The IRobot Roomba 510 vacuum cleaner–my review

I had to replace my vacuum cleaner and this one was on sale for less than a human-powered vacuum, so I went for it!  Ever since then, vacuuming has been a snap, and I’ve been super fussy about my floor!  Here’s are the details:

I have hardwood parquet floors that aren’t perfectly smooth, and they’re very, very difficult to get perfectly clean, so I wasn’t too confident that any vacuum would do a decent job.  My OLD vacuum’s rug attachment had long since died, and of course I no longer needed it, not having carpets anymore anyway.  I relied on crummy attachments, and I mean crummy!  The larger one was a brush-type.  Now, brush-type attachments do nothing but push the dirt around instead of pulling the dirt into the vacuum.  The other, more effective attachments were so tiny that vacuuming with them was just plain fruitless, that plus they didn’t rotate.  No way could I get under the futon couch, so I just ignored this area.  So this was why I had to replace my old vacuum cleaner.

So, I bought the IRobot.  I read reviews carefully.  Would a lower-end model, with fewer features work as well as a higher-end model?  Apparently so.  No way did I need luxury features in my tiny, tiny apartment.  The 510 was definitely the appropriate model for me, and it was the one on sale.  I purchased it from Newegg.  I’m certain you can’t get it from them on sale anymore, but probably it’s cheaper from them than from many other websites.  Shop around.

The IRobot works on rechargeable battery.  It will do three rooms on one charge.  I mean three bedroom-sized rooms, or dining rooms, not large rooms, from what I can tell.  I believe this is true of all models.  It supposedly takes an average of 25 minutes to do a room, depending on many factors.  I find that this really, really varies.  Today it took about 20 minutes to do my bedroom, but usually it’s about 35, even when the room is already rather clean.  Once, it took about 50 minutes to do my living room, again when it was already not very dirty.  Today it took about 40.  Of course, the IRobot is very, very fussy and does a thorough job.  More about this in a minute.

There are two cleaning modes: spot clean and regular clean.  During regular clean, the IRobot will criss-cross the room, going in what appears to be random lines, turning when it hits something, though sometimes it turns mid-room.  Sometimes, it will follow along a wall and try to get into the nooks and crannies of the corners.  It does a fair job of getting into corners.  I notice it sometimes misses certain out-0f-the-way corners that I would say are not all that reachable–by me, either, and not easily visible, but still, the fact that the IRobot misses any corners is annoying.

During spot clean, the IRobot is supposed to circle a three-foot circumference area, around and around. inside and out, until clean, and then stop.  I find that first of all, it’s more like a four-foot area, and secondly, it frequently doesn’t get the area totally clean, and stops prematurely.  I’m guessing that rather than gauging the cleanliness of an area, it’s on a timer.

Regarding the effectiveness of this machine–well, extremely.  Better than a human-powered machine, that’s for sure.  Wicked good.  Spectacular.  Tech support told me to empty the bin after each room the first room I use it on because it’s going to pick up so much stuff.  Yeah, I was amazed at what my old vacuum had missed–that plus my old vacuum was so freaking annoying that I rarely used it, and hadn’t vacuumed–okay, I admit–for about a month.  Giggle giggle.  Actually, the IRobot got the floor perfectly clean the first time it vacuumed my filthy floor.  I didn’t have to run it a second time even though my floor was a disgrace from the start.  Hey, no more wiping my feet off before putting my socks on.  Those days are gone.

Once, I had a terrible spill–I spilled baking powder in my kitchen, and swept it up with a broom, then tried to get the IRobot to clean the rest.  No way did it pick up any of it.  Why this was I don’t know.  But this was highly unusual of this machine, and it was the only time this happened.

IRobot will not do a tiny room.  I found this out.  I have what might be called a half-kitchen.  It’s like the size of a large closet.  Don’t bother.  I sweep it thoroughly and then mop on my hands and knees it with an old towel.  It’s quicker and more thorough than trying to use the spot clean feature over and over on the kitchen floor.  Actually, the IRobot cleans so deeply that it will pick up coffee stains!  But a wet towel will do this as well.  And quicker.

