Ever fought with yourself about making the bed? Like all your life? Me too.
However, I now am glad to do this homey chore. I’ve been enlightened! Making the bed is totally worth the effort. I cannot wait to share with you!
Bed-making is completely beyond just sleep.
1. The Art of Sleep
Long ago I studied a small book by historic American landscape artist, A. J. Downing. I learned all bout his ideas of symmetrical and rustic design. I also studied another antique work, by John Ruskin, about beauty and truth. As I worked on, and in, my own house, I kept the four basic elements these men explained in mind.
I tried. Really I did.
But now I’m beginning to really get it. And you can, too. So here goes:
Symmetrical beauty invites you in. You know how much you want to walk right in to those pictures of European gardens. Me too. There is something about the beauty, sculpture of bushes, silver bells and cockle shells all in a row, that just makes you feel welcome and brave about entering. You can tell it was made for visiting; you can feel the invitation…
Rustic beauty comforts you to stay. You keep buying more, and more varied types, of flowers, trees, vines, and it never ends. You want every square inch filled with wild, unbridled growth of green with lots of pops of color in your garden. Forget that it’s a messy jumble; you love it like your own child.
Okay, so get this:
These are exactly the reasons people who seldom leave home enjoy the happy hodge-podge of throw pillows and crazy quilts piled around them, children’s drawings stuck to the fridge, and cottage gardens. It is also why folks who constantly have to return home prefer a sleeker, stricter expression, such as velvet couches perched on matching carpet, framed art perfectly balanced between sconces above the whitewashed fireplace, and knot gardens.
Likewise, we find many homeowners want a formal living room in addition to a family room. The purpose of one is to welcome guests with an orderly invitation, “Please enter our delightful abode.”
You can guess, the other is for surrounding and cushioning yourself with your own beloved jumble.
These same principles are also why husbands have trouble with kid clutter upon arrival home after work, but have turned around and made their own clutter by bedtime.
As you read this, of course, you probably already know it is true, but I never figured it out until now. I have read from cover to cover many, many home interior books and have never found it stated in them.
I share this to help you make the bed.
Every morning, when you first wake up, you love the smoosh and swaddling of your soft sheets and blankets, wrapped and plumped everywhere you roll. On lazy mornings, you probably luxuriate in this mess briefly. Or not so briefly. You want time to wake up fully within this motherly embrace. Your hair falls across your face, but you do not care. You punch the side of your pillow a bit to volumize and soften it for this last moment of luxurious lollygagging.
The fact that this comfort looks a fright is of no concern; your eyes are shut.
When you return to your bed that evening, though, after a problematic day of trying to make something organized happen, perhaps to little avail, you prefer to find your bed organized. When you are weary, you do not want to war with a wad. When you need to relax, you need refinement. When you are tired, a tangle could push you over the limit. The luxuries of the morning transform into lumps at night.
For shear, inviting bliss, you want that bed made up, the sheets tight, the pillow smooth.
You want the bedding to feel as soothing as the still waters of a long soak in the tub.
You want to be able to FIND the sheet so you can pull it up.
The last thing you need is a problematic blanket.
So, for sanity’s sake, make that bed, every day.
2. Your Health
Do not, however, make the bed when you first rise, and here’s why:
Called “effluvia” and “foul air” by Florence Nightingale, in her book Notes on Nursing, these are merely the dampness given off by living creatures, including humans. It’s vaguely like your skin exhaling. They say these effluvia are poison and come off your body and your husband’s body, as you sleep.
These vapors have to go somewhere, and while you sleep, guess where they go. When you first exit your bed—according to older, wiser ones— your bed is full of them.
These vaporous humors, trapped inside your bedding every night, are most noticeable as soon as you exit that bedding. An immediate shower with a loofah, or even a brief stroll outdoors to feed the cats, is a perfect antidote. You can feel the difference.
The best thing you can do for your bed, according to the older, wiser ones, is to pull the covers back, down to the foot of the bed, and allow these vaporous humors to escape.
If our senses were more acute, we could even feel the humidity in these covers, when we pulled them back. That humidity can only go into the bedding and mattress if we do not allow it to escape. It molders inside your bed all day, trying, but failing, to evaporate. That night, you climb into a foul (Nightingale’s word) nearly toxic environment.
But if you just pull those covers back for about an hour, what a difference you have made!
At that point, it is important to make up the bed because of the things falling out of the sky. Tiny spores, pet dander, pollen, and stardust never relent, always fall on everything. You cannot run the feather duster over your sheets to eliminate them. You do not want to wash the bedding every day.
