Saying Yes to Small Moments of Happiness: Why We All Need a Robot Servant

By Robin

It’s been a rough year, y’all, and March is only halfway over. 2020 has brought us disappointing presidential candidates, unseasonably warm weather, and now a global pandemic. In these trying times, I’ve decided the best way I can pursue self care is to start saying yes to small things that seem silly, but have a huge impact on my mental health.

Some background: I have two large dogs and three cats, and my house is always full of fur. I am also from New Hampshire, where the culture that is ingrained in you from birth is essentially “if you can do it yourself, you should”. Therefore, I have spent years of my life futilely keeping up with (or failing to keep up with, more accurately) a near daily regimen of sweeping, vacuuming, rug beating/washing, and ultimately quiet acceptance of my disgusting floors. It doesn’t seem like a big thing, but years of living in a house where I hate taking off my shoes because my socks immediately pick up a thick coat of hair and being self-conscious about having people over have taken a toll. My anxiety would spike every time I saw yet another dust bunny in the corner, especially after having just swept. I toyed with the idea of a robovac for a long time, but something always stopped me. Sometimes it was the price (Roombas are EXPENSIVE), but mostly it was that idea that “I should be able to do this. If I can’t sweep every day, it’s because I’m lazy. I don’t deserve to take the easy way out.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house. She is big into streamlining life wherever possible, and she makes it look easy. Most of the things she does to simplify her routine I tend to shrug off auomatically, assuming they just won’t work for me. But as she told me about the Eufy vacuum that keeps her floors free of cat hair, I was intrigued. When she told me they routinely go on sale for $150 or less, I was REALLY intrigued. And a few days later, tax return in hand, I took the plunge. I found a robovac on sale for $150 and clicked “order now”.

We’ve had Rufio (I was watching Hook the night I unpacked him) for just over a week, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much better my life is. This little guy is so INDUSTRIOUS. And HELPFUL. And he PERSEVERES in the face of hardship! I run him around the house once a day, twice a day on weekends, and I have not swept my floors since. They look great. My floors are clean, and all I did was push a button. I get entertainment value by watching my pets’ reactions to him. I’m fascinated by his simple little operating program and how it translates into such a profound impact. I talk to him and encourage him and am grateful for his efforts, even when it means he gets stuck trying to get past the baby gate into the kitchen. And my stress/anxiety is noticeably lower.

I know this all sounds a bit ridiculous. I can best explain it like this: I work with older adults, usually those who are trying to age in place. I spend a lot of my time talking to people who are slowly losing bits and pieces of their independence; driving, shopping, cleaning, socializing, and many more activities become much more challenging with age. I will sit with someone and offer resources for say, cleaning services, or grocery delivery, or a cooking service, or I offer to help make time consuming phone calls so they aren’t spending all day arguing with their insurers. And what I hear over and over again is “I can manage”, “I can still do that, it takes a lot longer but I’m handling it”. To which my response is, of course you CAN do these things on your own. But how much energy is it taking up? Is that energy you would rather spend visiting family, or going to fitness classes, or reading? Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it. If you can throw a little bit of money at this problem, what would you like to do with the time you get back? This isn’t only good advice for the elderly, although maybe if we all got in the habit of letting things go we’d be better prepared for successful aging. This is something we should all be considering, especially if that thing you’d be giving up can be done by a $150 robot. My dad, who works in tech, said it best: “It’s so rare for technology to actually just make our lives simpler. How many new devices, programs, apps, actually make things easier, and how many are a struggle to set up or install or update? This is exactly how it should be.”

Now I’m looking for more simple things I can just throw a little money (or time, or whatever) at to make my life a little better. A fancy steaming basket so I can make Thai sticky rice at home? Why not. Actually organizing my closet so getting dressed every day isn’t a wild blur of throwing cardigans around until I find one that isn’t rippd? Let’s do it. Let’s make 2020 a year where we stop making life harder for our future selves, and say yes to the “lazy” solution. We’re all quarantined anyway, we might as well have robot friends!