My Mother Made the Bed 55,438 Times!

“I have to make the beds,” my mom would say, before she could do things like go to the grocery store, work in the yard, or call her mother to say hello. In total, during her 55 years of marriage and raising three children, I calculate that she made a bed 55,438 times. What is also truly amazing is that each time was important to her. “Why?” you ask. Can each time really have equal value? Absolutely. It was her routine and she loved routine. This simple task has many levels that you may balk at or embrace. Here is a breakdown:

The word “routine”: Many of my clients don’t like this word. Fair enough. Use a different word. How about sequence, rhythm, method, process, ritual. Because having them in your life will give you freedom. Yes, freedom to get things done and off your list and have time to do things you enjoy. So often I see people stretch out the things they don’t like to do, which takes time away from life’s enjoyable activities.

Making the bed is instant gratification. Who doesn’t like that!? It instantly makes a disorganized room have some order. You have accomplished something you can see. It is calming to see immediate results. If only all of life could be that easy!

Simple, everyday things make a big difference – hanging up your coat when you come in the house, putting your keys in the same place every day, putting the “bills to pay” in one spot. These are things that literally take only seconds, but if you don’t do them, what is the cost? It can take a Saturday morning to clear the entryway of months’ worth of drop-and-run items, hours to find you keys, and money to pay for late fees and interest on your bills. What could you be doing with this extra time and money? Family? Friends? Hobbies? Rest?

Making the beds was part of my mom’s morning routine of “straightening out.” She found it comforting to accomplish these daily tasks. It gave her sense of order. Make it Zen. Now more than ever, the world out there is crazy. Make your home a sanctuary – a place you and your family are the happiest, most comfortable, feel at peace. Of course, your family dynamics is at the forefront for much of this. The house itself is the backdrop. Make your home an easy place for you to land. A place where you can sink into a cozy couch and be your truest self. Where laughter fills the air, not the stress of losing things; a place that supports you being on time instead of aiding in making you late; where you feel welcome when you open the door, not overwhelmed by a to-do pile.  

Timing – Just how long does it take to make the bed? I timed myself today. To make a queen-size bed with a comforter, two regular pillows, two shams and three decorative pillows, it took one minute and 46 seconds.

My own history with bed-making did not always have the consistency it has now. When I lived in a one-level house, I found it more important to do this every day as I saw the bedroom all the time. When I lived in a house where the bedrooms were upstairs, I became a weekend bed-maker. It was only when I put that house on the market to sell and needed the house to be “show ready” when I left in the morning that I became hooked on making the bed daily. Now, even while recovering from foot surgery, I figured out a way to make the bed every day while wearing a surgical boot and using a knee scooter! 

And just why did she make so many beds when she had three kids who were certainly capable, you ask. She did not like us to do a lot of work around the house. Her philosophy was that we were kids and she wanted us to play and have fun when we were small. When she was growing up, she had many chores that took a good part of her after-school time and weekends. She did not want that for her kids. Since we did not establish these habits as young kids, it fell off our radar as teens and young adults.

Keep in mind that for much of her bed making years my mom did not have modern comforters with decorative pillows but old fashioned, fussy bedspreads. (Remember chenille? Let’s all have mercy and forget.) This entailed smoothing the bed, as every wrinkle in the sheets or blankets showed through the spread on top. Some women, not my mother, went so far as to use a wire hanger to get out every wrinkle! The only pillows on the bed were used for sleep. The bed-making process included using the bedspread to cover them. First you laid the pillows down at the head of the bed and made them as flat as possible, then you folded over the top of the spread to cover the pillows. If you did not have enough material to do this, you had to redo the whole thing to make it work. No wonder some brilliant decorator gave us the modern comforters with decorative pillows. It is so much easier, has a relaxed look, and is quite forgiving of imperfections underneath.

U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, speaking at the university-wide commencement at The University of Texas at Austin, had this to say about changing the world:

            “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.”

I hope Admiral McRaven and especially my mom and I have shown you the benefits of doing this small daily task! Happy bed-making!

Note: If you are looking for inspiration on how to get hooked on bed-making, read the story in my new book Happily Organized: Little Stories About My Mom, the Most Organized Person in the World, entitled “It All Starts With Making the Bed.”

A professional organizer for more than 18 years, Susan Lovallo, CPA, CPO, works with individuals and businesses to help them declutter, simplify and establish or streamline systems. Whether you are organizing your home, business, or financials, the result is greater productivity with less effort, providing more time to enjoy life. Clients appreciate Susan’s easy and effective solutions and financial expertise, as well as her patience, compassion and sense of humor.

Posted in attitudes, organizing, time management

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