“Young lady you are making me dizzy,” snapped the nun who was supervising my mother as she raced from side to side making a patient’s bed. She was a 17 year-old trainee in a nursing program at a Catholic hospital. My grandmother was a strict housekeeper but it was the nuns who demanded tight hospital corners and economy of motion.
Years later my mother tried to teach me but her bed-making lessons didn’t stick. As a modern, thinking woman her solution was to close my bedroom door.
When my partner and I first lived together simply pulling up the covers satisfied our minimal housekeeping expectations. After our first big move I had more time. Often, too much time. To fill long days I kept house with the energy I’d once reserved for teaching. I started making the bed every day but I refuse to fold the corners under—just the thought of hospital corners makes me feel trapped.
Although Laura admitted that she liked the peacefulness of a tidy house, she worried I’d gone around the bend when I said I was convinced there’s a way to fold a blanket to make it look like a swan.
Some people recommend making your bed as soon as you get out of it in order to feel a sense of accomplishment at the start of each day. I understand the principle but it’s not for me. And unlike my mother and the nuns, I don’t prize speed and efficiency of movement. I make the bed to make the bed.
Each day I hold a firm intention to think of nothing but the act in which I’m engaged while I make the bed. I don’t make to-do lists or review the morning’s conversation with Laura. I don’t look for dust bunnies under the bed and think about when I’ll have time to vacuum. I focus all of my attention as I remove each item from the bed—pillows, comforter, and sheet. Smooth the fitted sheet, re-tuck as needed. Return the top sheet and straighten it from the top down and then check that the sides are even. Return the comforter and straighten it from the top down, checking for even sides. Fluff the pillows and return them to their place.
How many of us long for a quiet moment during the day? But what are we imagining? An afternoon, an hour, 20 minutes? For some people even ten minutes would seem difficult to come by. How about 2 minutes? Do you have them? Will you find them?
In two minutes you can enhance the sense of peacefulness and order in your life. But more important you can quiet your mind. Focus on one thing and one thing only for those two minutes. No thoughts of the past or the future. No reviews or revisions of conversations you have had or expect to have. Focus only on the task at hand. Make the bed to make the bed.