Something has to give.
So, we pull that bottom sheet tight, turn over and plump the pillows, fluff the top sheet and the cover, and pull it up. Make sure everything hangs on the sides evenly and smoothly.
Isn’t that better? Isn’t it prettier? Calmer, more peace-inducing, inviting?
Today, whenever you go into your bedroom for any reason, you will like it more. You might even feel like vacuuming in there, picking up cast off clothing, replacing burned out light bulbs, dusting, or rearranging the knick-knacks.
Or, hey, how about sleeping? With this quiet lake of repose greeting you when you pass, you think about finishing your tasks early. Once the socks are put away, tonight, you could dress for bed, decompress awhile with some light reading and then just sorta slip into this enticement like an expert diver, leaving hardly a splash or ripple. You could float on a pool of untroubled waters and drift into that land of refreshing.
Z-z-zo could your huz-z-z-band.
Well, it’s just nice, you know.
When I was young, my mother and all her friends had a saying: “It’s just nice. You know.”
The corollary also enjoyed popular usage: “It just isn’t nice. You know.”
We girls always imagined the rest. None of us ever had the nerve to ask why or what about those two sayings.
Our mothers used a special posture, tone of voice, and facial expression for those words. They always stopped whatever they were doing, even if it meant setting down a heavy basket of wet laundry. They always faced us and gazed through our eyes, to somewhere past our brains. They always spoke quietly and dryly, in a lower tone, and let their voices fall at the end of the statement. They always had a straight, blank expression.
(Except MaryAnne’s mother, who always put on a humorless smile; but she disappeared one day and after that; so did MaryAnne, and no one would tell us where she went. It just wasn’t nice. You know.)
They told us things were nice when they made us wear shorts under our dresses while playing outdoors, when they kept an extra roll of toilet tissue camouflaged with lace in plain sight in the bathroom, and when we colored with our girlfriends.
They told us things were not nice when we sat with our knees and skirts up (with or without shorts), left the bathroom door open while we used it, or played house with boys.
As we aged, more and more things became not nice.
As our culture aged, several nice things drifted into obsolescence and several not-nice things into rebellion. Right after that, our culture slowly rushed into the downfall we see today.
Since then, our cultural earthquake has provoked a tsunami of re-thinking, almost of, dare-I-say, wisdom.
These days, folks want morals in their children’s schools (although they disdain the Originator of teaching morals to children.) They want the “not-nice” adults labeled (although they don’t care about the not-nice contagion pouring out of their computers.) They want people to be nice.
So, back to the bed. It’s not nice to leave it unmade. The sight, scent, and implications of your unmade bed say incredible things to repair-persons, servants, delivery-persons, and any others who might happen to view it. If your bed is unmade, it should be that you are ill and staying in it. If your bed is unmade, you should not answer the door unless you are beginning to recover.
And grab that housecoat, first, please.
At the very least, if your bed is unmade, you should shut the bedroom door.
It’s just nice. You know.
4. The Covenant
You care about bed-making.
Did you know it? It’s true. We all care more than we realize.
So what’s to care about with the bed? I mean, I want to be a caring person, but please tell me why I should!
Well, the bed is a holy place. It is a place where a husband and wife picture Christ and the Church.
I was. We should have guessed God said to keep it undefiled for a reason. Or two.
The bed is a holy place, the place where covenants are consummated and renewed, where new beings are created from nearly nothing, and where the love of your life deigns to make himself totally vulnerable to you.
The bed is a holy place, where, after all is done, the day is sealed and delivered over to God’s watch. The bed is where the incredible ritual called sleep—they say it’s a near death experience—occurs nightly, refreshing our lives.
The bed is a holy place, where we witness the awesome healing built into our bodies, as we sleep.
Our children know this. They don’t know they know it, but they do. That is why they long to share it with us, love to be there when allowed, frolicking or relaxing in our tender love when we open our cushiony nest to them.
The bed deserves special attention. It’s not much, just smooth a little, plump a little, pull up the covers, and it’s done. It can take all of two minutes, if we hurry.
Tending to the bed is a beautiful form of self-expression of our care about these things. More than an artistic outlet, though, bed-tending is a display to all who happen upon it, a display of the reality that you do care about these secret things, that you do veil the “holy of holies” of your home.
So who on earth “just happens” upon our beds?
Mostly, it’s only the most important people in our worlds, the ones who need most to know that the queen of the home does care about them, about the home, about her job. Mostly, it’s our families that catch the message.
When we bother to send it.