The Satisfying Ritual of Making the Bed

I had started making my bed in the morning a few weeks ago as part of my new organizing routine. Keeping the house cleaner and more organized than I normally do helps make me happier. I thought I’d give making the bed each morning a try as a way of helping the bed look and stay tidy.

Granted, this past week has been a bit of a bust because of some health issues that made me not want to do a damn thing. However, making the bed first thing in the morning is my new favorite thing. Mainly, I like that making the bed doesn’t take a lot of time. You can do it in about 20 seconds if you yank up the sheets and comforter, quick fluff the pillows, and don’t stare too hard at whether the sheets are the same length on both sides of the bed.

For me, I like the process of pulling back the sheets, smoothing out the fitted sheet and retucking it in, pulling up the flat sheet taut to the top of the bed, fluffing the comforter, peeling back the flat sheet a bit over the top of the comforter, fluffing the pillows into a pretty roundish shape, and then propping up my tiny Boo Boo Kitty doll right in between. Even with all that seemingly extra work, the bed is made in under two minutes. You can end up wasting more than that in the morning reading useless news articles on the computer. I bet you won’t even miss those two minutes. If you’re down to the wire in your morning routine already, then maybe a 20 second bed make is all that you can really do.

Once I’ve made the bed, I feel like the bedroom is in a state of readiness. Ready for what, you ask? Well, it’s ready for Gwennycakes to spread out as the main attraction on the nicely made bed! You can see from the featured image that I tossed Boo Boo Kitty in between the pillows carelessly, so she’s kind of flopped over on her side. It’s ready for a nap. It’s ready to make the room even look more pulled together than it normally does.

The simple act of making the bed makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something, and I’m not even dressed yet! If you’re a completion junkie like me, it’s an energizing way to start off feeling great in the morning. Whatever you do from there on in, you’ve got that bed-making thing covered (A riff. Thank you, Tyler Durden!). And I don’t know about you, but finding a simple way to immediately put yourself into a good mood after waking up is a gift (after I meditate and do my morning stretches, of course. 😀 )

Then, when I walk in and out of the bedroom during the day, I get a quick hit of happiness at the organized look of the room. Insta-happiness boost! I personally enjoy looking at a nicely decorated room. You may not agree, but I find my bedroom to be inviting and warm. But even an inviting warmth can’t overwrite the little downer I get when I see an unmade bed. It’s not that I notice that it bothers me, but I do notice when it makes me happy. In comparison, making the bed every morning is a no brainer for me.

Orderliness is Next to Happiness

Sometime in the last two weeks, I asked my husband if we could rearrange the living room section of our living room/library/office. Since we had a three day weekend, I asked if we could work on that task on Sunday. While he cleaned, I started moving books out of bookcases.

From the inner wall, we removed one glass fronted bookcase and put it into the smaller second bedroom. Our tall, handpainted bookcase was moved from that inner wall to the adjacent wall on the other side of the closet door. Now, two tall bookcases are on the wall with the closet. I put back all the books into the painted bookcase and put all the chotchkes I let sit on the shelves onto my project desk for sorting/donating/trashing.

On the wall where the two bookcases used to be, we put the apartment style couch. Above it, we hung the family portrait of Mark’s great grandmama. Opposite the couch, we put the matching chair and ottomon next to the back of my desk. We moved a rocking chair from the bedroom next to the chair with ottomon, leaving the kitty cube between the chairs for a mock table. Now, when you walk into the living room from the hallway, the room looks and feel airer and bigger. Even with my project table now just a table of Stuff, the room looks more organized.

Today, I cleaned out the space in the bedroom where the rocking chair used to be, vacuumed, tidied up my meditating cushions, and organized my yoga supplies. Mark helped me put up a shelf unit that has been sitting on the floor since we moved in around October 2013. I cleaned a few items from my dresser and put them on the shelf. I cleaned up the corner of my dresser and cleaned a new brush I bought recently. I’m trying to refrain myself from spending too much time in the bedroom cleaning things up so I can focus on my project desk. The combination of moving things around freed up space in two rooms and, in the third room, the addition fit in nicely with the existing furniture. I felt proud, energized, and organized. (Now if only I can keep it this way!)

About ten days ago, I borrowed The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin from my town library. It has been languishing on the low trunk next to my desk, which makes me feel guilty. Today I cracked it open and read through the first chapter.

I’m already liking the book. I like that Rubin, who was mostly happy with their life, decided that she could be happier and then set about to do that. It gives me hope that I can do the same, which is quite unlike psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky who says that you have a happiness set point. I’m the type of person who believes that you can make the change if you perform the actions you desire on a regular basis. My experience with getting into a gym routine has shown me that, with the right changes, you can push your into a new, higher happiness set point and stay there. I refuse to admit defeat, Ms. Lyubomirsky! (and this probably has more affect on my happiness level than your deterministic theory).

On a related note, I think the vitamins I have been taking to address some deficiencies are helping. I decided to start thinking about how delicious my meals are and how much nutrients I am getting when I eat. Because I have a tendency to worry, I decided that thinking that the food I eat is nutritious is probably a better way to think about food than worrying about depleted soil conditions and low nutrient vegetables. I can make the decision to buy organic or from local farmers, when available, or I can grow my own. But I simply cannot do anything about the soil conditions in which most food is grown. I don’t know if thinking about the nutrients will help me or not. I am, however, enjoying my food more when I eat it. That’s important, too.

