Why You Should Make Your Bed Every Morning

Have you heard the story about Van Halen and Brown M&Ms?

As the story famously goes, 80’s rock band Van Halen had a line in their incredibly detailed contract from their tour in 1982 (the list of things they expect to have at every concert) that required they have a bowl of M&Ms in the green room… and there were to be NO brown M&Ms in that bowl.

vanhalenrider

For years everyone assumed that was just a crazy band making crazy demands (like in Airheads), simply because they could. In fact, there was a show in which they found brown M&Ms in their bowl and reportedly refused to play and trashed the dressing room!

What a bunch of asshole rockstars, right?

Maybe not. 

It turns out, there was a calculated method to this madness, and it might make you think you need a brown M&M clause in your life.

How you do anything is how you do everything

do it right

In Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth’s autobiography, he talks about why his band had the brown M&M clause in their band’s rider:

“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. 

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” 

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.

Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.” 

You see, within this “insane” rider was a clause to find out if the venue they were playing at ACTUALLY READ THE CONTRACT! They knew that if there were brown M&Ms in that bowl, the venue and its employees didn’t read the contract and/or didn’t take it seriously… and thus there were likely other issues that could result in an accident on stage or poor production.

It was the brown M&Ms that gave them this cue – this tip off… resulting in the rumor/legend of crazy Van Halen.

Being familiar with this story, Nerd Fitness has actually added something like this to nearly every step of our hiring process when we are looking to add people to the team (we’re up to 10 full-timers now).

Within the application process, we’ll say something buried in the requirements that says, “oh by the way, the 3rd word in your email to us should be ‘penguin.'” 

You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow directions!

So why do we do this, quickly sorting a huge amount of the applications?

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

I want you to try carrying this over to your life.

Do You Make Your Bed Every Morning?

unmade bed

Have you seen the movie “Fat“?

Although it’s a work of fiction, it’s the most realistic “mockumentary” I have ever seen. Towards the end of the movie, as the main character struggles with taking control back in his life, with everything spiraling out of control, he takes one simple action in the morning:

He makes his bed.

I understand this is a movie. And I understand that making a bed has nothing to do with choosing to eat more vegetables, or exercising regularly, or overcoming a serious food addiction. However, I couldn’t help but smile while watching this scene, because I make my bed every morning too.

You see, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

When you feel like your life is out of control, that you’re getting played by outside forces and there’s nothing you can do to dig out of a hole, try making your bed as the ONLY habit you’re focused on.

I make my bed every morning. I don’t do it just because it makes my room look neat and clean. I do it because:

  • It’s a daily reminder that I am in control of my life.
  • It shows me I don’t need anybody’s permission to change my life, and that it’s my personal responsibility.
  • It gives me a win, and it helps build momentum.
  • It sets my day up in the right way: I can already say I’ve accomplished something!
  • When I get back to my bed at the end of the night and I’m exhausted, it’s not a disaster.
  • It makes me feel better. A clean room and a clean desk mean I’m less anxious at home and while working.

As U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36 years, explained in his University of Texas commencement speech

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

You see, the strictness related to making one’s bed would translate to how they go about doing other, more important tasks in their military lives, many of which have dire consequences if not followed perfectly – following rules of engagement on the battlefield, covering your fellow soldier, etc. In those instances, if you don’t follow protocol strictly, people die.

How you do anything is how you do everything. If you focus on laying a perfect brick you can build a cathedral, and likewise, starting with a perfectly made bed can have a ripple effect on the rest of your day.

Try It For A Week

week calendar

I want you to try this for a week: make a commitment to make your bed every morning. 

Prove to yourself that you have control, and that you can build the habit. Afterwards, go back to NOT making your bed if you choose, but if you’re like me it will likely be something you start to do because you enjoy it. It improves your life.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Set a calendar reminder on your phone for 5 minutes after you wake up that is titled MAKE YOUR BED.
  • Hang a post-it note on your bedroom door that says MAKE YOUR BED.
  • Have a friend/somebody at your work do the make-your bed challenge. Add accountability: Miss a day? $50 donation to a political candidate you hate.
  • Add a reward – Complete a week of making your bed? Reward yourself with something small that furthers your momentum: a new pair of running shoes, slightly ‘too small’ pants, or a new book to help you level up your life.
  • Create a free character on Nerd Fitness, and make a “MAKE YOUR BED” Quest.

Who’s in? 