Another thing I learned was to sweep and mop under my main desk before doing anything else.  My desk is in the living room, and it always gets filthy under there.  This necessary cleaning has nothing to do with the IRobot’s capacities, but the fact that if I don’t do this job, I will track the under-desk dirt into my clean bedroom after the machine is done with it, and dirty the room.

Proper battery care is crucial.  Keep it on its charger when you’re not using it, and use the vacuum frequently.  That is, don’t be lazy like I used to be with my old vacuum.  You won’t want to be lazy anymore.  You’re going to love your new floor and want to keep it wicked squeaky clean.

Proper p0st-vacuum care is also crucial.  You need to empty the bin after every vacuuming, which takes a couple of seconds.  You also need to clean the brushes.  This takes about two minutes, but it involves some assembly work that you have to learn.  The instructions in the manual are extremely helpful and clear about this.  Now and then you have to remove the front wheel and clean it.  I did this for the first time today and it was a snap.  Again, the instructions were a cinch to follow and the task took about a minute.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think the manual explains how to clean the tiny rotary brush.  You have to remove it with a Phillips-head screwdriver.  I had to call tech support on this one.  The rotary brush stopped will stop moving if you don’t clean the hair and grit out of it now and then.  Again, all this dis-assembly work is very easy and quick, but you have to do a bit of it–cleaning the brushes and emptying the bin–every time you vacuum.  Plan on four or five extra minutes, and putting down a drop cloth (I use a large, old, junky towel) so that you won’t get dust and hair on your nice clean floor.

Error messages: Occasionally, and especially on your first vacuum, the machine will stop vacuuming, make a special sound, and “announce” that something is amiss.  Often, it’s “Clean the brushes!”  Usually, this is because it has rolled over something that’s stuck in the brushes, and the brushes can’t rotate.  Take the object out.  There are other messages.  Refer to the owner’s manual.  After a few vacuums, it won’t happen often.

Okay, say you get an error message, and the vacuum stops running.  Does it “remember” where it left off?  No, it doesn’t.  It’ll start the room all over again.  How annoying.  Good idea to stop it after the total is the number of minutes it usually takes to do that room.  Otherwise, the battery will run out prematurely.  Just my opinion.

Regarding tech support: Excellent.  Totally.  I haven’t had a problem with them, except that they aren’t open Sundays.  There is no wait to talk to them.  They understand my problem right away.  Their instructions are clear, and the suggestions they make work right away.  I have only had to call them twice for problems.  The first was when I turned on the machine and it wouldn’t go.  They told me to push the on/off switch again.  Voila.  The other time was–as I described before–the rotary brush stopped rotating–they described how to remove it, and I did so.  I cleaned it, and then all was fine.  The other time I called them was to ask a simple question about the machine.  They understood my question and answered it.  All three times, they sent a follow-up e-mail immediately with the instructions in writing, and they took care of product registration over the phone.

One more thing and I’ll shut up: This machine is fascinating to watch.  So don’t be surprised if the first, second, and third time you vacuum, you don’t get anything else done.  Regarding pets and your machine, well, Puzzle (my dog) adjusted right away.  The Roomba 510 is a very quiet machine as vacuums go.  She never once barked at it.  She just accepts it as it is.  (I can’t say anything about pet hair and this vacuum as Puzzle doesn’t shed.)

My overall rating of the IRobot Roomba 510: five stars.

If you are just dropping in out of cyberspace, feel free to check out the rest of my blog.  I actually have some interesting things to say besides reviewing this vacuum cleaner.  Also check out my home site,  I have a book coming out soon, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, late in 2010, in e-book form first, then in paperback in 2011, from Chipmunkapublishing.

August 25, 2010, continued

I thought I’d post Max Ehrmann’s  “Desiderata” by itself because it deserves just that: its own place.  I first encountered the poem–a prose poem, actually–in I think 1971, and it struck me as beautiful even in my 13-year-old eyes.

It is morning here on the East Coast.

Here’s something to ponder: I think if you’re in a tight spot, it’s important to seek out people who  may have experienced similar sorts of things and understand what you are going through.  Sometimes, they are the only ones with whom you can share your true emotions.

In my case, they understand why I don’t eat because they’ve been through it themselves.

The comfort I feel in knowing this carries me through my day.

Thank you.

August 25, 2010


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

I admitted it

Yeah, I admitted it.  I told my therapist that I cheated the scale yesterday, that what the scale said was a bit higher than what I really weigh.


But it worried her.  Because there’s been this downward trend.  This trap I’m in that I can’t seem to get myself out of.  I keep telling her, “Well, I’d better eat, then.”  And I don’t.

She knows this.  She knows my promises are fruitless.  She knows I’m not really “engaged in treatment.”  Those are her exact words.  Not engaged in treatment.  Not committed to recovery.  Not making an effort to sustain herself.

She is pushing hospitalization rather than the alternative treatment I have suggested.  It is a choice: there, or the hospital, but she doubts that the alternative will work.  I told her: please, give it a chance.

I have to eat, in the meanwhile.  I’m not sure I can do this.  Or, rather, I’m fairly sure I can’t.  And my therapist knows this.  She’s very, very worried.  I could see it in her face.  I was actually worried about her being worried about me.  It wasn’t a “boundary” thing.  It’s just that she cares deeply.  I think it’s sad when it gets to the point that your therapist is so worried that you start worrying about her emotional state.

I came home from therapy and it was freezing in here.  Fucking freezing.  It was about 67 degrees out and raining, 77 degrees in here.  I switched on the space heater again, and left it on for hours.  I don’t know what I’ll do when winter comes.

Day in the life: Coming Home

I am on my way home from getting weighed at the doctor’s.  The #71 bus leaves me off at Watertown Square.  The walk home is about 12 minutes.  I decide to buy diet cola on my way home.  Tedeschi’s sells their own brand of cola for 99 cents (plus MA bottle deposit 5 cents) so I decide to stop there.

But I am afraid to walk into my apartment building carrying a bottle of diet soda.  I don’t want to be seen with it.  What will people think?  What will people say? That I am too skinny to be drinking it?  That I probably drink it instead of eating?  That I have no “right” to drink diet soda?  That diet soda is bad for you?  That I should drink something with calories in it instead?  That it would “just figure”?

Probably, they won’t say or think anything, but my anorexic mind goes to all sorts of places when it comes to my neighbors and the people in the adjacent housing offices here.

The knapsack I was using was the smaller one that I own that isn’t big enough for a 2-liter bottle, and I curse myself for forgetting a shopping bag.  Plastic bags don’t cut it.  They destroy the environment.  But that’s not the real reason.  The real reason is that they are see-through.  You can see it’s soda.  You can see “diet cola” right through the plastic.

I knew I would have to walk by my neighbors and the people in the housing offices.  What is the worst of the evils?  The front door is the worst.  I have to walk by the people hanging out in the front, the main office, and the people hanging out in the hallway.  That plus the offices in the hall.  Most of my neighbors speak a foreign language and I don’t want to know what they say.  Again, in my mind, I translate what they say, and it’s all about me.

Then there is the elevator entrance. Not so bad, but the people in the hallway still see me, and I still have to walk by the offices.  Then there is cutting through the dining room, where my former neighbors come to join the community lunch sometimes.  I like seeing them and find them friendly, but they are always commenting on my weight.  One of them says I look very “svelt.”  I think she likes the way I look.  Unreal.  So…I can’t go through the dining room, can I?  With a bottle of diet soda?

I must, must, must, buy a shopping bag or something to carry the soda in.  I look in the CVS.  I don’t like any of the bags there.  The handles are too long.  Why do they make these bags for very, very tall people?  I already have two canvas bags.  What do I need a third for?  They should sell canvas bags for 50 cents, not four bucks.  They are for saving the environment, after all.  And hiding diet soda.  I start to leave the store, and nearly bump into someone.  The guy says, loudly, “Jesus Christ!”  I hurry out of there.  Just another obsessed, day-dreaming skinny girl, trying desperately hard to buy diet soda in secret.

I arrive at Tedeschi’s.  I ask the guy, “Do you sell shopping bags?”  Like the gal at the CVS, he offers me a plastic bag.  I say, “No, a bag to save plastic.  A cloth shopping bag.”  He shows me a plastic bag that you spend money on.  These plastic bags are heavy duty and not see through, but are throw-away and cost a whopping 99 cents!  The same price as the soda!  This thick plastic will never biodegrade.  I am tempted, though, because I can easily use the bag to hide the soda, but now, I have an idea….

