My Vacuum-Free Life

 
 
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Could you live without a vacuum cleaner? We thought ours broke because it wouldn't turn on for weeks. Just for kicks, I plugged it in yesterday, and the vacuum suddenly sprang to life, startling and nearly sucking up a nearby cat. I decided to just put it away. I like not vacuuming. It's peaceful, and at 68dB, ours is too noisy for apartment living anyway (just shy of a Hollister store). I took some photos of our home in its resting state; I haven't vacuumed in over three weeks, and I haven't steamed the sheets lately, either. There's a single tuft of cat hair in one picture. I think it looks okay.

 
 

I'm not convinced vacuuming is better than sweeping. Many Dyson homes are dustier than mine. Vacuum cleaners spew particulate matter, leaving a lingering smell behind. They don't kill or remove mites (we have bare hardwood floors, lots of sunlight, and good ventilation anyway). Even the most thorough vacuuming doesn't beat hand-dusting- a flour sack towel slightly dampened with cider vinegar removes grime better than suction. My grandma makes me stick a blanket under my knees so this doesn't cripple me later. I wipe furniture, shelves, and household objects, then scrub baseboards and floors in the direction of the wood grain. This takes less time than dragging the vacuum out, fumbling with the cord (think Kirby from Brave Little Toaster), and comforting a terrified Kar afterward. Who needs a mop or duster?


When we first got the cats, my husband really wanted a Roomba- there was enough fur flying around to knit companion cats. He soon discovered the cat brush removes lint better than plastic disposable rollers, and frequent bathing and grooming prevents shedding. Some of my friends have severe cat allergies, yet none experienced reactions during our vacuum-free period, even when one forgot to take her medicine. It may come in handy should fleas ever enter the household; for now, the vacuum languishes in the closet. My socks look incredibly clean after ditching it! They used to collect big lint balls on the soles, left behind by a high-end, glowingly reviewed canister model. These days, it's like they just came out of the wash. What about you? How do you keep bare floors clean: vacuum or broom?
Paris to Go

18 comments:

  1. Odd question but what sort of brush do you use on your cats? Not specially a brand or anything but what specifications that actually help remove cat fur? I'm trying to get our cat from producing hamster sized shed balls.

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    1. Nice, so clean. Stick vacuum is best for home, but a small car vacuum cleaner can be suited for all room, stair and car. I like it!

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  2. Hi Gina, that cracked me up, but I feel your pain. Wooden pin brushes really work well. My mom and stepdad use a pin brush on their five cats (one an extremely furry Siamese) and their house has no fur. It sounds gross but I found that my wood and rubber hairbrush actually works best on the cats (I clean it before and after of course!). We were using the brush they came with- a Furminator- it's very effective, but it pokes the cats. Now we use the Furminator only on the sheets and couch.

    http://www.chrissystems.com/grooming-tools/brushes-/pet-grooming-show-dog-and-cat-t-brushes.aspx

    My friend, who fosters cats, recommends something like the 16mm brush, which is exactly what my hairbrush looks like... now I sound crazy!

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  3. But how about the couch? (My couch is way too big and everything gets stuck in it) I feel like I have to vacuum mine every single day, I'm almost going crazy. My cat is a Norwegian Forest cat so it's a lot of fur.

    Btw reading your blog from Sweden and loving it! Such an inspiration!

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    1. Hi Natalie! Thanks! Your cat is SO cute, and yes that is a lot of fur. We brush the couch of fur using the cat's brush. It is quicker and removes more fur than the vacuum brush attachment. For a deep clean I used to put baking soda on the couch and vacuumed it up after an hour. The cushion covers are washable though, and I just washed them for the second time since we got it (it's an Ikea Soderhamn sofa, secondhand, I washed everything before we sat on it). So I haven't done the baking soda trick yet. That would be a good use for the vacuum, although the same thing -might- be accomplished by airing it out in the sun...

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  4. What about people with kids? Or allergies? With all the crumbs around the house I can't see how its simpler to give the vacuum up. Especially on carpeted floors.

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    1. I don't have carpeted floors or kids, so I can't comment, this experiment is easier for us because we're working with bare floors. Zero Waste Home's Bea Johnson doesn't have a vacuum cleaner, and she has boys and a dog, but I think her house has no carpet either...

      I'm the oldest of six kids, and I know my parents use a sweeper on their floors. They only have one carpeted room, I can't remember seeing them vacuum it... it's very clean and my stepbrother and stepfather have cat allergies (they have multiple cats), but seem fine.

      My only real experience caring for children was working at a Hole-In-The-Wall camp one summer, with kids with serious illnesses. We lived in a cabin and provided round the clock care for the kids, and we had to keep everything really clean because their immune systems were weakened by chemo, surgeries, etc. We didn't have a vacuum and swept out dirt, crumbs, crayon gunk, glitter etc. Week after week, nobody got sick.

      I think the main reason my friends aren't having allergic reactions in our home is because we have so many windows, ample air circulation (although given the state of Paris pollution I should probably keep the windows closed) and a lot of sunlight diminishing dust mites, etc. That's more effective than a vacuum.

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  5. Also, I don't understand why you don't just get another brush. Why go to the trouble of cleaning it every time? Wouldn't getting a separate brush make more sense?

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    1. I just haven't been using my hairbrush and caught one of the cats chewing on the wood pins, so decided to try it out on them. It seemed like a waste not using the hairbrush for anything. I cleaned their cat brush before and after brushing them anyway.

