Growing up in a home with three brothers meant keeping the house clean was always a challenge. Let’s face it, boys are usually not neat.
Since I craved order and all things that were tidy, my corner of the world was my bedroom. And I kept it spotless.
Almost every morning, I made my bed, complete with a lot of throw pillows and zillions of stuffed animals.
Even in college, when I certainly didn’t have to make the bed, I continued to do so. Ditto when I moved out on my own, even when I had my own apartment and there was nobody to see the made-up bed but me.
When we married and started our family, there were certainly days when the bed stayed unmade. But that was usually because there was a sick child in it or some other good reason.
Once Paul said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t know why in the world you make the bed ever unless someone is coming over and is going to go in our bedroom.”
I explained it this way. When the rest of life is chaotic, seeing the biggest thing in the room, made up neatly, a certain sense of calmness comes over me.
Even if the room is somewhat cluttered, a made up bed gives the appearance of order and neatness.
That said, I received some validation when I recently read the remarks made by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, at the University of Texas’ commencement on May 17.
First of all, his speech is amazing, so go find it online and read it in its entirety.
My validation came when he told the graduating class about 10 things he learned from SEAL training. Guess what the first was? Yep, make your bed. The eloquent and inspiring words of McRaven:
“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 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.
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
As I said, the entire speech is fantastic. I sent it to Paul and all four of our children, so please look it up.
Who doesn’t admire Navy SEALs and, really, all of our brave military members.
In his commencement address, McRaven also noted:
“Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward changing ourselves and the world around us will apply equally to all.
“I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for basic SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.
“Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.
“It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.
“But the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.
“To me basic SEAL training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months.”
Wow. What an inspiration. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go make my bed.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.