A Pursuit of Happiness

February is six months that I have been working with a trainer. I had hoped that working out would decrease the pain and increase the ability of my muscles to handle exertion, but it has not done so. I have gained muscle, lost fat, and seen my body reshape itself into a somewhat leaner one. My health and diet seem to be improving.

Because the pain medications I take do not address the underlying cause of my problem and because vitamin deficiencies I have are associated with these medications, I am in a slow, long-term process of testing whether I can reduce and eventually eliminate my pain medications.

Despite all this, I have been feeling blah and apathetic. I have made few attempts at writing in the last few months. I have been wasting a lot of time reading online news that depresses me; I seem to be addicted to certain Internet sites.

I am struggling with my online habits. I need to stop the time wasting and get back to the activities that made me happy last year: writing every or most days. I have been happiest when I have pursued activities that interest me, and I need to get back to that. I want the kind of happiness that is acquired via the pursuit of fulfilling activities. That’s writing. Exercising. Eating well.

And training my brain to be more upbeat and positive. Not working towards goals only keeps me feeling ‘depressed’ where ‘depressed’ is code for ‘bored’ and ‘not doing anything fun or useful to oneself.’ A dear friend posted a link to Shawn Achor, Harvard positive psychology professor and author of several books, including The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. First, I watched a 12-minute TED talk called The Happy Secret to Better Work followed by an hour-long talk he gave at Google. The Google talk includes the same content and wording that is included in the longer Google talk. I also bookmarked a few other talks on the subject of positive psychology.

In Shawn’s TED talk, he put up a slide called Creating Lasting Positive Change. Achor suggests that, for a 21 day period, you do the following:

  • Write 3 things for which you are grateful every day. Each day, write about 3 new things (Emmons & McCullough, 2003);
  • Once a day, journal about one good thing that happened to you in the last 24 hours. Our brains get to relive a happy memory twice, enhancing its effect (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006);
  • Exercise so that you train your body to know what feeling good feels like (Babyak et al., 2000);
  • Meditate to help your mind dampen down the negative states (Dweck, 2007); and
  • Perform random acts of kindness to share your positivity and goodness with others (Lyubomirsky, 2005). Goodness knows that the world needs it – desperately!

The effect of doing this is that it helps rewire your brain to start looking for the positive. We know how much negative news is out there. In fact, it’s almost like the understanding is that it’s not really news if it isn’t awful. I feel it happening to me when I read my news sites, when I scroll through my Facebook feed. Rants about politics, stories about people performing acts of hatred, mutilation, and murder on one another.

And then what? I’ve just spent hours reading negative material that drains my energy and doesn’t do anything for me because I’m not doing anything. How does something like that enhance me, my relationships, and the rest of the world? The short answer is that it does not. Something must change.

And the only thing that I can really count on to change is myself. I am the one who has to take the next positive steps – to stop reading news for hours, to put my writing first, to defer time wasters to the evening in timed segments so avoid the endless negative news absorption, and to change my outlook.

And begin writing every day again.

I can do this.

You can, too (whether writing or otherwise).

An Ordinary Life

American society places an enormous amount of pressure on children to be extraordinary. You know what I’m talking about.

Prodigies. Child business owners. Child actors. Self-possessed teens who quit school at 16 to go build an empire or play guitar. Toddler musicians. Anyone who followed their hearts desires, persevered, and became famous at the last second.

You know, those people who, by virtue of their birth and inborn talents or with the kind of family support that most people can only dream, somehow get catapulted into the public limelight as a paragon of ingenuity or talent or success. Or all three.

Then there are the rest of us.

I include myself in this category. I have not found my life’s work’s calling. I have not switched into that mode where I am utilizing all my strengths to put forth a confident version of myself in the public life we call employment, whether artistic or otherwise. In comparison with the rest of the American public, no one knows me because I do not stand out.

Truthfully, I am OK with that.

All my life, I have desired to find the one thing that I could do to bring myself into the realm of the extraordinary. I did not want it because I wanted to be better than anyone. But I deeply desired the kind of commitment and the experience of flow that people who know where their hearts lie experience.

Here are some things I truly enjoy: Being with my family, friends, husband, and cats. Working out at the gym. Being outside. Walks on the beach. Riding my bike with my husband.

I hate that this world asks us to look at the things and activities that we love the most and find ways to make money out of them. Being paid to do the things we love means we enjoy them less. It’s called the Over-justification Effect. External rewards reduce one’s internal enjoyment of a particular task.

If I am asked to spend 40 hours a week working, then I cannot think of a job as just a job. The need to truly enjoy the work increases, but the likelihood that the enjoyment will be as much as it can be is reduced. So I am stuck. I have tried a couple of different routes, but my heart wasn’t in it.

This year, I took on writing, and I am failing, by my own standards. However, I also wanted to get healthier, and I seem to be having success in that area by regularly committing to working out. But no one’s going to pay me to go to the gym and feel good.

Right now, I am not working outside the home. I am in a situation where it is not required so I can concentrate on getting healthier. I want to be able to give it my all, but my fibromyalgia pains suck so much energy out of me that doing is not possible. Without real health, I will chronically be exhausted as I work, and that’s no way to live, in my opinion.

I have not completely accepted that I am an ordinary person who will live this life only as ordinary. I grew up hearing about how smart I was. But being smart is not the sole answer to make it or living a happy life. Intelligence is not the only means by which goals can be achieved.

And thank goodness! Otherwise, the world would be quite the boring place.


My Monday Evening Happiness

Some people need a lot of money. Others need a sports car, time shares in Hawaii, or $10,000 in monthly income to be happy.

Me? I need this:

Vanilla Ice Cream Soda

Hope your day ended as well as mine!