Ask a Clean Person: Let’s All Make… Our Beds

Hey hey hey and welcome to March Madness, Clean Person-style: today kicks off a month-long project we’re calling Let’s All Make… Our Beds. It’s just what it sounds like: we’re going to make our beds for the entire month of March and see what happens! To get everyone excited (and I mean, who wouldn’t be excited about this?), I’ll tweet regularly about all things bed-related — follow me @joliekerr and use the hashtag #LAMOB to join in the fun — several of this month’s AaCP columns will be devoted to the topic of beds and bedmaking and bedcleaning (got questions? Ask away), and my bedspiration-themed pinboard will continue to grow. Are you ready? You’re so ready.

My boyfriend and I have been living together for several years, and we steal blankets like Dickensian pickpockets. We also like different blanket weights. These issues caused much woe until we came up a with a compromise: we’d each buy our own twin-size blankets/comforters/quilts to suit our needs. Now we each have our me-sized bedding solutions and can share a queen bed in peace. No more midnight stealing of blankets, no more lost sleep.

Trouble is, there also is no more making of the bed. Any traditional attempt to do so is ludicrous, as his thin weight quilt looks very odd beside my down comforter. We could fold up our top layers and place them on the end of the bed, but would it look weird to show off a naked bottom sheet? Does anybody make pretty bottom sheets worth showing off? Can I make this relationship-saving compromise look normal?

All of my questions boil down to this: how would a clean person make this bed?

You know what I dig? When people think outside the bed and get creative with their linens and spreads. It’s great because everyone should liberate themselves from these weird rules about How A Bed Is Made. I mean, who even made these rules? Pas moi. My feeling is this — if you want to sleep under a burlap sack, go for it. It’s your sleepytime. (Just lie to me and tell me that you straighten the sack every morning? Thanks!) And actually? I want to hear about your choices in bedclothes! Do you want to know mine??? My queen bed goes like this: fitted sheet; no top sheet; twin duvet with a duvet cover on it; four thin-ish pillows in cases that when I sleep are arranged with two flat on the mattress across the bed and two stacked one in front of the other and propped up against the wall. The effect of this is that I sleep in the middle of the bed sort of sitting up but also lying on my side? I don’t know, I’m just an active sleeper I guess. Oh also! I co-sleep with my laptop. Totally.

I share this because I think it’s cool for you to know that I don’t really follow the rules! I am a BED REBEL. A no top sheet-having, four pillow-hogging, laptop co-sleeping bed rebel.

But I also like a fine looking bedstead, and my set-up doesn’t lend itself to a fashionable bed presentation, so my solution has been … drumroll please … a coverlet. And that’s what I think will work best for you too.

A coverlet “is a top cover for a bed. They are usually made of 100% cotton that is stitched through to form a stylized pattern.” Coverlets can be found in solids or in patterns, and — fair warning — tend to be pricey, generally costing in the $100+ range. But they last a long, long time, particularly when you’re not actually sleeping under them (I fold mine at the foot of the bed each night before I pretzel myself up under my small persons duvet) and there are absolutely some low-price options out there. Discount chains like Marshalls and TJ Maxx often have coverlets for sale; stores like Target and Wal*Mart sell coverlet and quilt sets that are quite affordable; has a great selection. You should also keep an eye out for sales at places like The Company Store and Land’s End — they have wonderful, high-quality products that can be had for a steal if you have the patience for trawling their bargain bins.

If you don’t want to invest in a coverlet, or if just seems dumb to buy something that’s purely decorative, the other suggestion I have is to use one of the covers (the comforter maybe?) as a spread over the top of the entire bed, and then fold the quilt at the foot of the bed. Then when it’s time for sleep, you can snatch your puffer and burrow up under it while your boyfriend grabs his quilt and tosses it over him. From experience I can tell you that a twin-sized quilt will cover the entire top of a queen-sized mattress, leaving only the edges exposed. If you go this route, you can pull your bottom sheet taut and re-tuck it every morning to make things really tidy looking.

I have obviously been folding bottom sheets for many years now, but I feel like there’s probably a trick I’m missing. What’s the secret?

The secret is corners. Corners are the secret. Isn’t that a fun new mantra?? I’m picturing us all as cult members, wearing fitted sheets as clothing while chanting, “Corners are the secret, corners are the secret” with rapidly growing excitement.