Who already makes their bed each morning and can testify to this awesome habit?

-Steve

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  • Tracee Lambrecht

    Unfortunately I can not make my bed in the morning. My husband is still in it and he might get a little cranky if I try.

  • Røxy

    I’ve always been one of those people who is impacted greatly by the state of their surroundings, most notably the bedroom. I kept my bedroom notoriously messy when I was growing up, well into my teenage years (of course), and when I became stressed or was going through a rough patch, my absolutely wonderful mom would clean my room when I was at school as a kind gesture.

    I’d come home, feeling down, stressing about finals or lamenting about how I found out that one boy I liked has a crush on my best friend, and I’d walk into my room and *whoosh*…the warmth of sunshine spilling into my room over freshly washed linens made all my heavy troubles seem to shrink microscopic. If my mom was especially awesome that day, she’d even rearrange the furniture to give me a sense of a fresh start.

    It’s funny how something as simple as a clean bedroom can have that affect, isn’t it? Yes those troubles were still there but I no longer felt like Chicken Little. I think clearer, more creatively, and am miles more productive in a tidy space. Considering my age and immaturity, that cleanliness never lasted long, and let’s be honest even now there are weeks where I go “NOPE”. But as an adult I understand and embrace the importance of tidiness, even if the only thing I’m able to accomplish that day is making the bed.

  • Anna M Porredon

    I already make my bed every morning, not strictly perfect but good enough for me.

  • PRH

    Great post!
    I stumbled across this habit while reading another blog concerning clearing up and decluttering your household – “The Flylady”.
    She emphasized these little steps, too.

    Her motto is “shine your sink” – tidy your sink every evening, put away all clutter, dirt dishes etc. and polish it.
    So when you come into the kitchen next morning, one tidy spot awaits you and gives you a positive feeling instead of depression because your kitchen looks like a battlefield.

    I practise this simple advice for over a year now and it makes a HUGE difference. When getting up and making coffee, I look at a tidy kitchen and feel proud.

    Making my bed is no option, though, because my cat occupies it the whole day, crawling under my blankets and getting very angry when I try to adjust them. :)))

  • Heather

    Jut pull the covers back to the foot of the bed, get ready and eat, then make the bed. Plenty of airing time there. (that’s how grandma used to do it)

  • Ben Stark

    I don’t make my bed every morning, but I have my morning ritual that I do every morning regardless. Every morning, I row. Making my bed just isn’t meaningful to me, but hitting my rowing machine for a workout is. I have a goal to reach. The time is short and I will damn well make it. I want to get to 3 million lifetime meters before I have to take break for back surgery.

  • Jen McCormack

    Go ahead and make your bed and feel better: that unmade bed/dust mite theory is untested and I’ve read in more than one article that leaving your bed unmade wont have much of an impact on the 1.5 million dust mites anyway. : )

  • Jay F

    But making a bed is the one piece of work you are going to undo every single day, by definition it’s a sysphian task. Tidying a room is practical, it makes it easier to find stuff and makes the room safer, also you may not be making that room messy again that day. Washing yourself is also practical maintenance. Unless you’re applying fresh sheets, there’s no appreciable difference between a made and unmade bed other than appearance. If you, or anyone else, is concerned about the appearance of your bed, priorities need to be reset. Making your bed achieves nothing other than making work for yourself. It’s like ironing your underwear just before you put it on (although even that can be advantageous on a cold day)

  • Just me

    It’s all or nothing thinking, you’re not interpreting it too pessimistically.

  • Just me

    False. Not putting your all into the crappy things does not necessarily mean that it likely carries over into the important things.. Some all or nothing thinking going on here. By my made up assertions, I can argue that half-assing it for the crappy things leaves one with move energy for the important things.

  • Big Adam

    Err… sorry, was that a reference or joke or legit question? Either way, I didn’t understand it.

  • GigiD

    You can do anything for 15 minutes! And it is amazing how much you get done.

  • medhat

    One of your best posts!

  • RoxxyC

    Just FYI….The song Right Now was on the album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” which was released in 1991 after Sammy Hagar took over for David Lee Roth who was the original singer and the singer on the 1982 tour. 🙂

  • evabo

    I feel like you nicked this from Tim Ferriss?

