You get what you pay for, especially vacuum cleaners

Vacuuming – how dated is that? Actually shoving some massive, noisy, heavy machine over every inch of floor to suck up dust.
Why, in the 21st century, isn’t there some laser wash that vapourises the dirt and turns it into rose-smelling smoke? Surely Amazon can come up with this, and schedule it to clean your home at 4am, leaving you with nothing but a hint of roses and an Also Recommended For You hologram?
We had a Dyson, when they were a new thing, and it was brilliant, really sucky and good. But after years of misuse hard work it started to flag a bit and I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of replacing the filters and the hoses so we tipped it.
I also decided that seeing as it was years since smug James Dyson had come up with the bagless revolution, every other vacuum manufacturer must have caught up and probably gone one better. So instead of taking out a second mortgage for a new Dyson, I got a cut price Vax.

What was I thinking??

***Rant Alert***

‘Let’s get started’. Let’s not bother, eh?

It sucks. Figuratively and literally. It sucks the grime, which is the only positive thing I can say about it. It also sucks rugs, cables (including its own), dressing gown cords, tubes of wine gums (still bitter about that) – anything within a two-foot radius it grabs and mawls. When it does this a red light blinks on and it cuts out and you have to stop and pull your shredded rug or charging cable out of the sweeper head. It oversucks. It totally sucks.
It also weighs three tonnes; fills up too fast; gets you filthy when you have to empty it; has a short, useless hose that keeps falling out; needs totally dismantling when you need a longer hose; has nowhere to store the stupid tools that come with it – which is actually fine as the stupid tools don’t fit on the hose properly and split and fall off all the time anyway; it can’t cope with any kind of change in height, so you have to pick it up and drop it down every time you go from carpet to floorboard (we have a lot of floorboards because we can’t afford carpets they are stylish and cool).
And, cardinal vacuum cleaner sin, the cable winding hook thingie isn’t big enough to take all the stupid cable, so it falls off in the cupboard and trips people up and gets wound round the ironing bag and sweeps all the shoes off the shelf.
Last week it sucked up some Black Jacks and got jammed. I needed to take the hoses off and ram a skewer up it, but they wouldn’t come off. So I spent half an hour looking for the manual (thinking all the while of the old faithful Dyson, which you dismantled in trice with the charming help of a 2p piece, no screwdrivers required).
When I found the manual there was no clue as to how to pull it apart, so I used brute force, eventually unjamming it and covering myself in fluff, loom bands, hairballs and sticky Black Jacks in the process.
Then, as you do, I texted my husband to tell him all about it.

I want one of these (the maid, not the machine)

That night he came home with a Dyson, a cordless, rechargeable one. It is a thing of beauty, despite only having 20 minutes worth of charge and costing the equivalent of two months’ groceries. Vacuuming now has to be planned and timetabled, so I can get the best out of the Dyson in between charges, with the hated Vax picking up the slack. But it is so much better.
My lesson is learned. For so long we have this idea that you are being made a mug of if you pay over the odds for something. Find the top price and the top brand then keep downsizing and downsizing until they are paying you – and its just as good, yes?
No.
This works for Jaffa Cakes and Lidl coffee but not much else.
My father in law is a master at this, combing Amazon and eBay for cheap knock-offs that are – he claims – as good as the branded ones. They aren’t. Last year it was a smart watch, ‘just as good as an Apple – you can check your emails on your wrist’. Thing is, he doesn’t need a smart watch, Apple or otherwise. Six months later: “Do you want the smart watch? The strap isn’t very good, you can’t read the screen and it isn’t compatible with anything, but you can check your emails on your wrist!” Same thing went for the cut-price fake Go-Pro camera thing (“the picture isn’t great, and you can only record 30 seconds of footage but it is splashproof!”) and the £25 tablet (“it’s a bit slow, it keeps turning itself off and the charger is dodgy – but you can check your emails on it!”).

Things it is worth paying top dollar for – a list born out of bitter, bitter experience

  • Dyson vacuum cleaners. See above.
  • White Company bedsheets. Oh the sheer luxury of sliding between posh cotton sheets. So much better than anything you will get from Argos. You will sleep better, you really will.
  • Yankee Candles. Fifteen quid for a scented candle! But they last for months and smell divine. None of the cheap knock offs come close, and I have been through them all.
  • Hotel Chocolat. Thorntons seems greasy, Cadbury seems sugary, everything else seems bland after you’ve scoffed a box of these.
  • Dulux & Crown paint. Others are much, much cheaper. They are cheaper because you need twice as much to cover the same area, and then they peel off. Come and look at my stairs if you don’t believe me.
  • Apple Macintosh 1 computer

    The first and still the best. Couldn’t afford one then, can’t afford one now…

  • Apple iPads, iPhones, iMacs and Macbooks. Design classics, cost far too much but so much better than anything else. The first computers I ever used were Apples, and I’d still rather have them than the clunky Windows laptop I am stuck with now.
  • Antler luggage. Bust the overdraft eight years ago to buy a set of bright red luggage, which cost more than the clothes I packed inside it. They came with their own dust bags. Dust bags! They have been used dozens of times, for everything from cruises to Brownie camping trips, and are still rock solid and because they are bright red they never get lost at baggage reclaim.
  • Ghd hair straighteners. They cost five times as much as other brands but they get your hair six times straighter and sleeker, and in a sixth of the time.
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The torture of Sisyphus

I loathe housework. I loathe the relentless drudgery of it . It is physically exhausting but mentally infuriating.
It makes your back, calves and ankles ache, it dries out your hands and splits your nails, grazes your knuckles and scuffs up your knees. And it is so demeaning. It takes no intelligence or analytical skills but it is all-encompassing. You can’t do anything else – even listening to the radio is impossible once the vacuum cleaner is going.

Woman mopping

In those shoes?? Seriously???

I resent the hell out of it so much. Resent the fact that it is me and only me who does this, who knows the sheer hard work that goes into cleaning behind bookshelves and clearing out badly laid fires, picking up stupid odds and ends, sorting out various vital pieces of paper, scrubbing the grubby backs of dining chairs, dusting behind precarious mirrors and wiping, wiping, endless amounts of wiping. And in a day or two I will be doing most of it again.
I detest the way it unravels so quickly, how I can walk into a room a couple of hours after scouring it clean and immediately see the stray piece of cotton on the rug, the displaced cushions, the once-artfully folded throws strewn around and the crumbs on the chair arm. NONE OF IT DONE BY ME. How sweet, how neat and calm it would all be if there were only me to waft about in it once I had cleaned. But people have to sit in it, live in it, and I have to do it all over again. There is no pause button on a clean house or an empty ironing basket.

Happy woman cleaning

No. No, it’s not.

I used to diligently clean every cranny of our hateful old, crumbling kitchen, even when the drawer doors fell off and water started coming up through the floor tiles. I’d get up at 5am every Wednesday, while the children – then little more than babies – were still in bed in order to gouge grime out of the badly designed doors and inaccessible cupboards.
Then eventually we took out a loan (still paying it off…) and got a new streamlined kitchen. While it was being fitted I was parked up in a pub car park while my baby daughter slept in her car seat and saw the old kitchen units going past in a skip on the back of a truck. All that spraying and wiping had come to nothing.

The lesson? As long as the dust isn’t bringing on asthma attacks, and the grime isn’t breeding salmonella, leave the damn stuff. One day, the house will be rubble and you will be dead. All those hours with a dishcloth will have come to nothing.

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. The housewife wears herself out marking time: she makes nothing, simply perpetuates the present… Eating, sleeping, cleaning – the years no longer rise up towards heaven, they lie spread out ahead, grey and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won.”
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex