Trade in your resolutions for this one thing

"Making my bed is dumb."

I was VERY opinionated about making my bed as a child.

"Why spend all that time fixing it up, when I'm just going to get in it again tonight and NO ONE is going to see it anyway?"

In what I can only attribute to childhood genius, I even went so far as to use my sleeping bag at night and then throw it in the closet in the morning. Voila! I never had to make my bed and I never got in trouble for NOT making my bed.

The years went by and adulthood required me to give up the sleeping bag trick, but I still refused to make my bed.

I "thought" it was a waste of time.
I "thought" it was impractical.
I thought...wrong.

One marriage and three kids later - my bedroom was a mess.

It seemed that unmade bed was a magnet for unfolded laundry, backpacks, Legos (that's always fun to discover at 3am) and everything else that didn't have a home.

And a certain percentage of my kids had a habit of wandering into our room in the early morning hours carrying blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. I didn't mind the morning snuggles, but I did mind the morning mess of bedding and toys.

In fact, it drove me nuts.

I wanted to get in bed without having to move the laundry pile first.

I wanted a Lego-less night of sleep.

I wanted ALL the stuff out of our room.

So, I decided to take drastic action.

I decided to...make my bed. I know, it sounds anticlimactic. Maybe you were thinking I was going to move my family to a tiny home and sell all our earthly possessions.

Nope. I just started making my bed.

But a crazy thing happened. After few weeks of this "highly impractical, waste of time habit" I discovered that the simple task of making my bed made a HUGE difference in my day and my home.

Since my bed was nicely made, I stopped dumping things on it as I walked through my bedroom.

I bought pretty baskets for my kids to put their blankets and animals in - the morning mess was gone. I kept my night table tidy to match my tidy bed. I kept the couch tidier because my bed and night table were tidier.

One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, my room was consistently clean. (Let's be real. Clean-er.) It felt peaceful. I could get in my bed at night and if everything else went wrong that day, at least knew I'd made my bed.

I know what you're thinking...

"Wow. A post about making your bed? That's all you could come up with? Tsh, you need to get better writers...."

Stick with me...

According to Charles Duhigg's book, The Power of Habit, psychologists call these Keystone habits. One small change that initiates a domino like effect impacting everything around it.

We change our lives the same way we build a bonfire. Start small until it catches and add to the flame bit by bit.

If you want to make 2016 your best year yet, focus all your good intentions on one keystone habit, and let it grow from there.

If your current resolution is to be healthier, instead of forcing yourself to run 30 minutes a day (and hating every minute of it), focus on the keystone habit of taking pictures of whatever you eat. Simply being aware of what you are eating will change when and how you choose to eat.

tidy-bed-text

Building a simple keystone habit that's too easy to quit guarantees you'll reach your goal. Yes, it's a slower process, but let's be honest - most people quit their New Year's Resolutions by the end of February anyway. Slower is better than never.

Researchers at Duke University have determined that up to 40% of what we do every single day is habit. Upgrading those habits one by one, starting with a keystone habit, is the most effective way to create lasting change.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2016? What doomed New Year's Resolutions can you trade in for a keystone habit?

Keep a food journal? Wear a fitness tracker? Write a one sentence gratitude journal? Track your spending in just one area?

Or maybe....make your bed?

I challenge you to share your habit in the comments.
I know there are many who love the idea, but struggle to come up with a habit to focus on.

Let's inspire one another by sharing our ideas....and make 2016 our best year yet!

Reading Time:

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44 Comments

  1. Heather

    It’s funny to read this. I always make my bed. It automatically freshens up the room and I cannot stand to get into an unmade bed. I will make the bed 5 minutes before I get into for the night if it hadn’t been made yet. Great habit to start for sure!!

    • Kat Lee

      Heather,
      I’m not quite to the level of making it just before I get in it, but maybe someday. 🙂 You’re right, it’s been a great habit for me!

    • Gina

      Ha ha! I’m the same way, Heather! 🙂

    • Amy R

      I’ll make the bed up, too, even at the end of the day if it didn’t get made earlier… just to get in it 5 minutes later. Because who wants to get in an unmade bed at the end of the day? (Unless you are ill or something like that…)?

