Two and a half vacuums

Exciting news everyone! I’ve finally bought a new vacuum! …but not just one. I’ve bought two. And a half. Sort of.

Listen, this is just what happens when Kay leaves. I go out into the world and decide it’s a good idea to buy multiple vacuums and carry them home on the bus by myself. I lead a very exciting life, thank you.

Thankfully the employees tied the packs up with little handles so I could manage, and they weren’t Dysons so they didn’t weigh a bajillion pounds.

Meet the old vacuum. An obscure Miele given to us by friends.

I’m not sure how old the Miele was, but I was sure that it wasn’t great at vacuuming anymore. This vacuum also drove me crazy with how hard it was to store. Below is the best you could do to hook the head into the body and usually the huge tube was flailing about everywhere.

I used to store it on it’s end, extend the tube all the way and lean the tube and head against the wall but it would fall down all the time. Cursing, I swore at one point that our next vacuum would be an upright but after a few years living in Europe I conceded that the canister vacuum is more practical for apartment living.

We don’t have so much floor space that we require an upright to push around. It would quickly run into our coffee table, dining set, etc and would probably be much more of a pain to use the attachments for cleaning under the sofa and in the corners than just using a canister vacuum with their handy hoses.

Kay and I went looking for vacuums in the new year but we were a bit overwhelmed by all the options and prices so we chickened out. I have been thinking more and more about the vacuum situation and finally found a solution that should work for now.

Tristar SZ-2190: 69.95CHF


This is going to be our “main vacuum”. I had a few requirements for the vacuum: Bagless, Small, Affordable, High Power

I wanted to go bagless because Kay and I are both lazy about replacing and buying new bags and it seems like emptying the canister will be easier than dealing with bags. I have heard that bagless vacuums are not quite as good at suctioning, but for 69.95CHF I am willing to give it a shot.


The Tristar seems like it is a little better about storing itself. It’s not as good as those Dyson’s that wrap around themselves, but its footprint is not too large and it seems easier to tame the hose than the old Miele.


Another plus is that there are new attachments to use! The Miele didn’t come with any and the two small ones above have attachment points on the vacuum so they are always handy! I already used them today to help clean the dust out of the bottom of my wardrobe and I am a fan.

I chose the Tristar not only because it was 50CHF cheaper than the Dirt Devil I was contemplating buying, but because the canister was a lot easier to get in and out. You just grab it like it’s a coffee mug and out it comes.

And see this? The head and hose profile are so small that it fits underneath our TV stand, something the Miele was incapable of doing. Score!


This right here is why a canister vacuum is invaluable compared to an upright. If I had an upright, I would just be down there with a tube and hose as well, hoping that they fit under the table. The canister vacuums are just so much easier to maneuver the whole vacuum body around. You don’t have to worry about the canister because it just rolls along with you.

In addition to the main vacuum, I also really wanted to try out a handheld cordless vacuum, which surprisingly was more than twice as much as the main vacuum but still way less than the 399CHF Dyson cordless vac.

ELECTROLUX Ergorapido ZB2933: 179.95CHF (It is SO 20 bucks cheaper online too, argh!)

The Electrolux is so small and light, and it is 2 vacuums in one! You can pop out the mini vac below:

Maybe the novelty of this will wear off if I decide later that it doesn’t do a great job suctioning but for now I’m really excited to either pull this out and run it quickly in the kitchen or pop the handheld out and use it instead of our sorry dust pan. (Which is really due for an upgrade too… the brush is ridiculous.)

And this one comes with attachments too! Maybe I am overly excited, never having owned my own vacuum attachments before…

You can store them inside the stand. I am a big fan of the stand as well, which is like a docking station for power.

See, I was so eager to use it when I got home that this picture you can already see it has dirt in there. Woo. Cleaning.

I thought the Dyson is probably better and has more power than this, but honestly the cordless Dyson’s do not maneuver on the floor as easy as the 180º swivel in the Electrolux and you have to hold the trigger down on the Dyson the whole time you are vacuuming. The Electrolux works more like a normal vacuum cleaner with a simple off-on button so that you don’t strain your trigger finger while cleaning.

Together I feel like these two vacuums take up about the same floor space as the old Miele and I don’t have to worry about any vacuum hoses falling over and attacking me or my limited laundry room floor space. They still cost at least 300CHF less than a standard Dyson vacuum would, which leaves us more in our budget for getting a nice robot vacuum. Three vacuums for the price of one Dyson that give me the ability to vacuum my floors, hand hold and have a robot do it for me too? Yes, please.

When we move we are looking into buying a robot vacuum to clean our floors while we are at work, but for now I’m really happy to have a new vacuum and a handheld. Maybe, just maybe… having two vacuums will spur us to hoover a bit more than we normally do. 🙂

…as for the old Miele, we’ll be moving it to the cellar in the new place where our laundry room will be so that we can use it for cleanup down there from time to time. (But it better keep out of my way… or else!)

How many vacuums do you have?