  • C

    It was meant to be a Deadpool pun on “maximum effort” (whomp whomp)

  • Tom Leahy

    Hey, Steve, I just want to thank you for this amazing blog/site/rebellion. I only stumbled across it when I was searching for the date of the avengers assemble premier, a few years ago. I started reading this post, today, just because I was curious about the brown m&ms but found that its yet another example of our like mindedness. I completely share your opinion on ninja warrior, training for small, weekly progress goals and that brilliant quote “appearance is a consequence of fitness.”. The Nerd Fitness ethos really resonates with me, so as I said, I just want to thank you for inspiring me to push myself and to transform my fitness and appearance.

  • Naxius

    I have a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning, and with so few willpower points to go around lately, the mere thought of having to make my bed after getting out of it just makes me want to hit the snooze button more.

  • Anon

    “Prove to yourself that you have control” – By doing what I tell you to for a week.

  • Lisa

    Thinking of my mother’s maxim: “If you are going to do something, DO IT! And DO IT RIGHT!” Start by making your bed like a Navy Seal. Take pride in a job well done even though it is a small thing. This simple accomplishment will spur you on to the next thing. In the end you will save a lot of time and engery because you took the time to do each thing well and elimated having to re-do things or fixing major screw-ups because you rushed, didn’t follow directions, or didn’t take pride in your work. Life really is an all or nothing game! So LEVEL UP!

  • Lissa

    Some of us learned to make our beds as young children and have done so, every day since. It is not a choice, but a lifelong habit. For me, this has no significance to anything else in my life, challenging or not. It does not affect my work, my feelings of control or lack thereof, it basically signifies nothing, other than a childhood habit.

  • “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
    it makes me think of the quote from the bible: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things”
    Lots of truth in there!

  • I think you’re being pessimistic although a lot of people will tend to understand it your way.
    but try to look at it this way: little things lead to big things. if you focus on doing the little things right, you’ll be dealing ‘right’ with big things sooner than you know

  • Lee Solomon

    This seems like a really great idea. Certainly discipline and routine can shore up mental health. But my fear is… Hm, anyone who has suffered from depression knows that sometimes things are *not* in our control. Breakdowns in discipline and routine can certainly contribute to breakdowns in mental health, but they are also symptomatic of, not just causally related to, deterioration of mental health. For some people, seeing a sink full of dirty dishes or an unmade bed are reminders of helplessness, worthlessness, and exhaustion. But something tells me that for people who make a point of connecting bed-making with the mantra “I’m in control of my life,” seeing their unmade bed might prove more distressing.

    Sometimes life is just effed, sometimes we are not in control of our lives or ourselves, sometimes sleeping or doing drugs or self-harm or other unhealthy ‘options’ seem more viable than making the darn bed. All this to say… If you have a routine that helps you remind yourself that life is not hopeless or pointless, that you are worthwhile, or even that you’re in control of your life, and then that routine goes awry– instead of considering it a personal failing, contextualize the unmade bed, the dirty dishes, yourself, your life. Sometimes we need help, even with ‘simple’ things like doing the dishes or making the bed, or harder things like, hm, living. If you relapse, if you fall off your diet, if you lose your job, if you flunk a class– it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to acknowledge them, it’s okay to seek and ask for help (even again and again), it’s okay to let the bed go unmade sometimes. That’s okay. You’re still a worthwhile and valuable person, even in our moments of terrible failure, we are still worthwhile. Maybe instead of “I’m in control of my life”, while you make the bed, you can say, “I’m worthwhile.” *^_^*

  • Big Adam

    Haha. Gotcha. I’ve heard so many good things about that movie. I really need to go see it.

  • Diana S Winkler

    I could care less about what my bed looks like. Other things are more important to me that I do that result in the same goal when you make your bed everyday. My bathroom was really messy with all my makeup and hairbrushes out. I got tired of it and now I make sure I put everything away in my bathroom cabinet before I leave and wipe the counter/sink. I enjoy having a clean and clutter free bathroom. I probably should adopt doing the dishes every day too. I am working on that. Some days I am successful, and other days I am not. Clutter on the kitchen table drives me nuts, but I can never seem to stay on top of it. So, I don’t think the task has to be “Make the bed”, but it should be something important to you.

  • Ennui

    Making your bed every morning leads to higher concentrations of dust mites, FYI.

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  • Beelady

    This is a myth. The best way to keep the dust mites at bay is to wash your sheets every week and your other bed covers regularly. Also vacuum your mattress regularly. Go ahead and make your bed daily. You’ll feel better.

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