  2. sam

    Getting up by 5:30. You are right, when I do that one thing so many others (regular quiet time, early morning runs, nutritious breakfasts, etc.) fall into place. I do not have a problem achieving this in the warmer months, I wake when the sun comes up, but these dark winter mornings have found me staying in bed far too long and my dad s are not nearly as productive.

    • Kat Lee

      Ah, yes, a morning routine is a great keystone habit. And I’m with you – working out is always harder in the colder months.

    • Sharon

      I’m finding getting up early to be a rewarding keystone habit (able to accomplish a lot more before starting my day), though sometimes difficult to do. Am working on a consistent evening routine as a keystone habit to make early rising easier.

  3. Rebecca

    Ah yes, the bed. On days I don’t make it I feel stretched and thin and generally cranky. I also log my food everyday; it truly isn’t onerous to me and automatically keeps me on a moderate path. I want to get back to my quiet times: I still read my Bible (yay for phone apps!) but that’s it. No journaling, no mediation, etc. So that’s my thing for this year.

  4. Elizabeth Vega

    We’ve fallen out of the bed-making habit… And some of our other good habits have fallen away, as well. So thank you for the reminder!

    My word this year is “Joy,” and I’m working on cultivating a different habit each month in support of that. January’s habit is meditation, and so far, it’s been quite a struggle. But I’ll keep at it… Right after making the bed in the mornings!

  5. Ivanna

    I’m pretty good at this habit after a month of consistently doing it. I love the way my room looks so clean with a made bed. So, my next challenge is to empty the sink every night. I hate doing dishes, and often there are a few gross ones that linger for far too long. My non-new-years-resolution is to empty the sink of any lingering dishes before I go to sleep. Successful so far!

    • Sylvie

      I’ve been doing that too. The method that has worked for A WHOLE WEEK NOW ;o) is to make fresh, hot dish water right as I cook, and do my best to clean as I go. It works well for all the small stuff, and it’s a bit tougher for the big dirty pots, but I love the feel of my clean kitchen!

    • Rachel

      Thanks for sharing. Clean sink each night. I am going to try for this too.

    • Rita

      Great idea!! I too hate washing the dishes, but hate even more waking up to what I put off. Will definitely try this as my first step – thanks Kat and Ivanna!

  6. Nancy

    I don’t understand the aversion to making resolutions. Why call it a non resolution when you clearly are resolving to do something?
    I resolve to connect more with.people outside of my family thus year. I’m not sure what a keystone habit for this would be. Any ideas?

    • KC

      If I was tackling that, I’d specify an identifiable day of the week and send one “thinking of you” email or card to someone every week on that day. It gets the ball rolling.

      If you wanted more in-person contact with local people, you could set aside a couple of hours as your “tea time” or “coffee time” and invite someone to join you each week.

      I’d probably specify a different day of the week, maybe sometime that you always have “waiting” time (waiting for a bus; waiting for a kid to finish soccer; waiting in line) to maintain a short list of who-next (with addresses or email addresses) so that you never get stalled out by that on actual “contact-making” day.

      The day-of-the-week thing is because I’ve found it easier to slot habits together with other habits (oh, it’s the day to take out the recycling? that means it’s also the day to water the plants! or similar things) or scheduled things.

      But I’m not an expert in this, so this may not perfectly match the system described in the post? I’m not sure.

      Good luck!

      • LaurieC

        Thank you for the suggestions. I came to the conclusion in reading everything on here that all we really need to do with anything, is make a “deliberate choice” to do it. The phrases in life that motivate me most are, “I’ve decided..”, and, “I’ve made up my mind”. Actions follow thoughts. Like Nancy, I also need to get in touch more often with people on a personal level. I really liked your ideas. Again, thank you for sharing them.