Larger than life office lamps

Out of the blue, Kay agreed to go housewares shopping with me last weekend. I wanted to look at pillows and we ended up trying out beds and looking at options in 4-5 different stores around Dübendorf. The man even suggested going to IKEA. He must love me. 🙂

We browsed the lighting sections at a few different stores and are trying to figure out what to do in the living/dining room when we came upon these really funky lamps:

Stehleuchte NEW YORK 169CHF from Micasa Stehleuchte NEW YORK schwarz 169CHF from Micasa

I bet you think they just look like normal desk lamps, right? Well they are huge… see if you can get a sense of the scale from these pictures:

See that dude in the back? He sort of gives you a little idea of the scale. These things are huge floor lamp versions of their desktop counterparts.

At first I thought they were strange… and then I thought they were really cool. I want an oversized desk lamp in our office! And 169 is a pretty fair price for such a large lamp in Switzerland. Anything to avoid spending 400+ on a lamp!

Would you go for a crazy lamp in your home?

Neubau Progress: Changing the Electric

The “rohbau” phase may have been finished, but that did not stop us from requesting and implementing a few electrical changes. We received the electrical layout of the flat and our very own electrician (Kay) got to work:

This plan pretty much looked like garblygook to me, but Kay knew just what all those little red and blue symbols mean. And since he used to be an electrician (score in the husband department!) he had some opinions about what we were dealing with.

Just to help people like me out, I’ve made a little color guide below. Green is for outlets, blue is for switches (which also have outlets in them) and yellow are for overhead light fixtures.

Our current flat actually has tons of outlets, if not too many. We have about six switches in our tiny 1BR flat that do absolutely nothing… or maybe one or two actually control turning off and on one outlet. Anyway, it’s a little ridiculous, but it seems like our flat will have the opposite problem.

Kay spotted out the first possible “problem” with the bedroom. We’ll have to put the bed at one of the side walls, but both walls only have one electrical oulet. (Well, technically the one on the right below is not really on the right wall, but still…) We both charge our phones and use reading lamps, so at first I wanted to put a fixture on both sides of both walls to accommodate having a bed there.

The problem is that we don’t know which side of the room we’ll put our bed on yet so we’d be spending money just for options that we might not use later on. I kind of would like to put it up against the bathroom on the left so that we can have wardrobes on the other side that might block out sounds from neighbors a little more, but I’m undecided because that throws off the “flow” of the room. We asked about adding outlets and found out that it would be 360CHF per outlet plus “taxes and crap” from our contractor. I didn’t really want to spend over $900 just to have outlets everywhere so we decided to leave it as is.

The master bath on the right below has a wall outlet as well as outlets inside the medicine cabinet on the wall so you can discreetly charge things like your toothbrush. You may also notice that little red circle by the toilet that says “CLOS/LR”. Apparently that’s to plug our toilet in, in case we decide we want a bidet toilet. Weeeird.

In the second bedroom on the left above you can see again that they were a little stingy with the outlets in the bedrooms. Only one on two walls in addition to the light switch. Kay kind of wants to put the desks facing each other next to the windows and so he wanted a switch in the middle there, but since each outlet extra cost $400+ we decided not to do anything here either.

On the terrace we’ll have two recessed lights and just one outdoor plug. (I hope that’s enough outlets!) The recessed lights should be nice and they come with the place. All of the other “X”s for light fixtures will just have the wiring setup for us to install our own lights. It may be a little dark when we first move in! Kay doesn’t want to take our current light fixtures with us, but if the next renter doesn’t want to buy them off of us, we may have to.

In the living room we’ll have two light fixtures and a more generous offering of electrical outlets. We did think it was a little strange that they didn’t put any on that right wall though. If you would have a lamp on a buffet for instance, you wouldn’t necessarily want to run an extension cord from the light switch by the door in the lower right. It’s a little strange, but we don’t even own a buffet yet. Maybe we’ll put bookcases or china cabinets there. Who knows!

Not all of the switches have TV/multimedia access. I think we are fairly limited where we can place the TV, but I have big dreams of an L or U shaped couch, so we’ll figure something out.

We also have four recessed lights in the hallway leading to the guest bath. By the light switches we’ll have access to the temperature control and the automatic blinds for the living room.

So what changes did we make?

Highlighted in green below you’ll see the hidden multimedia access outlet that Kay requested. It cost a cool 550CHF ($605) before taxes, but Kay really wanted to have a place in the built in cupboard where he can hide our wireless router, hard drives and possibly a printer, so I gave him that. He didn’t want to have all that junk with wires sitting in the office. Right now it’s kind of hidden in the attic behind our bookcases, but it always disturbs him.

In the kitchen we also made some changes. Below is the original. You can see there is an outlet next to the stove and one next to the sink, but NONE on the other wall, which is exactly where we are planning on storing our coffee pot and hot pot. I know it makes sense to have the outlet next to the stove because you use things like soup mixers there, but come on. What were they thinking when they planned this??

We decided that it would be prudent to put an outlet on both sides of the other counter top. I can survive with an extension cord running under my bed for my nightstand lamp, but I cannot abide with that in the kitchen.

To sum up, we skipped out on extra outlets in the bedrooms and living room, but we splurged for the hidden multimedia outlet and the two (very necessary) kitchen outlets for a grand total of around $2000 when you include all the taxes and fees to “change” the already completed electrical work. We might have liked adding a few extra outlets, but I think we can live with the ones we’ve chosen. And hot damn, electrical work in Switzerland is expensive!

