On bed-making: Lessons from the Swiss

For a few sweet summers in my early twenties, I worked as a swim and trampoline instructor at an amazing international summer camp in Crans Montana, Switzerland. Kids would come from all over the world and spend three weeks in the beautiful alps, to be entertained and cared for by an amazing group of kind, caring, and dedicated staff, who were also from all around the world. We, the staff, would show up about a week prior to the kiddos’ arrival, to prepare our programming and engage in some rigorous training, as well as some obligatory “getting to know you” activities.

Of all of the rigorous training we received, there was one training that will forever stand out in my mind. Was it about how to rescue a drowning child? Nope. Or how to deal with the intense homesickness that some of these kiddos would inevitably experience upon their arrival? Also, no. It was about “Bed-Making 101: How to properly make your bed.” Yes, you read that correctly. No joke, it was a full on (slightly humorous) lecture and demonstration. They would bring a bed up on stage and the big boss man would make a grand appearance in his fresh pressed khakis and standard white t-shirt, to demonstrate the proper way to make a bed. He enlightened us with the Swiss belief that making your bed in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day.

At the time, I recall finding this whole concept pretty hilarious and amusing, so much so that I actually came to look forward to the hilarity and amusement in the following years. As I continue to fall deeper into this mindful, yogic lifestyle however, I am beginning to think there was some truth to that matter. Those Swiss really do know what’s up after all!

Full-disclosure: Despite my more mindful mornings I’ve been having over the past couple of years, I am a self-proclaimed, half-ass, bed-maker. I have tended to approach bed-making with a more practical lens—As long as the inside is covered up and protected from the outer elements (namely, cat hair and dust), then that should suffice. There are way better things I can think of to do with my precious time in the mornings than to get down on my hands and knees and create perfectly tucked hospital corners that are only going to be untucked hours later!

After doing some research, I learned that Navy SEALS are subjected to the same kind of bed-making requirements as we—the Swiss Camp staff—once were. So, what the heck is this really about? What I learned is that the simple act of making your bed (well) can bring about a sense of pride and accomplishment before you even start your day. In a commencement speech, delivered by Admiral William H. McRaven at the University of Texas in 2004, he stated, “If you want to make a difference in the world, start by making your bed.”

Upon further reflection, I started to realize that making your bed even goes beyond that sense of pride and accomplishment, the Swiss and Navy SEALS allude to. It is also very much about slowing down, being mindful, practicing presence, and cultivating calm in the midst of the day-to-day stress and chaos of modern-day living. It is an opportunity to pause and fully engage in a super simple task, which most of us, who are privileged enough to have a bed, learn at a very young age. It is about tending to and caring for the very thing that provides us with rest and rejuvenation each night—without which our bodies and minds could not heal. It is about showing gratitude and appreciation for the companion that is there for us no matter what at the end of the day, to hold us for hours while we prepare ourselves mentally and physically to take on whatever comes our way the next day. A companion that we should feel fortunate to have. The act of making your bed can also be used as a gage to illustrate when the busyness of life may be a little higher than healthy. After all, if you don’t have time to make your bed in the morning, are you really living?

I learned a lot from those summers in Switzerland but who knew that I’d be blogging about the sneaky Swiss wisdom that surfaced from a once amusing demonstration of bed-making?

Well, here’s to my latest, intended morning ritual of making the bed. Who’s with me?

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