I was a child who hated making my bed and got away with leaving it undone as often as I could manage.
I hated pointless work, and what is more pointless than making a bed you’re just going to get in and mess up again at the end of the day?
Yes, this attitude was a terrible one to go into motherhood and homemaking with, and all those childhood and adolescent years of insisting that such things were dumb took a shaking and then years to unlearn and grow out of.
Really, I am still on the “growing out of it” journey.
The first stage.
So, I was in my mid-twenties, had several children, managed home and life and projects the way I wanted to – which was to keep the home just on the brink of chaos, but still well enough that I could drop everything and pull it together when I needed to. I had an inkling that I needed to change, but I was resistant.
It seemed like everywhere I turned, the question came back to the stupid bed and that it should be made every morning. People who give cleaning and homemaking advice simply assume this is an automatic task like brushing teeth. Weird. Why?
I decided I’d make my bed every day and give it a try. I was pretty sure that it didn’t matter to me and would make no difference. I’d make my bed every day, and then prove that I was no happier, no more productive, and no better off for having done so. I’d make my bed every day and thereby prove that no, actually, it was a stupid thing to do.
Except, I just couldn’t learn the habit.
I tried multiple times, and never made it more consistent than 2ish times a week.
The second stage.
A few years later, and another housekeeping revitalization process underway, I decided I really should tack “make bed” onto my lists. I didn’t really care about the state of my bed, but it was a little thing to do and it was stupid that I couldn’t manage to make it a habit. I was going to make my bed every day just to not let a dumb task beat me.
I still maintained that I didn’t care. I still believed it was a dumb waste of time. But, 10 seconds isn’t much time to waste, so I might as well waste it making my bed.
And I still never did manage to make it a habit.
The third time was the charm.
Now, this wasn’t the third time I tried to make this a habit, but it was the third approach I took and it was a turning point.
This time around, it was my attitude that had changed.
This time, I genuinely wanted to have a made bed every day. I bought into the argument that it would make a difference – not only to the state of my bedroom, but even the state of my productivity. By starting the day off with a small success, I’d be able to build on that the rest of the day. Now, making my bed really would be a legitimate small success, because I had tried and failed with it before. Also, I was becoming more orderly in my home, keeping it better, and now I honestly did believe that the state of my room would affect the state of my mood and perspective – after all, the state of the kitchen counter sure did!
So, I believed it. That was the biggest difference.
And because of that, I learned that habit in the first month and it was not difficult. I just did it. I wanted to do it. I enjoyed having it done. And so I just did it.
Making my bed had been a mental thing all along, and shifting my attitude and my beliefs about it was the true work that needed to be done.
What I learned.
First, I learned that my attitude was an important factor in achieving the goal and learning the habit. How I thought about a task mattered tremendously to whether or not it would stick.
Second, I learned that having a reason for my goal that resonated with me was vital. Learning the habit because other people said it was a good idea, though I was skeptical, did not work. I needed to want it for myself, not just “go with the flow” of expectations.
Third, I learned that a habit I had failed at before could be easily learned after a mental shift. The difficulty was not the task. The difficulty was in my head. When I could shift that mentality and mindset, the task was as good as done.