I get the soda out of the refrigerator, checking over and over that it is “diet” and not regular.  I check again as I bring the soda to the counter, and again as I place it down.  I pay for it.  Do I want a plastic bag or not?  I do.  I wrap the soda in the bag, around and around as best as I can, then carry it by its rim home.

When I arrive at the side door, I turn the bottle so that “diet cola” is facing inward and so that it is not visible to an onlooker.  I double-check that this is the case.  I fold up my umbrella and carry it loosely over the bottle so no one will notice that I am carrying soda.  Surely, my sick mind thinks, they will wonder if I’m drinking “diet” or regular.  Another thought: Will they think I’m hiding a bottle of liquor?  No, it’s not wrapped in paper, but….

Okay, I’m coming in the side door–will it be the elevator, or through the dining room, and up the back stairs?  I peek in the dining room.  It is nearly empty.  Wow!  Opportunity!  I cut through, still keeping my precious bottle hidden.  I slip up the back, and hurry to my apartment.

Unlocking the door, I step in, put down the bottle and my things, take off my jacket, and greet Puzzle.  It’s August and it’s fucking freezing in here.  Sevent7-three degrees.  I switch on the space heater, with intention of running it until it’s up to at least 79.  I check my e-mail.

Then, I open the bottle and pour myself several glasses of Tedeschi brand diet cola.  In one sitting, I consume half the two-liter bottle.

Nobody has to know.

In the background

I spent today obsessing about my lost friends, and about food and calories.  In other words, it was a normal day.  I also feel angry today.  Angry and lonely and lost.

Most of my precious time and energy today was wasted on my eating disorder.  Plotting and scheming new ways to starve myself.  This has been an all-day, all-consuming task, fueled by rage, by grief.

By hunger.

Hunger–for what?  I crave…something…

I got nothing done all day.  Then a few people complained that the background colors I had previously on this blog were hard to view on screen, so I spent some time tonight fiddling with them tonight, and changed them.  It hadn’t occurred to me that a dark background would make text difficult to read, but I guess with some computer monitors, it is.  I thought about to what extent the background color reflected the text content of my blog,  or whether attractiveness and readability should be the most important factor in choosing a color.

It kept me busy for a while, anyway, and I stopped thinking about what I was angry about, and food, and calories, and my weight, and the fact that I have to go to the doctor’s to get weighed tomorrow.  Ugh.

I am afraid to take the “next step”

So I will most likely start this new “treatment” next week…or the beginning of the following week.  I feel like chickening out.  Maybe I will, or maybe I won’t.  I have been told that “The way through fear IS through it.”  I was told to write that down, and I did.  In a notebook.  And I saved it, for some weird reason.

I also wrote a grocery list yesterday and went grocery shopping, for some weird reason.  Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Will this new approach help me?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Do I want help?  Do people with anorexia want help?  I don’t know.  Am I willing to give up my ED?  Right now, no, I don’t think so.  Someone, somehow, has to convince me to want to want to get better.

Once, I inquired about getting into a once-a-week group for people with eating disorders.  The group met in the evenings at a location near my home.  I asked, “How do I want to want to get better?”  I think it was because I asked this question that I was not admitted to the group, that I was told–or, rather, that my therapist was told–that I was not “recovery oriented” enough to join the group.

I thought groups were for helping people. Anyone who is ill.  I guess I would have poisoned the group.  Maybe that was what she was thinking when she chose not to admit me.  Maybe.

This was, I think, back in December.

I do not believe I am any more “recovery oriented” than I was then.  This sucks.

Anorexia is one of the few illnesses that I know of where the patient does not want to recover.  Where the patient hangs onto his/her illness.  With other severe illnesses, the patient wants–perhaps with desperation–to recover.

See, I want to stay thin,and I want to get thinner.  I am terrified of gaining weight.  I worry about every bite I put in my mouth.  I only crave starvation.  I have these thoughts and feelings on a very deep level.   It’s a simple as that.

Maybe someday–I don’t know when–I will say “fuck you” to my eating disorder.  Maybe someday I will simply get sick of it, give it the boot, and be done with it.