    • Shannon

      KC, great tips. This year I’m going to write one letter a week. I have a great desire to connect to dear friends from my past, people who really influenced my life, and month after month slips by with me just *thinking* about them and not reaching out to them. While I much prefer typing at this point for speed and ease in changing thoughts/erasing, my children need more writing time and I want to model for them so at least part of my letter needs to be hand-written. The idea to do this came to me over the holiday and I haven’t started it yet. I think one a week should be really do-able. Good luck, Nancy!

    • Debi Z

      I have 4 adult children and one of my habits this year is to make contact with each of them daily. I have their names as a checklist in my bullet journal and if I didn’t talk to them that day, I send them a quick “How was your day” text before I go to bed. I thought at first this was kind of lame (like making the bed lol) but we have had a lot of great conversations and even face to face time that we didn have before! It is hard to keep in touch with people outside of the house when you have so much going on INSIDE the house!

  7. Kendra

    I’ve been doing 5 minutes of stretching first thing in the morning to help me wake up and also to stay flexible. Usually I use Sworkit but sometimes I just do random stretches. Hoping it evolves to yoga but this is good too.

  8. Chris Durheim

    Reading this made me think of a great commencement speech by US Navy Admiral William McRaven. Here’s the excerpt, in which he explains why you hear so much focus on making your bed in the military:

    Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam 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—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.

    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.

    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.

    And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

    Here’s a link to the full transcript (and video):
    http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-mcraven-commencement-speech-at-ut-2014-5

    • LaurieC

      Thank you for sharing that!

  9. Melissa L.

    My grandmother, who was a homemaker and EXCELLENT at it, used to tell me “if you make the bed, you can get away with everything else”. Unfortunately, my husband and I work opposite shifts, so most days of the week, the bed is occupied nearly all day and night!

    My small habit resolution is to take my multivitamin every day, or in my case, at night. Which means I have to eat dinner every day, which is also a good habit.

  10. Denise

    I have started two somewhat unrelated habits the past few weeks, that together have really kickstarted my days for better productivity and attitudes. I do 5 minutes or so of yoga stretches no matter what time my toddler wakes me up. Once everyone is up, we open the house to air it out for a few minutes. With the current temps, it’s only been about 5 minutes but it makes the day feel fresh and wide open.

  11. Missy Robinson

    I do much better with these type of attainable, non-overwhelming strategies. I like the idea of taking a picture of everything I eat: what an easy way to journal!

  12. Jenn

    I want to be sure I read Scripture ( out of the Bible) everyday, as I believe there is truth and life found in the Word of God..but it has seemed an undaunting task of stopping everything, trying to set aside time to read, etc. I have decided to at least read a scripture every morning, start on a small basis, and let it draw me in….: ) Starting small, otherwise I flop under the weight of ‘I can’t do it All”. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. Cari

    I totally did the sleeping bag on top of my bed as a child too! I am now in my thirties and my bed must be made every single day. Now if I could just get my kids to make their beds…

  14. pam

    I try to shine my kitchen sink every evening before going to bed. this insures that I have a clean place to begin breakfast or just make a cup of coffee in the morning. this habit started years ago when I used Flylady to help me learn to keep my house neat.

  15. Jenny

    I find the opposite of you with making my bed. I do it probably less than half the time, but I find I can’t put laundry or anything else on an unmade bed. It just seems like the laundry or whatever will get mixed in with the messy sheets and maybe a dirty sock kicked off in the night.

    If I want to fold laundry, wrap gifts, or do another project like sorting my sock drawer on my bed, I have to make it first. A made bed seems like a surface to me, that can be used for putting things down on, but an unmade bed doesn’t seem like a surface.

  16. Heidi

    Last January I decided to change my teeth
    brushing routine. Instead of first brushing and then flossing (which ended up being skipped WAY too often), I decided to floss FIRST. I figured if I skipped something, it would be better to skip brushing than flossing. But, if I’ve already done the dreaded core of flossing, it’s no big deal to then brush. And my dentist now says I take great care of my teeth!

  17. Jenni

    Listening to the warm, normal-person-sounding voice of the man who reads the ESV Bible online (esvbible.org) has been easy to do while I get ready and put makeup on at the mirror in the morning. They have reading plans you can follow and everything. For us audio-focusers, it’s an option to try! It’s surprising how much you can “read” in the 10-15 minutes it takes to “put on” your face!

