Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning

An Ode to My Roomba—the Friend I Didn’t Know I Needed

Sometimes, a cleaning robot is what’s been missing from your life.

March 20, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Welcome to Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning, a month-long series that puts the fun (yep, for real!) back into cleaning. We’re talking spruce-ups that take less than five minutes, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that hacks, and hands-off cleaning tasks that basically…do themselves—plus our trustiest tools and helpers. The goal: clean less, go outside more.

I never thought I needed a Roomba. I didn’t think they really worked. I already have a standing vacuum, so I didn’t need an automated one. “I have too much odd-shaped furniture; it would never navigate properly,” I thought to myself. “It’s so much money for a cleaning item,” I rationalized. And anyway, where would I even store it? It’s clunky and doesn’t immediately fit my home's aesthetic.

And then one day… everything changed.

I let love in. I admitted to myself that I needed a partner, a friend, a… robot assistant. And I’ve been better for it every day. DJ Roomba (as he is lovingly known around my apartment) softened my hardened heart; he took me by the hand and said “you don’t have to go it alone.”

From the first moment I turned him on to watch him putter around the floor, I was enthralled. It was about 11 pm on a weeknight, but by the time he had rammed himself into the bar cart at least thrice (which he then learned to avoid, like the smart boy he is), all thoughts of sleep had escaped me. I was in love.

I followed him around, gently observing his movements so as not to disturb his trajectory—I wanted him to feel at home, and only call me when he really needed me. I knew he would be okay, but I still kept a close distance, documenting his resilience in the face of a high-pile rug, a low-to-the-floor dresser, a tough corner to turn. “You got this, come on you can do it,” I assured, but I also knew he needed to find his own way, to determine his own course. And of course, he figured it out with finesse.

Aside from the feeling of having a new friend… he really does his job well. It’s not always immediately obvious, especially when you have floors that aren’t that dirty to begin with—or so you think. After about three full cycles around the apartment, he already needed his bag changed, but this was no fault of his own.

I was horrified, as I am with every deep clean, to discover just how much dust, hair, and lint had gathered in every corner of my home, about which I was either in denial or completely unaware. I think it was a combination of both. But DJ Roomba said: “it’s okay, this what I’m here for,” so I packed away my guilt and allowed him to take this on for me. Oh, and did I mention he empties himself out each time he returns to his dock? He’s good like that. He’s also so communicative. He distills his day around the house into clear, concise data, showing me exactly where he’s been, where he found the most dirt, and which spots he found tricky.

But listen, as with any relationship, we have our imperfect days. Sometimes he utterly wipes himself out, not knowing the exact breadth of his battery life, and I have to go retrieve him to plop him back on his dock. And sometimes, he finds a tasty laptop cord and decides to munch down, forcing me to pry it from his mouth like a puppy who stole a sock.

By and large though, DJ Roomba has been one of the best additions to my home, in what’s been a long year inside. He’s taught me to loosen my white-knuckled grip on personally cleaning every surface, and as a result, given me time back to focus on other things… like rearranging the coffee table six times a week. He’s a new friend who doesn’t ask much from me but takes on a ton—and it’s been... well, really nice.

Do you have an automated vacuum, or have been considering one? Tell us your thoughts below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Erin W. April 16, 2021
I have a Shark brand that I named Jaws. It's a $200 brand and not the most expensive, but I love this thing. Mine very, very rarely gets stuck and can usually get himself out of tight corners. It vacuums at least 2 hours, sometimes more, and doesn't get filled too quickly. I do wish it did corners better and had a wee bit stronger suction power, and I can never get the app on the phone to work at all, but I love it and find it zooming around me cleaning to be relaxing.
Candy M. April 1, 2021
I too have fallen in love with my robot vacuum. I have a different brand than yours but it does an excellent job and I am amazed each time I use it how much material it pick up and we don't have any children or pets living with us. I would highly recommend buying one. Who needs to be a slave to housework these days.
ohm0lly April 1, 2021
When I learned that they make mopping robots, I started thinking about investing. Then I had to move a rug for a delivery... and I realized how dirty the floors are even though I'm dedicated to vacuuming once a week. I have a Bissell Vacuum/Mop combo, and while it lacks elbow grease, IMO, I'm able to run it twice a week and that has made a big difference in my floors feeling better underfoot.
Alexia E. March 22, 2021
I'm glad I read this. I have a Roomba, not the fancy self emptying kind, but a decent one none the less. And I have a love hate relationship with it.....It gets stuck, a lot. Plus I have dark rugs and Roomba sees these as cliffs and therefore shuts down. I really want to love it....I'll keep trying. And maybe (clearly?) my issue is I haven't given it a name.....
Caroline M. March 23, 2021
Lol! I'm not sure about the older models, but with mine the app prompted me to name it when setting it up, and it really humanizes the little guy.
Karen A. March 22, 2021
I love my Roomba too (her name is Rosie Roomba) She is on her fourth year and is a really hard worker. I plan to to get the self-emptying one next time since our dog sheds a lot and Rosie keeps very busy 😄. I never thought a Roomba could possibly work this well but it’s great having Rosie around. ❤️
Caroline M. March 23, 2021
The self-emptying feature is a total game changer! I also just did not think the Roomba would be as useful as it is, and I'm loving it.
Megan March 22, 2021
I feel this so deeply. We recently got Robbie, our Roomba, after a particularly long week and we fell in love as well. Robbie is the perfect addition to our apartment and really is like a little pet! Best adulting purchase we've made yet.
Caroline M. March 23, 2021
I bet Robbie loves living with you, too!
Lindsay M. March 22, 2021
This was a delight to read, and so relatable! I had a Pure Clean the “weird cousin” to the Bipper (my Roomba) and it was mainly for hard floors. Once I realized what my carpeting was missing, I upgraded to the Roomba. I haven’t looked back. Although, I still keep an eye on the Bipper, if he needs me, that is.
Caroline M. March 23, 2021
Thank you so much, Lindsay! Lots of love to you and Bipper :)