You brush your teeth every day.
You bathe (or at least wash your face) every day.
You change your underwear every day. Hopefully.
But why does making the bed seem like an arduous chore? Along with the dishes, laundry, cleaning the dog poop, mowing the lawn or dusting, bed-making is often relegated to a secondary class of hygienic maintenance. But it shouldn’t be, for a number of reasons.
First of all: Health. Your body is a factory that performs billions of chemical reactions all day, every day—and all night. Chemicals come in, churn around, combine with other chemicals, split up from other compounds, zig, zag, zoom and find their way back into the world. In the few seconds it took you to read this, another million micro-reactions occurred that allow you to think, move and emote. It’s pretty remarkable.
Now think about the last time you went shopping and you walked down the detergent aisle or the coffee aisle or stood by the fish section. The smells can be powerful. The molecules from the soaps and beans and trout have somehow magically separated from their “hosts” and gone up your nose and into your body—all at a microscopic level.
You spend at least seven hours a night in your bed in the same physical location, just like those grocery department products, and your body processes and releases molecules as well, through your skin, your nose, your mouth, your... Just like a snake, you shed small portions of yourself every night as you regenerate skin from the inside out (that’s how wounds heal and zits disappear). And just like all other mammals, you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Did you eat today? Beans, perhaps? The gasses your body can’t contain also manage to escape and it all goes into your bed sheets where you roll and toss and dream…
Take the comforter or blanket and top sheet off the bed, slip your fingers under the fitted sheet at a corner and billow it vigorously to allow the air to flow beneath and on top of the sheet. This clears the toxins (to some degree) just like opening your car window clears away lingering Taco Bell odors. Now run your hands over the fitted sheet and you may be surprised how many little foreign objects you’ll find… I know this is gross, and I apologize for the detailing, but things fall off your body all the time. Hair, earwax, boogers, scabs, flakes of skin, stuff from between your toes and even itty-bitty-bits of toilet paper fragments have the potential to cling to your sheets. Yes, it's a bit nasty to think about, but it's part of being human (no matter how squeaky-clean you think you are). Sweep your hands across your fitted sheet and just toss that scruff to the floor (I’ll have you vacuuming in another post). You may not see or feel a thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Then put your top sheet back on after fluffing it as well. Then beat the crap out of your pillows to really let the air move around them. That's my favorite part. Then put the blanket or comforter back on and smooth out all the edges so it’s nice and clean and flat—like a hotel. There, you’ve made your bed. Fantastic. Now don't forget to wash your hands.
Let’s move on to the next important reason you should do this every day:
Psychology. When I’m making a bed I’ve managed to carve out four to six minutes for myself. Certainly I’m entitled to four-to-six-minutes, right? And no one can fault you for performing a perceived chore, right? In our incredibly over-programmed lives, this fraction of time can become a respite for introspection. Making a bed is a mundane task that doesn’t require much skill or thought, which is partly why it’s so enjoyable. When you’re cooking you have to watch what you’re doing or you could burn the sauce or slice a finger. When you’re driving you have to concentrate or risk a collision. But when you make the bed there is no risk. No attention is required. And you cannot do it wrong.
Making the bed daily can establish a continued mindset of completion and success. The moment you finish making the bed you can look at it and feel a sense of joy and accomplishment. It's not like graduating college or defeating Donkey Kong, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless because you set out to do a task and you completed it successfully. You are a creature of emotion and satisfaction, joy and success are your fuel. It doesn’t matter that anyone can make the bed, YOU made the bed, and now it’s lovely.
I organize my day when I’m making the bed and think about what I want to accomplish in other arenas. Sometimes I think about what I’m going to eat so when I get to the kitchen I already have a plan. Sometimes I organize a shopping list in my head. Sometimes I remind myself I have a meeting later in the day. Sometimes I try to figure out the solution to a problem, find meaning in a dream, or remind myself to write to an old friend or call a sibling. Making the bed gives me the five minutes I need to recalibrate myself in preparation for the rest of the day.
What’s the best thing about staying in a hotel? The bed is made! Imagine if it wasn’t…. a visual confirmation that someone else was sleeping there is disturbing, but if the bed is made your mind believes the room was sterilized just for you. It’s a fresh, clean slate. Now imagine enjoying that feeling every time you walk into your own bedroom. Fresh, clean slate. Fresh, clean slate. Repeat it over and over, and then give it to yourself!
The final reason you need to make your bed is because Sleep is Damned Important. It has been proven that establishing a routine before bedtime can facilitate quality rest. You probably already have a routine for yourself, even if you’re not conscious of it. Maybe you brush your teeth and check the lights and let out the dog one last time, make sure your slippers are in place, check your alarm settings, read a few pages of a book, kiss someone and then turn off the light. I’m a little insane—I also have to open the closet door five inches. Anyway, the feeling of crawling into a fresh bed strengthens the routine. If you crawl into a messy bed you have to adjust the sheets and blanket and pillow to get them where you want them—in essence making the bed while you're already in it. But when you walk into your bedroom at night and pull back the covers from your fresh, clean-slate bed your mind is already prepared to rest, making it that much easier to slip off to your happy REM.
Making the bed also makes you move. You stretch, you flex, and you go back and forth from side to side, pulling and tucking and fluffing. Always keep the blood flowing and those calories burning!
So make your bed every day, launder and change your sheets every 7-10 days, launder your blankets monthly and your comforters seasonally (or more frequently if your pet sleeps with you) and flip your mattress every six months. I know you’ve got a million other important things to think about, and I know it's just your bed, but try to remember that you spend—and expend—nearly a third of your entire life in it.