Years ago, when I was still on Facebook, I watched a close friend, who happens to be a Buddhist priest, get dragged through the mud over one of her posts. Was it because she was critical of anyone practicing a faith different from hers? Did she claim to be smarter than everyone else? What, you might wonder, could have caused a published, well-respected, and much-adored woman of faith to be run over by such outrage? Why would so many people go out of their way to disagree with her and criticize—no, condemn—her opinion on one particular matter?
Haven’t you figured it out yet? Isn’t it obvious? She had the gall to suggest that a positive daily practice would be to—gasp—make our bed. I know, I know. It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? Who did she think she was telling all of us Facebook followers how to take care of our home? I’m surprised she didn’t keep going and encourage us to wash our dirty dishes immediately instead of letting them sit in the sink for hours on end. She probably would have if the public hadn’t revolted. That would have been so her. (Insert multiple eye-roll emojis.)
This is why I think of my friend every single day. Because I watched that entire thread unfold, which was horrifying, hilarious, and fascinating all at the same time, and also because I happen to make my bed every day. Each morning, as I shake out sheets, flatten out my blanket, and fluff the pillows, my thoughts drift to my friend, and I smile.
I was making my bed each day before she inadvertently lit a small social media firestorm, but after witnessing all the emotional outbursts her suggestion triggered, I thought more about why I insist on this small task each morning. What is it about making my bed each day that fulfills me? Because it isn’t merely about keeping a tidy house (although that is a big part of it), it is also about the joy of the discipline.
Discipline can feel like such a hard word, can’t it? It sounds so military and stern. It can feel like a very small box with no room for outstretched arms and spontaneity. But I choose that word specifically because discipline is precisely what I am talking about. It isn’t a practice (I know how to make my bed) and it isn’t preparation (perhaps for the day); it is a choice I make every single day whether I’m in the mood or not, whether I think I have time or not. When I do it, I do it to the best of my ability. The quilt hangs evenly on both sides of the bed. The sheet doesn’t hang down onto the floor from in between the bed slats.
I cannot point to my insistence on making my bed every day as the source of any great endeavor or success. If I never made my bed again, no one would actually care. Hardly anyone ever sees the bedroom I share with my husband. I can’t imagine being on my deathbed and ruminating about the impact making my bed every day had on my life. When someone says, “This won’t matter in ten years,” they are right. I agree with them. I completely understand the arguments so many people have against making one’s bed. I’ll never try to convince someone committed to not making their bed that they should because I don’t think my way is the better way or the right way. It only happens to be my way, even though there are plenty of wonderfully rational reasons for letting the sheets stay wrinkled.
My rationale for making my bed every day is entirely personal. I do it because I know what I need to grab the day ahead of me with as much gusto as possible. This does not mean I won’t be able to seize the day if I don’t make my bed. As you might expect, when we have a house full of guests or an especially hectic schedule, my version of making the bed becomes a simple flip of the quilt over everything, if that. During those episodes of heightened activity, this works just fine. But when life is moving at a steadier pace, I prefer calm and I prefer order. I adhere to a series of cherished routines from morning until evening. One of them is making my bed.
Getting to make my bed every morning (or late afternoon, as it sometimes happens) tells part of my story and reminds me of all the blessings in my life. Let’s start with the fact that I am making a bed with clean sheets, a warm blanket, and a colorful quilt that reminds me of India. Let’s continue with a series of small but potent observations related to this task:
I have a warm bed to crawl into every night, in my own home.
This is a bed I share with my husband, who I have built an extraordinary life with.
Every night, my chocolate lab Tilda jumps up on this bed and settles in for the night, closer to the foot of the bed, the length of her right by my side. This closeness makes me deliriously happy.
When my linens need cleaning, all I have to do is take them downstairs to our washing machine. If I need detergent, it isn’t difficult to get it.
I do, in fact, whether I always initially believe this or not, have time to make my bed. Even when we have a house full of guests.
If I ever need a reason to feel grateful for the aforementioned circumstances, all I need to do is open up the morning newspaper. Between stories of Central American refugees, a local kidnap victim, a Saudi Arabian woman seeking asylum, and citizens held in jail because they are unable to pay court fees, I have every reason to consider the discipline of making my bed every day as an expression of gratitude. Simply put: I am blessed to be able to sleep in a warm, cozy bed with my husband and dog by my side every single night.
I do not take for granted the opportunity I have to take care of a home of my own. I find great joy in that responsibility, every single day. Not to mention, if I’m able to stick with a discipline of something like a household chore, that can be practice for other disciplines, as a writer in particular. As Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains, “This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.” I choose to make my bed everyday, which means I can choose to establish all other kinds of habits, creative or otherwise.