  18. Megan S

    This is a great idea. I need to get back in the habit of making the bed every day but my big focus this year is finding Balance and to do that my one simple thing each day is to add in at least a short meditation daily.

  19. Gina

    I’ve been making my bed for years. It truly does make a difference in my day. I don’t force my kids to make theirs, that’s something they can decide on their own. But I do admit I cringe on the inside when I walk into their bedrooms.

    This year, I’d like to read 20 minutes a day. I love reading, but it isn’t a consistent habit. I tend to binge read.

  20. Peggy

    I like having one room neat and tidy to hide in when I need a break from the world. It’s my bedroom so I try to make my bed. My New Year resolution is to be single minded. As in whatever I am doing keep my focus there until I am done. Also a task isn’t completed unless it’s all cleaned up.

  21. treen

    Nope, I’m a non-bed-maker. If I make my bed, THEN it becomes the pile of laundry because it’s all nice and smooth and just waiting for something to be piled on it. Also, it becomes a trampoline for my kids because look! It’s perfect! It’s ready to be jumped on! If I leave the blankets thrown back, they’re less likely to jump because they’ll trip, and I don’t put anything on the bed because stuff might get lost in the bedding.

    My most recent habit developing – unrelated to New Years, just good timing – is that when I get up in the morning, I immediately put on my workout clothes. I’m now at day 47 in a row of working out.

  22. Lesley Pearson

    Love this concept of keystone habits – haven’t thought of it that way. Two habits I have recently adopted that have a domino effect for me are: 1) running the dishwasher each night no matter what and 2) getting up an hour earlier than I “need” to in order to have some me time before the real day begins.

    • Shannon

      We discovered that dishwasher trick a few years ago. EVERY time we say ‘oh, there’s not much to wash – we’ll run it tomorrow’ we regret it. We are a family of 5-6 so maybe at that level you just ALWAYS have to have an empty dishwasher by morning. Maybe we’ll find when we have just 4 at home… or 2…we can stop this habit.

      Now if I can just figure out how to get up before the family. My almost-10yo still desperately needs to sleep with me every night and he gets up when I do, which means the whole house does…

  23. Gloria

    I love it when the world seems smaller and things overlap that used to be unconnected. Kat, it was super fun to see my brother-in-law’s album (Verical Church Band, Church Songs) playing on your phone in the photo above. Such a good record. Hope you enjoy it!

  24. Danni

    Wow, so glad I saw this on Facebook! I just started making my bed every day- this morning it was because I wanted to! It gave me a good feeling about myself and I realized how little effort it requires to keep a room looking nice (I’m a messy person). My sink is getting polished every night (well, I missed one!) and my dishwasher gets emptied every morning. Slowly I am becoming more of who I want to be at home 🙂 Great post!

  25. Kizzy

    Great post and this is what I am hoping will happen for me in 2016 too.

  26. Linda Sand

    I know this bout of periodic depression is ending when I make my bed. That helps keep me going through the day.

    My keystone habit is reading our local newspaper’s comics online. When the expanded Sunday version turns up, it is time to do my weekly computer backup.

  27. Elizabeth

    I started making my bed every morning in September, and what a difference it has made! Climbing into a freshly made bed at night is so much nicer than climbing into a messy one. And just like you said, the bedroom feels cleaner too.

  28. Beth

    I’m struggling with getting anything done in the house these days. I’ve boxed up all my escape literature, and LOVE the suggestion to get up early to have time to start the day right.

  29. Tyla Milian

    Making your bed really does make a difference. I finally adopted this habit a couple years ago and can’t believe how much cleaner my bedroom looks and the peace of mind it brings me when I do it.

  30. Kirsty

    You are so right! I am cultivating the habit of tidying the entrance hall. Even if the rest of the house is in chaos, I think it helps everyone’s frame of mind to walk into an uncluttered hallway. . . . Just don’t open any other doors!

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