      I was using the brush to redistribute natural oils at night, then rinsing my hair in the morning, but it made my curls fall out and my hair looked messy and frizzy. Since I stopped, I shed less hair and my hair looks silkier. Many women with curly hair endorse not brushing.

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  6. Hey Ariana! I haven't commented before but you are such an inspiration for me. I'm about to pack up my life in South Africa to move to Scotland and we've just about sold all our belongings and plan to leave with just two suitcases and two cats. I am in love with my paired down minimalist wardrobe and can't believe how liberating the whole experience has been. Everyone thinks we're crazy but it helps to have such wonderful guides like you on this journey.

    As a fellow cat owner I'm constantly chasing Oliver tumbleweeds (which I affectionately call the enormous fluff balls that our largest cat deposits all over the apartment) - so must ask: how often do you wipe your floors to keep on top of the usual floor debris as your? We brush often but I swear Oliver is some sort of magic act as no matter how much we brush it just keeps coming!

    Also do you have any issues with litter tracking? We use wood shaving pellets which don't track all that much but do generate some general sawdust. I feel like I can never go without slippers if I want to keep my feet spotless and it drives me crazy!

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    1. Bianca, that is amazing! Will you blog about? Or would you be interested in doing a guest post? I have so many questions about how you decided to simplify and how you decided what to keep and what to let go. So cool! I hope you and the cats have a safe journey.

      My husband calls them tumbleweeds too :) I wipe the floors every other day at best, every three or four days more realistically. It doesn't take very long, but I do need to keep on top of it regularly (which is how vacuuming was, with less satisfactory results). It seems like as soon as I brush the bed from fur, the cats get on it and shed everywhere... what kind of cat is Oliver? With the angoras it's easier for me to grab the big balls of fur- my former cats were Siamese and Tuxedo and it was hard removing their hair from everything.

      We use silica litter because it's so easy to flush, and also because our cats refused to use wood, corn, or wheat. They kept sneezing and the vet told us to switch, plus I was getting stomach aches until we stopped using it- it's probably just a coincidence and not related, but they just didn't like going in the litter box when we tried it. The brand is Perlinette. This seems to be the cleanest litter I've ever used. It doesn't track anywhere! Yesterday the cats got into the bucket I use to buy the litter (you can get it in bulk here) and sprayed it everywhere though. I took a picture and plan on posting it eventually- it was really easy to pick up by hand.

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    2. *Will you blog about it whoops :). Thank you for sharing your experience!

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  7. Thank you for the reply Ariana! I think I'll do some more litter research!

    I've considered blogging about the process but haven't made any commitments to that yet. One of the reasons I enjoy your blog is that it has very practical information, but it's told from a highly personal perspective. You don't tell others how to live simply, only show how you achieve that goal. I find a lot of minimalism/no waste blogs prescribe a lot of rules and lists - I feel it sort of defeats the purpose of it all! If I did write about anything it would be to show a simple life needn't be neutral and entirely object-free - I love brightly-coloured coats and have a small art collection that is very important to me!

    An entirely unrelated question: do you use reusable underarm shields? I've been doing some research on them since you briefly mentioned them in a previous post. Which brand would you recommend and you do you sew yours in and then wash them with the clothes? Or do you wear one of those clip on bra attachments?

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    1. Hi Bianca! I feel the exact same way about all the rules. It's different for everybody. I would read your blog, it sounds so interesting already :) That would be a great perspective to write from. I just went to Amsterdam for a work trip and the Airbnb was minimalist by all means, but she filled the apartment with art she and her friends created themselves- amazing stuff- and antiques, not in a kitschy way, just with a lovely personal touch. She is a great example of minimalism done right.

      I used to wear bright colors and mix patterns, but ever since I moved here I felt so self conscious, I transitioned to neutrals! If I lived in Berlin or Amsterdam my wardrobe would probably be brighter...

      I want to make some reusable underarm shields, I saw some vintage Kleinert's, but they have plastic in them. They are very well-reviewed though. I do have dress shields sewn underneath the lining of three of my dresses and my coat. I have to remove them to wash them- which I haven't done yet!

      http://research.jocramer.com/projects/well-made/21-durable-construction-methods-dress-shields-tutorial

      This tutorial seems very interesting. If you try some, let me know what brand and how they work, I need to sew some (or clip some) into one more dress.

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  8. I'm caring about vacuum cleaners for car. I like handheld vacuum, it's portable and easy to use!

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  9. Hello Ariana,

    This is one of the finest articles I have read that did not sound anti vacuuming to me at all. I love cats, I love bacon and I sell vacuum cleaners for a living. Every house has a right vacuum, and the machines that you talked about in your blog (Dyson's and Roomba) don't belong in your house! I could only spot two rugs in your house, both in your bathroom. Do you have anymore rugs, if yes, what kind ? Also, would you be able to put a picture of your current vacuum if you still have it? I am not biased towards any vacuum, I read about different vacuums everyday, it's a part of my job. I can get any/every vacuum, however my goal is to get everyone the right vacuum! I hope I will hear back from you. To me it sounded like you need a vacuum that you'd love just as much as I love bacon and cats.

    Sam
    All Makes Vacuum
    Cleveland Heights, OH
    44118

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    1. Hi! Thank you for the offer, my only issue with the vacuum is because electricity is so expensive here in France, I would like to conserve energy resources, and our apartment is small enough that I get along very quickly without one! I don't have a picture and I am away from Paris at the moment but my husband got some German super quiet vacuum, it is still quite new so I don't want to replace it, especially since I hardly use it! I only have those two mats in the bathroom, I just shake them out on the balcony and wash them :) But you sound like you just love your job, that's wonderful!

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