, it wasn't among the top 33. But the brand was - and maybe, just maybe, they changed the name of the model after the guide came out.
After all, it is the 2007 buying guide, you know.

Monday, April 2, 2007

That robin looks as if it could use a bath

Published March 26, 2007

Ahh, spring.
Time to put on some shorts (yikes), open up the windows to air out the house and do some spring cleaning.
Suddenly the "ahh" is gone.
No, I shouldn't say that. As much of a chore cleaning a year's worth of grit and grime is, it always feels so wonderful to be sitting in a clean house.
I know you probably feel the same way. Because, according to a survey done by the Soap and Detergent Association, which represents the makers of 90 percent of the cleaning products marketed in the United States, 98 percent of people feel good about themselves when the house is clean.
Yet, despite that, only slightly more than half (54 percent) said they clean on a daily or weekly basis, and 18 percent said their homes are filled with clutter.
But 65 percent believe a good spring cleaning will fix all that.
What room do you think people found the biggest priority when spring cleaning? It was the kitchen, followed by the living room and the bedrooms - with the bathrooms and family room a distant fourth and fifth.
If you go on the Good Housekeeping Web site, you can take a quiz to find out what kind of housekeeper you are. (As if you don't already know.) It's all based on how much time you spend cleaning each week.
The soap group's survey also asked people what the least rewarding tasks were. Cleaning the kitchen was No. 1 - hmmm, guess that explains its importance when it comes to spring cleaning.
Other unrewarding tasks were doing laundry, cleaning the garage or basement, cleaning the bathroom and mopping floors.
I really don't understand those answers, because it seems that doing those things results in instant gratification. You can see results immediately.
My first choice would have been cleaning out the garage or the basement, places that no amount of cleaning can make look clean.
Or how about that side of the stove that butts up against the counter, that magnet for all things gross?
Good Housekeeping rated me - a person who spends seven hours a week cleaning her house - a "member of the White Glove Sisterhood."
It says I'm a "serious cleaner."
And then it estimated the time it would take to complete my spring cleaning tasks: Five days.
Five days? Shoot, I just did what I thought was my spring cleaning in five hours.
But I did forget a couple of Good Housekeeping's recommended tasks, like cleaning the blades and grills on all the ceiling fans and washing the blinds and shampooing the carpets.
Now, I knew that I absolutely could not do that all myself, so I went to find my husband.
He was last spotted in the back yard raking leaves off the top of the pool cover.
He had moved on.
Now he was clearing the tall ornamental grasses he had chopped down.
Spring cleaning the yard.
I watched him bend over, scoop up a pile of cuttings and throw it in the trash. Go back for another load. Bend over, scoop up cuttings and throw them in the trash.
There aren't a lot of things that are readily apparent in married life, but this one was. I knew this yard-working man was not going to come indoors and help me dust the grills on the ceiling fans. I actually knew better than to even ask.
Hey, that's a subject matter the soap people never dealt with: Who in a house is responsible for all the spring cleaning?
It's easy to figure out the answer to that question here.
It's the person in the house, of course.