I made my bed this morning.
I made it yesterday, too, as well as the day before that. I made it every day last week, last month, last year. Anytime you see me, you can assume that my bed is made.
Call me a crazed, bed-making zealot, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, an unmade bed after 8 or 9 in the morning is the first step to the kind of slovenliness that will eventually have me wearing a stained housecoat, sporting curlers, and being able to talk knowledgeably about which celebrity was on “Harry” that day.
I believe I need to give my mother much of the credit for this. My sister and I were supposed to make our beds and we generally did, but I think my true bed-making inspiration came more from the sight of my mother putting her bed in order every day; tucking the sheets, fluffing the blankets, arranging the (massive) spread, ordering the (many) pillows.
I don’t believe there was ever a day when my mother’s bed wasn’t made or when her room was a clothes-strewn mess. Her bedroom was always a soothing, ordered place, and even the sizable stacks of magazines that my father kept on his side of the room were tidy and organized (although she would have much preferred that they weren’t there but that’s marriage for you). My mother never yelled at me to make my bed every day. She just showed me what life was like when you did.
I am not militaristic about how I make my bed. I don’t do hospital corners. I can’t bounce a quarter off the sheets. I don’t even use a spread; instead I have a blue cotton blanket, white sheets, white and blue pillowcases, a pretty patterned fleece throw at the end of the bed, and blue, white and gray throw pillows. The colors are muted and the textures are soft.
When I put my bed in order, I am accomplishing my first task of the day. Pull back the top sheet, smooth the bottom one on one side, then the other. Pull the top sheet back up and fold it over the now wrinkle-free blanket so that it looks nice, shake out the pillows and fluff them so they stand up and then order the throw pillows (only three). Arrange the fleece over the bottom of the bed, like the cherry on top of a sundae and that’s it, I’m done.
How long did it take me? Less than five minutes certainly, basically no time at all. It’s pleasant and meditative, and never feels like work. But somehow it means everything to my day. It’s only 8 o’clock in the morning and I have already accomplished something that’s important to me (after making coffee, of course, but that’s akin to breathing, ie, I would die without it, so there’s no actual choice).
My husband knows that I much prefer to make the bed by myself but sometimes he pretends to help just to tease me. Yelling “Nooooo” loudly until he leaves usually works but Toast the cat is another matter. She thinks that making the bed is an invitation to play, and not the deathly serious matter that it is. She dives under the covers and pounces on the blankets until I am forced to remove her bodily, ignoring her squalling.
I had no idea other people felt this way until a few years ago when former Navy Adm. William McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas system, gave a commencement speech in 2014 in which he extolled the virtues of the made bed.
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” he told the graduates. “It will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task, and another. … Making your bed will also reinforce the face that little things in life matter. ... And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that’s made. ... And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
The speech became a social media sensation and McRaven went on to incorporate it into a book called “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World.” A SEAL for 37 years and formerly commander of U.S. Special Operations, this man appears to know a thing or two about getting stuff done. So if he believes in the value of fluffing blankets and tucking sheets, that’s good enough for me.
Reading the comments from others as I was researching this column was eye opening. Many people feel exactly as Adm. McRaven and I do, but naturally, others do not. Making the bed for some people was associated with unpleasantly rigid parenting or other difficult issues, and they find their freedom in not making their bed. I’m happy for those who reclaim peace of mind at any age but I feel a little sad that they can’t take joy from climbing into a smooth and ordered bed each night.
Now excuse me, it’s 8 a.m. I need to go change the world.
Marilyn Davis Archibald (email@example.com) lives and writes in West Newbury, and, well, makes her bed every day.