A Quarter Century Addendum

Life is in the Little Habits; Or, Why I Make My Bed

On my birthday this year, I published a post about “25 Things Learned by Age 25.” This is part of that series.  Read the original post here.


The accomplishment I am most proud of to date is the habit of making my bed every morning.

It’s 6:34 in the morning.  I need to be at work by 6:45, and it’s a 13 minute drive at the best of times.

I’m late.

I pull on my jacket as I grab my thermos of coffee.  I pick up my comb, too–I’ll have to brush my hair at a stoplight.  I glance at my unmade bed as I head to the door.  I stop.  I lay my stuff down and take 30 seconds to straighten my sheet, pull my blankets up, and arrange my two pillows.  There.  My bed looks fresh and cozy.  I’m glad I didn’t leave it unmade, not even this once.

I started making my bed every day sometime in college.  I’m not sure what prompted me to make the commitment, but I know the primary reason I kept up with it was because I loved that no matter how messy my room was, there was always that island of orderliness.

Since I’m not a particularly neat person by nature, it was often hard to make the decision every day to neaten my bed.  However, over time, it helped me mentally transition from rest to activity.  It was a tiny action that spurred on the bigger actions of the rest of my day.  Even if I decided to nap–and as an early bird who still wanted to have a social life in college, I was a nap queen–I napped on top of my made bed with only a light blanket for cover.

(Those sheets will ensnare you if you try to nap under them.  Even if you try to get up after 20 minutes, they hold you down.  Forcibly.)

The wonderful Art of Manliness blog posted the 2014 University of Texas Commencement Address under the post, “Manvotional: Want to Change the World?  Start by Making Your Bed”.  (Who knows, maybe that’s what prompted me to start making my bed.  Wouldn’t be the first time that blog changed my life.)

If you can’t do the little things [like making your bed] right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

-Naval Admiral William H. McRaven

Making my bed has not only consistently given me a motivated start to every morning and a satisfying end to every evening, but has also helped me prove to myself I can pick up an new habit–and maintain it.  When I’m pulling my hair out in frustration of how undisciplined I am, I think of this one successful habit and know I can acquire another.

So.  I learned to speak Spanish fluently.  I was part of a state-champion cast in a high school theatre competition.  I backpacked solo for months.  I once taught myself HTML and CSS and built a website or two from scratch without any visual editor.  I started a freelance writing business.

However, making my bed every day is the achievement that surprised me the most.

Do you have any achievements you’re unusually proud of?  What little habits in your life motivate bigger tasks?


2 thoughts on “Life is in the Little Habits; Or, Why I Make My Bed

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