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Quick Tips for Graduate Student Life – Get a Shop-Vac

Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on surviving graduate school, including dealing with expectations, managing your finances, coping with failure, and some more general advice. During that process, I’ve also come up with some small, helpful tips that just don’t fit into a broader theme. It seems a shame to let those tips disappear, so, for the next week I’ll be posting Andrew’s Quick Tips for Surviving Graduate School


Tip #1: Get a Shop-Vac

Bear with me, here.

There’s a million different kinds of vacuum cleaners on the market, from super-cheap uprights to $1,500 technological behemoths. Unfortunately, graduate students live on a small-stipend, and cheap vacuums are cheap for a reason: they just don’t last. During my graduate school career, I burned through three dirt-cheap models (granted, we had a lot of square footage thanks to the low cost-of-living in rural North Carolina). You could scale up, get one of those nice, $200+ models that should last for years, but there is another option.

We named ours R2. From shopvac.com.

We named ours R2. From shopvac.com.

The Shop-Vac*. A tough little workhorse designed for sucking down sawdust and clearing out job sites.  It’s plenty strong enough to handle daily household cleaning, has a huge bin to store waste, and can handle just about any pet hair you can imagine. Most good shop-vacs are wet/dry, so you can also suck up any spills, overflows, or putrefied whale blubber. They also make carpet attachments, so you can tackle that, too. And, most important, you can get a good one for $50 and count on it lasting.

So, when you’re ready to invest in a new vacuum, head to the home improvement store.


*Shop-Vac, like a few other products, is both a brand name and a generic term for a workshop vacuum. There are plenty of decent “shop-vacs” on the market that aren’t Shop-Vacs.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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