The “treatment” part of it is already getting old, in particular the weekly weigh-ins.  I am so tired of paying for the cab to the doctor’s, getting into a johnny, making note of whether the johnny is a heavy or lightweight one, stepping on the scale, and finding out the “verdict” for the week, the number that judges me “good” or “bad.”

Being grilled on whether I have eaten is getting old.  It is none of anyone’s business what and whether I have eaten.  Eating is a personal matter, and yet I have to answer this question all the time, when someone on my treatment team asks. And they ask all the time.  “How is eating going?”  Every time.  I have to answer.  And when I say it’s going well, and I’m lying, they know.

The constant threat of hospitalization is getting old.  I am always looking over my shoulder, especially the past month.  I struggled every time I saw my therapist to  convince her that I didn’t need hospitalization.  I was always on the edge.  Last therapy session was just another one of those sessions.

Sometimes I wonder if this constant hounding is making me worse.    Or make me seem worse than I am.

We’ll see.

Today I miss my friends so much

Today I miss my friends so much.  I walked Puzzle and cried.  I came home and took off her leash and fed her and cried.  I folded up my futon bed and took my meds and cried.  And now, I’m having my coffee and writing to you.  And my coffee is good.  Not as good as Mocha Joe’s Yirgacheffe, but good.

I do make good coffee.  Strong.

So here I sit, grieving.  I have nothing to say to my friends.   I wish I did.

I recall in the 1980s, when I was at various mental institutions, the usual question, “When you got sick, did you lose all your friends?”  The answer–ALWAYS–was “Yes.”  Always.  Everyone I met had lost all their friends when they became mentally ill.  Some had even lost a family member’s support, or had lost communication with their entire family when they became ill.

I believe that this happened because of the gross misunderstandings and “stigma” around mental illness at the time.  I have been informed that there is much more knowledge now about mental illness, and people who become ill are less likely to lose all of their friends–maybe some of them, though.

People freak out.  People see that you are not the person you once were.  Often, the change is dramatic, and appears to some to happen almost overnight.  People see that you are less capable than you used to be.

Suicide is common among people with mental illness.  So often, a person with mental illness is “marked” by a suicide attempt.  Friends–and sometimes family–usually run in the opposite direction–fast–when a person attempts suicide.  They cannot bear to be friends with someone who might die.

Starvation is a form of slow suicide.

I wonder how many people with illnesses like cancer lose their friends because of the possibility, whether slim or likely, that they may die of that illness.   I know cancer patients may get a lot of support when they go through chemo the first time, but what if it’s the fifth time?  What if the “prognosis” isn’t what it used to be?  Do their friends get scared?  I’m just grasping at straws here.

I know when my father had cancer, and my mother cared for him, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around outside of the family.  But I was very sick then, so what would I know?

I am still nursing this cup of coffee as we speak.

Believe it or not

I have some goals for myself today.  My friend (yes, I still have a couple of friends) says I seem brighter and more positive.

I want to be strong enough to do National Novel Writing Month this year.  NaNoWriMo, as it is called, which I did last year, involves writing an entire book in the month of November.  It begins November first and ends the 30th.  The NaNoWriMo requirement is 50,000 words–arbitrarily.  Last year, my book, a memoir, was 86,000 words, and I completed it in about three weeks.  My book was about my hitch-hiking trip across the country that I did in 1979.  It was also about my anorexia that I was experiencing while writing the book.  I chronicled my NaNoWriMo experience here in my blog.  Just click on National Novel Writing Month over on the left to read about it.  My entries are rather brief.  I was busy.  I worked maybe six to seven hours a day, seven days a week.  I wrote the equivalent of a term paper a day, maybe 20 pages.

In order to do National Novel Writing Month, I must get an outline ready.  I must be able to concentrate.  I must have physical strength.  I must have drive.  I must have ambition.  I must be able to have goals and follow through with them.  I must be able to care about myself.  I must get over this depression.  I must have energy.  I must want to live.  And I must eat to stay alive.

Yes, I admit I must eat.

This is going to be incredibly difficult to pull together by November.  I do not want to eat.  I do not, do not, do not want to eat.

I think I will go out and buy some eggs today.