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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Making the bed every day helps straighten life’s wrinkles

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

I believe in making the bed.

My husband and I don’t have a fancy bed or linens made of the finest Egyptian cotton.

The bed itself and its arrangement of sheets, comforter and pillows have remained pretty much the same for 15 years. We opt for cozy flannel in the winter and cool cotton in the summer. But other than that, our bed is our bed. Plain and simple and consistent.

And every morning, I make the bed.

Something about that one simple task — pulling the sheets up, tucking them in, smoothing the bedspread, arranging the pillows — starts my day with a sense of satisfaction and empowerment. For that split-second after I make the bed, as I gaze upon its pillow-fluffed splendor, I truly believe I can do anything.

I could, for instance, fold and put away that mountain of clothes on the bedside chair.

I could clean the makeup and toothpaste splatters off my bathroom sink.

I could vacuum the dog hair.

I could make a steaming hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes and hash browns.

I could jog.

I don’t end up doing any of those things, of course. Not most days.

But I make the bed.

Every few years, I’m so sick with a flu that I can barely get up. Even those days, after a trip to the bathroom or a hurried shower, I force myself to straighten the bed as best I can.

I put the pillows in their usual arrangement — too many for my husband, who believes bed-making shouldn’t feel like working on a loading dock — and I carefully lie back down atop the bedspread as if taking a nap. It helps distinguish day from night, creates order from chaos and, I think, aids healing.

Sometimes I leave the house before my husband gets up, so I can’t make our bed in the morning. Instead, I make it as soon as I return, even if it’s only minutes before bedtime.

Randy shakes his head when that happens, but he doesn’t argue. He knows it feels better to collapse into a freshly made bed, to imagine for a second that you’re in a posh hotel. (Minus chocolates on the pillow, because the dogs would get those.)

Small gestures make a big difference.

I don’t demand that my children make their beds every day, but I tout the practice the way Fly Lady champions a shiny kitchen sink.

“There. Isn’t that nice?” I’ll say after helping Jack smooth the denim comforter on his bottom bunk. “It makes the whole room look better.”

He looks at me sideways, as if any minute I’ll break into a house-keeping song like Mary Poppins. But I’m not that way. I require made beds only if we’re expecting visitors or when my kids have the nerve to say they’re bored. Otherwise I let them rule their rooms, and I try not to turn my compulsions into theirs.

In her best-selling book, “The Happiness Project,” Gretchen Rubin supports the idea of simple resolutions — and making your bed.

“Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery,” Rubin writes.

So often, especially with kids and teens in the house, tranquility seems impossible. Life is crazy, cluttered. We crave order and calm, but solutions aren’t always easy.

But making the bed — that’s quick. It’s simple. It’s one tiny thing I can do every day to bring peace to my world. And that’s a great place to start.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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