Today in Tedium: It's one of the most annoying possible tasks out there—a chore with limited value that gets undone every single night. Unlike tying your shoes, making your bed doesn't protect you or significantly improve your life. It's an aesthetic task at best. Yet, for some reason, we as a society value this form of busywork way too freaking much. There are people who swear by folding their blanket over two sets of sheets, perfectly creasing the top sheet under the mattress, but I'm not one of those people. And by the end of this piece, I hope that you too will leave your comforter lumped in a pile on top of your bed, just as disorganized as you left it the night before. I'm like the Howard Beale of bedding over here. — Ernie @ Tedium
"I realize it might seem crazy for a thirty-year-old to exist without a bed, but I just can't get myself to buy one; it never seems worth it, because all I would use it for is sleeping (and once I'm unconscious, what do I care where I'm lying?). I get by fine with my 'Sleeping Machine,' sort of a self-styled nest in the corner of my bedroom."
— Author Chuck Klosterman, discussing his sleeping habits at the time of the writing of his breakout book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Klosterman's rebellious screed against sleeping in traditional beds came up in a section of the book where he highlighted the requirement that, in The Sims, the characters must own a bed. Klosterman eventually admitted that he changed his sleeping habits, telling a Redditor in a 2014 IAmA session, "I have a bed now. You can't be married while still sleeping in a sleep machine."
Five good reasons not to make your bed
- It could possibly prevent bugs. A 2005 Kingston University study covered by the BBC suggests that dust mites are much more likely to affect a made bed than one where everything isn't all set up.
- Your bed is full of sweat when you wake up in the morning. The reason freshly made beds attract all those dust mites—and why you're a little lighter in the morning than at the end of the day—is because you lose more than a pound of moisture every night, both from sweating and from breathing. All that moisture has to go somewhere, and it usually goes into your bedding. Leaving the bedding unmade gives your sheets the chance to dry out.
- Messy people tend to be more creative. That's according to a 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Minnesota. And nothing's messier than a bed that hasn't been put into place!
- Making the bed takes too long. The fastest a bed has ever been put together, according to Guinness World Records, is 74 seconds, and that was by a manager at a hotel—someone who puts together beds hundreds of times a week. (Watch her do it here.) So, for you, it's probably closer to five minutes, top to bottom.
- It could make you rich. Back in 1998, artist Tracey Emin, heartbroken and depressed, spent four days in bed, surrounded by crap at the edge of her bed. When she finally made it out of her bed, she found the result so evocative and moving that she turned it into an art installation. "My Bed," which first went on display in 1999, was shortlisted for a Turner Prize. Last year, the 17-year-old bed went on auction, selling for $4.35 million.
The number of people who took part in a world record attempt at Orlando's Furniture Today Bedding Conference earlier this year. The Guinness World Record? “The greatest number of people making beds simultaneously at a single venue.” The effort helped raise money for pancreatic cancer research. To the attendees of the Furniture Today Bedding Conference: Know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em.
Could innovation actually make bed-making not suck?
Really, the problem with bed-making is this: the reward ratio for a well-made bed doesn't match up. Unlike a magazine with good design, the aesthetic doesn't make things easier to use or more reliable. In fact, it adds complication because you have to maintain it.
There may be some value to clean decoration from a mental-health standpoint, but for those of us who are lazy, is there a way we could either a) turn the entire process into a five-second affair or b) have someone (or something) else do it?
Fortunately, there are some folks working on this, though the results have been somewhat mixed.
In 2013, the Kickstarter project Smart Bedding proposed cleverly attaching the duvet cover to the top sheet, a strategy that briefly earned the startup fawning attention in the media. Since then, however, the bedding has not actually reached any customers, with manufacturing issues apparently to blame. Too bad; it's a good idea whose time has come, even if the duvet and sheets have to be custom-designed to make it work.
OHEA, a Spanish company, is also working on this problem—but from the opposite direction. Their solution? A "smart bed" bed that literally makes itself. The concept has been around since 2012, but isn't on the market as of yet—and as it requires a whole new kind of bed (and sheeting) to even work, there's a good chance it won't become anywhere near as popular as balling up your comforter in the corner of the room.
Maybe the whole solution to this whole annoying bed-making situation is just as simple as combining the duvet with the top sheet? If it is, then the bedding firm Crane & Canopy is on the right track. The firm's Nova Duvet, another Kickstarter project, actually managed to ship without any problems getting out the door. Oddly enough, it's the most traditional of the three options listed here, but sometimes the simple innovations matter the most.
There are those who hold on to the desire of making the bed as an incredibly important part of their days—those who see such a process as a reinforcement of routine.
One of those people is Admiral Bill McRaven, the former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the current chancellor of the University of Texas. Before he took on his role as chancellor, he gave the commencement speech at the university, where he discussed the importance of making your bed—something reinforced during his time in basic Navy SEAL training. (As the internet explains, soldiers take their bed-making seriously, because they have to.)
"If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another," he said. "By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed."
But what if our time was spent completing a task that actually meant something? You can still complete many tasks in your day without making your stinkin' bed. Just sayin'.
Down with duvets.