I grew up in a very neat, tidy home. Not only was it always clean and dusted, but it was also consistently uncluttered and straightened up. My mother was, and still is, a masterful homemaker. Her expertise in budgeting, meal planning, cooking delicious nutritious meals, and keeping our house and belongings in tip top shape was something to be admired. Part of her regimen was ensuring that all the beds in the house were made, including mine and those of my two brothers. Of course, like any typical kid, I fought her on this seemingly pointless task. To go a step further, I was also a challenge when it came to keeping my room clean. Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, a mother myself with three little daughters in my charge.
So do I force my girls to make their beds? No. I also don’t make my own bed. It still seems like a pointless task to me. Of course when company comes over, it’s a different story; I try to make the whole house looks as perfect as it would if my Mom was in charge of it. Occasionally I make my daughters clean their rooms, but only when I notice that they’re a mess; and even then, only if the mess bothers me. Now telling you this, you may think we live like slobs behind closed doors; that our house resembles an episode of Hoarders. Not so! With five humans, and two canines living in one rather modest abode, cleanliness is an absolute must.
Before I had kids and dogs, I was seriously interested in interior decoration. I pictured that my future house would be a pristine and charming mix of Victorian, farmhouse, and traditional decor, with lovely antiques scattered throughout. I would say my current decor is pretty close to that, but add in countless pink plastic toys, tiny fingerprints covering the windows, and dog hair tumbleweeds gracing every nook and cranny of my home. In addition, I’m married to man who insists on being a ‘do-it-yourselfer’ even though his enthusiasm and ambition sometimes outweigh his skills in say construction, painting, and laying wood floors. He can run circles around just about anyone in the technological realm though, so I’ll give him that! And the dogs? Well you know how destructive they can be. So my new term for my decorating style is ‘rustic’. But I digress!
Back to the bed-making debate. Should we even bother forcing our kids to make their beds? I took an informal poll of my friends on Facebook to see what was going on in other households. Out of 45 people, 24 had to make their beds when they were kids, 27 make their beds now as adults, and 21 force their kids to make their beds. Interestingly, only 14 people make their beds now out of the 24 who had to when they were children. A mere nine fastidious folks out of 45 had to make their beds as children, make their beds now as adults, and force their kids to make their beds. Boy do I feel like a loser! Well, not really.
I’ve often thought about the psychological implications of making one’s bed. For instance, why do it? Is it to enjoy the order of a tidy room? To prevent the anxiety that a messy room might induce? Is it simply part of a daily routine? Is it because it was ingrained in someone as a child? My data suggests otherwise. And what about not making your bed? What can that mean? Like I mentioned before, to me, it’s a pointless task. Some chores are absolutely unavoidable. Everyone knows that neglecting the dishes or the laundry can be downright disastrous, if not just extremely inconvenient. Forgetting to mow the lawn can earn you a fine from the HOA, and rejecting the need to take out the trash, well you’re just hurting yourself there with the stench and rot you’ll have to live around. But not making your bed? I just don’t get it. And as such, I can’t force my kids to do it either. I don’t think it will make them bad citizens somewhere down the line.
Perhaps one day my daughters will actually resent me for not forcing them to make their beds. I get that. They are free to grow into beautiful young women who make their beds with flourish and gusto on a daily basis. I won’t fault them for it. I just think it would be hypocritical for me to expect them to do it now, if I don’t already do it myself. I try not to be a ‘do as I say, not as I do (or don’t do)’ kind of mom. I probably will have something to say to them if their kitchens aren’t spotless, or their kids leave the house looking like slobs though. Those are my particular pet peeves.
I guess I realized through researching for and writing this article that the main reason I don’t make my bed is because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I think becoming a mom ten years ago changed me so much, that I surrendered many aspects of my former personality. It’s so difficult to have a clean, perfectly clean, house when kids are in the mix. Add dogs, and all bets are off. I raised the white flag the first time grape juice was spilled on my perfect beige carpets. I raised it higher with every toy box that was dumped out the minute after I filled it up, every wet towel I found rotting on the bathroom floor, and every red crayon mark dragged across the living room wall. I gave up on my ideals of how things should be, and just accepted, quite happily, the way things probably would be for the next twenty or so years. Yes, I’ll have a chance at a perfectly clean home again one day. And maybe then, I’ll even force myself to make my bed.