How important was the electrical work in your house? Have you noticed some of the weird decisions people make when installing outlets?

Want to catch up?

Neubau Progress: Shower vs. Bathtub

Although our “rohbau” phase was completed, there was something small that I wanted to change. (I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal.)

Do you recall our floor plan? Check out the master bath. See how it has a bathtub? And the guest bath… it has a shower.

I’ve found this is something very common in Switzerland. Put the bathtub in the “Elternzimmer” aka parent’s bedroom and put the stall shower in the second and third bathrooms. But to me it doesn’t make any sense. If you have babies or little kids in the house, chances are you will probably want to give them a bath… in your master bathroom? Weird.

If you’re anything like Kay or me, chances are that you shower more often than you bathe, so why we would want to have a bathtub in our bathroom over a shower is beyond me. And yes, I know we can shower in a bathtub. I’m getting to the next point.

The reason why we were debating about bathtubs and showers was because there was an option for a “geflieste Dusche” or a flush tiled shower that Kay thought would be so much nicer than the standard shower basin. But it was very expensive at 6000+ CHF and I thought it was wasteful (and stupid) to spend almost half of our renovation budget on the guest bath that we will seldom use. If I was going to have a 6k shower, one that could even be longer than the standard 1m x 1m shower, then I wanted that shower to be in our master bathroom.

Double shower with no sliding door? Hell yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I wouldn’t even have to worry about mold growing as much with just a stationary glass wall to clean. We were both on board with that idea.

Above was what our guest bath looked like and below was what our master bath looked like. Practically the same and we assumed since everything was so far from being done that we could make a little change like this.


That’s what our general contract manager (I don’t even know how to translate his title…) told us. The floors were already made, so we couldn’t swap the shower and the bathtub.

What?? It didn’t make any sense. Look above! Totally unfinished. Ok, almost totally unfinished. What’s the deal??

We were upset. We wrote registered letters telling our contract that we wanted to switch them and we wanted to know how much it cost. He refused. He told us that the floor was already made and there was a special box deeper cut for the shower installation. In order to have a tiled shower in the master bath we would have to have the floor redone and because the “rohbau” phase was done we were too late. Missed the boat. They were not going to drill up the floor for us. (They only do that themselves when they make big mistakes as we’ve seen…)

We were kind of pissed. I mean, it’s pretty handy that they were finished the rohbau phase as we signed for the apartment because we had a chance to step inside the real flat and see the layout, but switching the bathtub and the shower seemed like it should be so easy at this point and to be told they wouldn’t make this change was pretty frustrating.

In fact, it was around this time that we realized our GM is both stubborn and lazy. When he wasn’t on holiday, he wouldn’t read our emails until we’d call him after a week or two of waiting and all we ever heard from him was, “No.” Not, “Maybe we can work something else out…” Just “No“.

I also was insulted that the GM would ignore my emails and if Kay cc-ed me, the GM would only respond to Kay because “he’s the man” and obviously they are the only ones in a partnership making decisions… Even if Kay was on holiday in Cambodia and I was in Switzerland asking the guy to call me, he would still only direct his responses to Kay. Infuriating!

The GM seemed annoyed that we were taking time out of his coffee break to even address the shower issue and he refused to ever inquire about the cost of redoing a portion of the floor in the master bath, so ultimately after a couple months of fighting we had to give it up. In a complex with 170 flats, there’s no way to “have your way” in situations like this.

Neubau: 1, Katie and Kay: 0.

So when it came down to it, we took the bloody bathtub in the master bath and Kay agreed that we wouldn’t spend the money on a tiled shower, but that we would invest in some non-sliding doors for the shower stall.

Want to catch up?

Neubau Progress: II

After we first visited in March and went through all that crazy contract stuff in April, the long waiting game began. It would be over a year before our flat was done, but it was also the time we started making our “changes” to make the place ours. Kay’s father told us to budget 10-15% of the buying price (yikes!) for all of our additions, but we decided to limit ourselves to a much lower percentage and cap changes to 15k.

When we entered into the contract the “rohbau” (structural foundation) phase was already finished. The electrical and kitchen appliance work was almost done too, which meant if we wanted to make any big changes we had to act fast.

During our visit in June, all the beams were off and they had these structural supports in place in the living room:

Looking out to the left you can see our huge terrace. (Insert happy grin!)

The second bedroom isn’t enormous, so I’m already plotting how to get two desks, bookcases and a guest bed in there.

As it turns out, by the time we got around to asking about it, it seemed like all the kitchen appliance and electrical work was actually finished. That meant that they had already drilled and installed tubing for our electrical tubes for our outlets, oven, refrigerator and pipes for the sink and bathrooms.

This meant that we had to be pretty happy with how the kitchen was laid out, because there would be no affordable way to change it at this point. See those purple tubes? They are for the stove. I’ll just have to be at peace with it in the corner, but that wasn’t really on my list of worries. I was more concerned about what was going on in the bathrooms…

Want to catch up?