In a recent post, I listed a few little things you could do to “be better than you were yesterday”. Today, I want to share the one small thing I did to kick-start my cleaning and de-cluttering ways. It’s a habit I’ve managed to continue to this day, the benefits of which have been more numerous than I had initially anticipated.
So what is it? Well, the very first thing I do in the morning – EVERY morning – is dress the bed.
Does that sound ridiculously simple? Or like something you’ve tried a million times before? I know a lot of people, including my former self, give up on this quite quickly because they can’t see the point when the bed is just going to be messy again in another few hours. But here, let me outline some of the benefits for you:
1. You start the day off right. By doing this one little thing in the morning, you’re hard-wiring your brain to understand that things need to go back in their place when you’re done with them. It’s such a simple thing, but if you start the day off with a clean bed, you’ll be more likely to end it with a cleaner home. And you know what? It just feels good to look at something crisp and clean first thing in the morning, and know that it’s because of your own (minimal) effort. It gives you a great sense of achievement and satisfaction that stays with you throughout your day.
2. It ends your day right. Just like that great sense of achievement you feel first thing in the morning, you’ll be reminded of that last thing at night when you go to your room and are confronted by a beautiful, made bed. No matter what has happened that day, you’ll feel great slipping in between those straightened sheets.
3. You sleep better. For the reasons outlined above. When I lived alone, my bed was always a mess. Not only was it never made, but it was a dumping ground for clothes, shoes, papers, books, etc. I always just assumed I was a bad sleeper but, looking back, how could I have slept well when I was making going to bed such a chore? I had to move things and straighten things before I could even lie down, leaving me subconsciously frazzled and frustrated. And we all know how difficult it is to sleep when we’re annoyed about something. Even when the rest of your life is in chaos, if the last thing you see at night is something clean and organised, you’ll feel much more soothed and in control.
4. You’ll feel calmer and less stressed. Again, this leads on from the benefits above, but having one area in your life that you have control over can make all the difference when it feels like everything else is getting on top of you. It’s similar to meditation, in that it helps you find that one area where you feel peaceful and serene, no matter what’s going on around you. Making your bed means the first and last thing you see every day is a calm environment – proof positive that you’re master of your own domain.
5. It will spread. Pretty soon, like me, you won’t be happy with just a made bed – you’ll want to clear all those clothes off the back of the chair, too. So that will become the second thing you do in the morning. One thing leads to another, particularly when you see the benefits that first thing has.
6. It sets a good example. Not only will it encourage you to form more good habits, but it will also encourage your family. It’s very easy to get complacent about a dirty house, but most people, no matter how stuck in their ways, will see the benefits of a clean home and will think twice before messing it up. Behaviour is learned – be a good teacher.
Of course, there’s no point making a bed if the bedclothes are dirty. Have a set day for changing the bedclothes, and stick to it. This will vary from household to household – some people need to change them every day, while others can go for a week or more. If you’re in the latter group, try to aim for once a week. Sundays are great for this because, not only are you starting your Monday off right, you’re starting your whole week! But find what works for you. Here are three benefits to clean bedclothes:
7. You breathe better. We spend about a third of our lives in bed, so we don’t want our beds to be dusty and dirty and covered in sweat and grime. That stuff is going right up our noses as we sleep. Germs and bacteria thrive in those conditions. Don’t give them a chance!
8. You’ll have cleaner, clearer skin. What’s the point in washing your face and maintaining a good skincare routine if you’re just going to go rub your face in a greasy, grimy pillow? Also, don’t put on your moisturiser last thing at night, or half of it will end up on the pillow. Give it time to soak into your skin before hitting the hay.
9. You get to enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures. Ask a group of people to list some of life’s simple pleasures and, invariably, getting into a bed with clean sheets crops up. Why deny yourself?
And if all that isn’t enough to sway you, how about the fact that all those benefits come from something that takes less than a minute? Seriously. Your bed doesn’t have to be made to hotel perfection, it just needs to be neat and tidy and clean. Here are some tips to make the job quicker if you find yourself struggling:
a) Get a fitted sheet. One of the biggest bug-bears for me was straightening and tucking in sheets. It just took so much time and effort. Enter the fitted sheet, and I never had to bother with that again. When I wake up in the morning, the sheet is still in the same place it was when I went to bed the night before. That eliminates one step from the bed-making process straight away. (There are loads of videos and sites online that demonstrate how to fold them properly, if that’s what’s worrying you.)
b) Get rid of the extra pillows you don’t use. You know, the ones that are really just there for decoration but get kicked off the bed as soon as you get in. How much time do you spend taking them off and putting them back on the bed, when they serve no practical purpose whatsoever? Why do you put yourself through it?
c) Get help from someone. Either both do it together, or take it in turns. If you have kids and they’re any way old enough, get them to dress their own beds. Teach them good habits.
d) If you really can’t bring yourself to wash and/or change your bedclothes on a regular basis, or you just don’t have the time, consider just changing the pillowcases. Any step at all is better than none.
And that’s pretty much that. It takes me less than a minute, perhaps even less than 30 seconds, to straighten the pillows and the duvet. But the benefits (health, happiness, a sense of calm and control, etc.) far outweigh any exertions. Try it out for a few days and let me know how you get on. I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.