We tell you all the time about the importance of making your bed — the one task that will make you happier, healthier, permanently stress-free and rich beyond your wildest dreams (or something along those lines). But against my own advice — I know, I'm a hypocrite — I rarely make my bed. Mornings are always such a scramble that it never seemed like much of a priority. So, for science, I decided to commit to making my bed daily for one week to see if there really was any difference in my mental fortitude (or my wallet for that matter). How'd I do? I'll tell you.
First things first, this is about the easiest task I could have committed to doing, house-wise. I'm rocking a top-sheet free, European-style comforter so"making" the bed is really just a matter of smoothing the comforter and fluffing the pillows. It takes 20 seconds, max.
Still, it was hard! There never seemed to be a good time to do it. Once I rolled out of bed and started the dog-walking, showering, getting-dressed scramble, there never was an obvious time to come back and address the bed. So, after a few mornings of doing a face palm as I remembered my commitment while locking my front door to leave, I got in the habit of just straightening the bedding up right away as I got up so I could move on with my day.
Here's what making the bed is supposed to do for me:
- Keep me healthy — This, I assume, is due to the stress-busting power of having a clean home.
- Make me happier — Again, less stress equals a clearer mind and more room for pleasure.
- Make me more successful — One week isn't enough to test this theory but maybe I'll play the long game on this one and get back to you.
- Stick to a budget — Okaaay
The thing about these benefits is that they are incredibly hard to measure. Sure, you can interview people who make their beds and ask them if they feel happy, or talk to people who don't do it and find out that maybe they also can't stick to their budget. But that, of course, doesn't mean that making the bed CAUSES these positive things; it might just mean that the sort of person who is inclined to make his bed is also the a person who is naturally healthier and more regimented with his money.
The one thing I came across that made the most sense to me was this idea by Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit. He calls making the bed a keystone habit:
Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.
You know what? I almost hate to admit it, but for me this is completely true. When I started coming home to a made bed, I would get a little lift (or, at least, avoid the little twinge of walking into a messy room) and in an already clean room, I was less likely to throw my work clothes over a chair and forget about them. If I dumped a bunch of laundry or papers on the made bed, I tidied them up faster too; it just looked funny having a big mess in a clean space.
Moreover, even though it was hard to find the time each morning to do it, once I started the actual action, I found it felt good to have chosen to do something that I knew would pay off later (after work). It felt like I was investing time in myself. I feel the same way when I prepare myself a healthy meal or organize a cabinet. It's not necessarily about the action, it's about what that action will net me down the road.
So happier? Yes! On the mornings I remember, it really does set in motion a more positive spiral for my day. I was certainly a skeptic, but I'll keep it up.