A devious vacuuming plan

I realized recently that I have the perfect vacuum for my kids to use.

This happened when I was vacuuming the hallway, and I noticed that every thing I went over on the carpet was still there after the vacuum passed it. The motor was humming, the canister was creating a little whirlwind inside, but nothing was actually being picked up from the carpet.

At first, I did what any level minded vacuumer would do – I picked up said item and placed it in front to the vacuum for a second go. After this tried-and-true vacuuming method failed several times, I decided to go into detective mode.

Normally, when a vacuum isn’t working at my house, a little sleuthing will easily reveal that you have vacuumed up, say, a sock, a hose is clogged. But the whirlwind told me I had no clogs, so it must be something else. As I studied the vacuum, I noticed a little button on it that read “Surface selector.” There were two pictures, one that represented a hardwood floor, the other a carpet. I have had this vacuum for a while and never noticed this button or the little pictures. I tapped the button, and it sounded like the motor went into overdrive. The vacuum seemed to grab at the carpet. I pushed it back and forth, and voila! – Capri sun straw wrappers and pieces of string began magically getting sucked into the canister. Apparently, I had hit the button at some point and set it for hardwood floors, which apparently makes it absolutely worthless on my carpet. My vacuum never gets used on hardwood floors, so essentially this button toggles between two modes: effective and worthless.

And that’s when I realized this was the perfect vacuum for my kids. They love spending more effort than necessary to get out of doing a chore.

For example, the Herculean task of making a bed takes most people about a minute, tops. To see my kids tackle it, you would think I have asked them to reroute the Mississippi River. They will undertake massive amounts of pulling blankets off, arranging pillows on the floor, getting distracted by every book, toy and shiny thing in their room.

After 10 minutes or so, I will come and check on the progress and will generally be greeted with one of the following phrases: “Ugh.” “It’s too hard.” “I can’t.” “I didn’t know I was supposed to make the bed.”

I know full well the game. If they make it annoying enough, they believe I will cave and simply do it myself. Want to know how many times that ruse has worked? Hint: You can’t divide by that number.

So what eventually happens is they do 500 times the amount of work trying to get out of doing something that they eventually have to do anyway. Once it is done, I explain to them that had they spent the minute to do the job in the first place, they would have had that last 1:59 to do something more fun than moaning about a pile of pillows they created. They stare at me with a look that makes it clear I would have far better luck explaining that to the dogs.

So that’s why the vacuum button would be perfect for them. Here is my plan. I will give them the vacuum in worthless mode. They will spend hours vacuuming but not actually vacuuming. They would be able to feign working, all the while lamenting how hard it is and how it could never, ever get done and that they are the single most oppressed people on the planet.

But here’s the best part – after about 20 minutes of non-vacuuming, I will come check up on their progress. As they are telling me how the vacuum is not picking up and that it’s no use and they really have the toughest life of anyone ever, I will, without the noticing, casually step on the button and engage the effective mode. They will continue on, thinking they were still successfully working at non-working, but would actually be doing the task at hand. It’s win-win – they think they are successfully stalling and my floor is getting vacuumed. I think the plan is fool proof.

I plan on implementing this plan the next time we have one of our super fun chore days. I just hope there’s still enough time to vacuum after they’ve made their beds.

 Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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