I’ve owned six vacuum cleaners in the eight years I have been in Abu Dhabi.
I know this seems excessive, but it now strikes me that my history of buying these household appliances reflects my living situation at the time.
My first vacuum was a small handheld one that I felt was perfectly adequate for my studio apartment in Al Nahyan after I'd made the move from the US. After all, it was just me, living by myself.
However, as I adopted my first two cats over the next couple of years while still living in the space, it began to feel as though I needed something stronger just to keep on top of all the fur. I bought a bright green bagless cannister that took up more space than I would have liked but did the job I needed it to do.
Much like with the upgrade in vacuum cleaner, it wasn't long before I moved into a bigger space. While there was a natural sadness leaving behind the place where I began my Abu Dhabi adventure, a one-bedroom was better fit for my needs, especially after I'd rescued a third cat.
This space was in an older building in Khalidiya but overlooked one of the roads that leads to the Corniche. The bright lights and bustling streets had a new energy for me, in a city I was still becoming familiar with. It was a sad day when the cannister vacuum stopped working suddenly. Especially since my new place had low-pile carpeting throughout that I put in myself.
Enter vacuum number three. I lucked out in buying a secondhand bagless cannister from someone leaving the country. For the next couple of years, it did a perfect job doing what I needed it to do most: pick up cat hair and the odd bit of dirt that made its way into my living space.
I took that cleaning device with me from house to house. When I switched to a new building on the other side of Khalidiya, with views overlooking Qasr Al Hosn, I used it to do a quick sweep of the place before moving in. But just like how all good things seemingly come to an end sooner than expected, one day the brush head just stopped working. I tried to get by using only the nozzle, but it was tough.
When I took in a fourth rescue cat, I knew that I once again needed a bigger space. My partner and I settled for a two-bedroom villa in Al Reef — somewhere I desperately hoped would feel like home. We moved into our villa in April 2020, right at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While I initially loved the extra space, I didn’t love how much more work it took to keep the place tidy and clean. Even though I still tried to use the old vacuum’s nozzle — it just wasn't cutting it. Instead, I took inspiration from a colleague and decided to invest in a robot vacuum. After all, who wouldn’t love a hoover that works on its own?
I've always felt like it was a brilliant choice. I had a remote control that I was able to point in the direction of where I wanted it to go. I used it quite often, sometimes feeling as though if I could just make the villa spotless, I would enjoy living in it more.
Whether it was a bit of cabin fever (having been there for two years and for much of the pandemic) or just having too much space, which could feel at times like isolation, I just never quite felt at home. Even though I spent Dh3,000 getting a custom Catio built in the backyard for the cats to enjoy, I hardly used the small outdoor space myself.
When our lease was up, I knew we had to move. Eventually we found a one-bedroom place in a new building in Al Raha Beach. The natural lighting, the scenic views — I felt like an energy had been missing in my life the past couple of years. While I had to downsize, everything about it felt right to me.
I still use the robot vacuum, hoping for an easier task as I no longer live in a two-storey villa. However, I decided to add a cheap, hand-held vacuum to help get to the corners as well as the smaller spaces such as on the sofa or any other hard-to-reach place, still believing that things could be cleaner but only because I truly love the space I'm in.
During a recent week-long break I took the time to research vacuums, considering whether I wanted to invest in yet another that would potentially let me down in a couple of years. I learnt of the acronym BIFL, which stands for “buy it for life” and the brands that people suggested were actually worth the money because of their durability.
Eventually I purchased a BIFL vacuum that was highly recommended and one that supposedly would last 15-20 years. It's the most I've ever spent on a cleaning appliance. While I’m not entirely sure I ever envisioned myself as someone who would even be looking up BIFL vacuums, much less while living abroad, I also never believed my journey in Abu Dhabi would last as long as it has.
While I may have been disappointed by hoovers in the past, it finally feels as though it's time to invest in the long term.
Scroll through the gallery below to see some of Evelyn Lau's favourite UAE memories