Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.
There's a standard response that I hear over and over again when people learn that I write cleaning advice for a primarily male audience. "That must be so nasty," this response goes. "Men are so much grosser than women."
That attitude is probably rooted much more in conditioning—from movies and TV and frat-house stereotypes in general—than in reality, though that same conditioning seeps out into real-world behaviors as well. But I've been doing this job long enough that I'm qualified to say that the evidence doesn't bear out the theory. There are some fine points, I guess, that can be made about gender when it comes to cleaning: The number of questions I got about, separately, couches and dogs increased when I moved my act over to Deadspin, to cite my favorite example. But overall? The sexes are far more similar than different in their filth.
Why this disquisition, now? Well, because in order to do my job in the way I want to, I work hard to dismantle any of that conditioning that might cause me to treat men and women differently when it comes to parceling out cleaning advice. But I have fallen short of that goal in one major way: by deliberately not writing about a topic because I thought it wouldn't play well with the menfolk.
Today, I plan to correct that. I would like for you, my male readers (lovers, every last one of you), to join me in an annual challenge I put out: During the entire month of March, make your bed. Every day.
But also? You don't have to. Let me explain.
Like most Clean People, I believe in bed-making. It's a philosophical thing, but also? It's a habit. It's like brushing my teeth in the morning or taking my contacts out at night—I would never not do it. (I also cannot not do it. I have tried! Like, every once in a while, I'll leave the bed unmade just to see if I can. I think I've made it about as far as having the key in the lock before I head back inside to make the bed.) I mention it along with those two other things because making the bed a thing that people tend to think is a major pain in the ass, when really, it's about as simple as brushing your teeth. Takes less time, too.
Now then, I don't expect or want any of you to reach the levels of crazy I have achieved for myself in this lifetime. Truly. I hope you can walk out the door and leave an unmade bed behind without thought. But I do want you to try out the bed-making thing.
Here are a few reasons to make the bed:
- Making the bed will make your bedroom look tidy and pulled-together.
- Having a tidy and pulled-together-looking bedroom will make you feel better.
- Regularly making the bed makes making the bed less of a chore overall. (This is true of a lot of cleaning and organizing tasks: Staying on top of them makes them less painful and time-consuming).
- A made bed is a way to control the amount of contact pets, what with their hair and their smells, can make with your bedsheets.
- Turning down the bed at night is a ritual that tells your body that it's time to go to sleep.
- Sliding into a made bed just feels so freaking great.
- I'm asking you to try it. I rarely say, "This is a thing I want you to do" in this space, but I'm specifically asking you to do this. Another general attitude I have about my job is that I'm not here to tell you what to do in life; I'm here to offer advice and help if people want it. Thus, this ask should, I hope, demonstrate how passionately I feel about what a positive impact making the bed can be in your life.
Maybe not a single one of those reasons convinces you. That's fine! No one is making you do this. I asked, but I'm not demanding. If you're sitting in front of your screen shrugging and asking, "So?" then just don't. Go read something else that will be more interesting for you! We have plenty of fine #content on this here site. Wanna learn how to fuck a butt?
But maybe there's a teeny tiny part of you that's curious if this fuss is worth it. Just a lil' bit? The best way to find out is to try it out for yourself. It's only a month!
On the Matter of Dust Mites
Right now, someone is down in the comments section carrying on about how one should never ever ever make the bed, because of dust mites. That person will be banned from commenting on the site in the future. Here's why: There's an old article that comes up every time I write about making the bed, and it states that making the bed is bad for your health. That article is hogwash.
I like the response to it that I wrote for Jezebel last year enough that I'm going to reuse it this year.
Every time the subject of bed making comes up, someone inevitably trots out this BBC article from 2005 and carries on about how making the bed is so totally unhealthy because it leads to dust mites.
* Unless you are allergic, or have respiratory issues like asthma, dust mites are not really something you need to be overly concerned with. You also already have them, as do I, as does the Crown Prince of Denmark. They're just a fact of life.
* If you are allergic to dust mites or have respiratory issues, regular laundering of your bedding (including the pillows, comforter, mattress pad, etc.) is the best defense against them. A mattress protector will also be a key weapon in your anti-dust-mite arsenal. And since humidity is a thing that creates a happy environment for the mites, getting a dehumidifier isn't a bad idea. As always, however, you should check with your doctor and follow the advice provided by her or him.
* It is absolutely a good idea to allow your sheets some time to air out after you've gotten out of bed. But unless you've had a particularly vicious case of nightsweats—in which case, if this dust-mite business is a big concern for you, you should consider stripping the sheets and laundering them—15 or so minutes is all the time the sheets need to air out. Now, most people I know don't get out of bed and walk out the door, which means that even the speediest getter-readyiers among us takes 15 minutes to use the commode, brush our fangs, put on pants, etc.
* The expert quoted in the article has a vested interest in making great hay out of the findings of his research. "Don't make the bed!" is a pretty sexy headline, and he knows that, which means you need to take what he says with a grain of salt.
* Somehow, everyone who trots out this article every time the subject of bed-making comes up fails to note the final expert quote: "I find it hard to believe that simply not making your bed would have any impact on the overall humidity." [MEANINGFUL LOOK.]
* It is perfectly fine to say, "I don't make my bed because I don't want to." You don't need to cast about for excuses, okay? I really mean that! If you don't want to make the bed, don't make the bed.
Some Help for the Nightsweaters
Maybe you've read all of that, and you still feel afraid of dust mites. Or maybe, you're a person who suffers from the nightsweats. I'm sorry if that's the case, because the nightsweats are garbage. I get them, like, once a month (ahem), and they make me feel like a revolting monster.
If you fall into either of those categories, here are the steps for making the bed in a way that allows the sheets to air out.
- Pull the top sheet and blanket (or comforter, quilt, coverlet, etc.) down to the foot of the bed, and remove the pillows from the head of the bed.
- Pull the bottom sheet taut and re-tuck it under the mattress.
- Straighten, and retuck if necessary, the top sheet by pulling the top edge back up to the head of the bed, then fold it halfway back on itself.
- Fold the blanket (or comforter, quilt, coverlet, etc.) and place it at the foot of the bed.
- Straighten the pillowcases and put the pillows back at the head of the bed.
Not only will you end up with a made bed, but that tidying will also help your sheets to air and dry out much more so than leaving them in a damp and tangled heap would.
One Last Thing
When my March Bed-Making Challenge began a few years ago, there was a hashtag. It was great: People tweeted at me all month, telling me about (or showing me!) how their bed-making was going, or telling me that they missed a day and were so mad about it, or just generally getting into the spirit of things. They still do it, too. Which is hilarious and perfect.
That hashtag, #LAMOB, was an in-joke that stood for Let's All Make Our Beds. It stuck. So I'm gonna keep on keepin' it, and now you all are in on it, too.
So! Who's with me?
Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found onTwitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Image by Sam Woolley.
Adequate Man is Deadspin's new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.