I once had ambitions of creating the perfect morning routine. I tried waking up at 5am to meditate. I tried doing bodyweight exercises before my shower. I tried journalling for twenty minutes. I even tried standing in front of the bathroom mirror to tell myself that I’m a good person, commonly known as daily affirmations.
But I soon realised that waking up at 5am didn’t have any clear benefits for me; it just made me grumpy and useless. The other habits were helpful for a time but also fell through because I lacked the conviction to keep them going.
Herein lies the rub: I’m not a morning person. I never have been and never will be. I don’t greet the morning with glee or jump from my bed like a coiled spring. During school I was often late to my first lesson because I clung to sleep like a nervous sloth clings to a tree. At university I gave up on the notion of being vertical at all. And now, as a fully-grown adult, I haven’t been able to shake this aversion to the wee small hours.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to stop chasing the perfect Patrick Bateman-esque morning routine. (My sock drawer already looks like it belongs to a serial killer; I don’t need the schedule of one too.)
I have therefore given up on meditation at dawn. Out go the trite journal entries and morning press-ups. And I’ve stopped talking to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. I still think it’s useful to have some kind of routine in the morning, otherwise one can feel a bit lost. So what I’ve done is condense everything into a single task that my sleep-addled brain can cope with, and that task is to make the bed.
It’s a simple process but it must be done properly. The duvet and pillows are removed so the mattress can be given a firm sweep with the hand to remove any lurking detritus. The pillows are brushed and fluffed and re-stacked neatly. The duvet is shaken out to make sure its cover is aligned, then replaced and folded back to let the mattress breath during the day. Another couple of minutes are taken to straighten out any creases.
Making the bed this way has a number of benefits.
It’s a chance to practise mindfulness. When making the bed I try to notice every swirl of the sheets and pad of the pillows, and by giving the task my full attention, first thing in the morning, I set a precedent for being mindful throughout the day. Probably.
Making the bed is good exercise. Shaking the duvet, sweeping the mattress, and bashing dandruff out of the pillows are all effective ways to get the blood pumping and warm up on winter mornings.
Making the bed keeps your bedroom tidy. It’s surprising how big of a difference this single effort makes to the overall feel of the space. The wardrobe might be overflowing, soiled underwear might be strewn across the floor, but if the bed’s made then everything will be alright.
It’s also a small victory to start the day with, one that sets a positive tone and leads to many more victories before tea - at least, that’s what they teach you in the army.
Finally, making the bed is a fitting tribute to our struggle against the absurdity of life. Why bother straightening our sheets when we’re just going to disturb them in another twelve hours? It’s a valid question, but one we must answer defiantly. We make our bed each day because it makes life more pleasant, perhaps even triumphant, and because the alternative is a quiet surrender to oblivion.