October 21, 2019
Want to be happier, more productive, better at budgeting, more disciplined and fitter? This is not a trick question. And I’m going to assume, yes. Good. Then start by making your bed every day. You think I’m kidding.
As a finale to my run of recent columns on bed basics — from mattress matters to pillow picking — I’m going to put the subject to rest (sorry) with one final message: Make your bed.
Being a compulsive bed maker is one of the few life choices I swerved into and apparently got right. I’ve always made my bed first thing. My mother, a nurse who impressed upon me the importance of hospital corners, used to tease me for not letting it cool down first.
But leaving my bed unmade made me feel rumpled and out of sorts. In fact, on those odd days when I have not made my bed, mostly because someone was still in it, which is pretty much the only excuse, and I returned home to an unmade bed, force of habit compelled me to make it before I went to bed that night. This is likely a mental disorder, and beyond the scope of this column.
But it goes to show, just because something isn’t logical does not mean it isn’t necessary.
According to a 2018 YouGov Omnibus poll, just over a third of Americans (37percent) always make their beds. The rest say they sometimes, rarely or never do. Not captured are the ones whose moms still come over and make it for them, or the ones who never get out of bed, more issues beyond the scope of this column.
However, I have lately learned, the world would be better if more Americans fell into the always category. In an article in Psychology Today, relationship writer Judy Dutton, a non-bed maker at the time, said what most disturbed her was learning that 71 percent of bed makers considered themselves happy, while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admitted to being unhappy.
“Bed makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested, whereas more non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired,” she wrote, concluding. “All in all, bed makers are happier and more successful.”
As I probed my innerworkings for what drove my bedmaking ritual, I considered the prevailing argument: Why bother, if you’re just going to mess it up again? And I discovered the why bother. I make my bed so I can start every day feeling as if I have just a little control of my life, so I can start every day with the sense that I’ve already accomplished something, so I can start my day knowing I have made one corner of the world look a little nicer. And that’s a good start.
But don’t just take it from me. Take it from these five real experts who also make the case for making your bed:
- You set off a positive chain reaction. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says, “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” How so? He calls making your bed a “keystone habit,” something that kickstarts a pattern of other good behaviors. And, since it happens at the start of the day, it triggers better decisions the rest of the day.
- It’s prettier and cleaner. A bed is a bedroom’s centerpiece. If it’s messy, the whole space looks disorderly, and that seeps into other aspects of your life, says Karin Sun, founder of Crane & Canopy, a luxury bedding brand based in San Francisco. Conversely, a well-dressed bed creates the foundation for peace, order and beauty. Plus, a made bed keeps dirt, dust and pet dander from settling on your sheets, so linens stay fresher and more hygienic.
- You might sleep better. Those who make their beds are 20 percent more likely to say they get a better night’s sleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey.
- You may feel happier. In her surveys on what boosts happiness, researcher and author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin says the one answer that comes up more than any other is making the bed. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. “If you love a calm environment, making the bed is one of the quickest, easiest steps to cultivate a sense of order.”
- It might help you change the world. In his 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas, Admiral William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who led the U.S. Special Operations Command that organized the raid on Osama bin Laden, told graduates, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
Believe me now? I rest my case.
CAPTION: A Good Start — Making your bed every day can trigger a whole cascade of positive life changes, experts say. Photo courtesy of Craneandcanopy.com.