First things first: those who haven’t yet discovered the joys of sheet folding instructional videos, please step this way. Bonus: a pre-Clean Person Jolie gettin’ all “Pfft old news. NEXT!” in the comments. Little did I know at the time that “NEXT” loosely translates to “jizzcliner” in Hairpinese.

Now then, my technique is actually a little different from that of Jill Cooper. Also, I want to point out that Jill Cooper is folding a fitted sheet that is NOT elasticized around its entirety, which is what’s known in the business as CHEATING FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE CAMERA. Oh yeah, uh-huh, that’s right girl — I’m calling you OUT, Jill Cooper.

Bitches, hold my hoops.

The kind of sheet she’s working with is relatively easy to fold, but things get awful dicey when we start talking about fitted sheets that don’t have straight side edges. Which is what I have, and likely what most of you have, since the last time I saw a straight edged fitted sheet was, like, sometime in the ’80s. (If any of you have a line on a fitted sheet that’s NOT elasticized around its entirety, do speak up! Where do they still sell these things?) So what you’re gonna do is this: turn the sheet so that all the corners are inside out. Then tuck the bottom left corner up into the top left corner, and lay the sheet down on a flat surface (the bed works well for this, btw). Then you’ll sort of smooth the new outer edge you’ve created down so that it’s as straight and as flat as you can get it, with the understanding that the entire thing is a big rubber band and you’re not going to get an absolutely perfect edge. Next you’ll bring the bottom right corner up and tuck it into the top right corner, and repeat the smoothing process as best you can, also taking time to straighten out the top edge as much as is reasonable. By now you should have a rectangle-ish shaped sheeting situation on your hands. Take the left edge and fold it into the middle of the sheet, then do the same with the right side so that the unruly, elasticized edges are touching. Oh look at how now you have straight edges!! Isn’t this exciting! Now fold the top edge down into the middle of the sheet and the bottom edge up over it. OH MY GOD LOOK AT HOW THE FITTED SHEET IS NOW FOLDED WITH STRAIGHT EDGES CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT??????????? YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!! The last fold is to join the left and right sides so that the place where they’ve met is folded up in the inside of the sheet. BOOM. You are done. You have just folded a fitted sheet into a square. I would like to buy you a Coke and a smile!

One important thing to know about this is to take your time. It’s not hard, but it is awkward, and the slower you take it the less frustrating it will be. The other thing is this: it might not always work as perfectly as you want it to. Even fitted sheets have their off days (so do Clean Persons) and when that happens you have my permission to live and let live. It’s just a sheet, you know?

I have a wonderful organic cotton (wool-wrapped for anti-flame purposes) futon and an organic wool topper, both of which are more than five years old and flattened. I have this fantasy that if I could only turn into some kind of demonic monster and grow claws long and skinny enough to dig into each of these, I could just pull and refluff the flattened cotton and wool to restore them to their original condition. Of course this is just a fantasy. But it makes me wonder. Surely in the old days, like in Japan, people didn’t just throw away their futons when they flattened? Is there a way to unflatten them? They’re giving me and the poor old BF backaches due to the body-shaped indentations in them. It’s sad because they were expensive (I bought them before the recession when I was flush), and we did turn them around and flip them (not as often as we should have, of course).

I was hoping to make these last another few years … any hope? Please don’t tell me to get a real mattress instead. I hate mattresses. They make noises that bug me, and they bounce when the restless BF flips around in bed in his sleep. I love futons!

Well no, I’m certainly not going to tell you to “get a real mattress.” Haven’t you been listening?? Your bed, your choices. Come now, ladies!

The answer is: you’re gonna haveta beat the tar out the damn thing.

It’s lucky that you share the bed, because this is a two-person job. If you’re a solo futon sleeper please enlist a friend before you do this, and no matter your coupling situation I want everyone to be really careful to protect their backs during this process. Also, if you have downstairs neighbors who you don’t hate/don’t want to firebomb your home you may want to give them a heads up about what’s about to take place in your dwelling.

Basically this is what you need to do: haul the futon mattress off its frame, put one person at the head of the mattress and the other at the foot holding the thing a little higher than waist-level and then … drop it. That’s all, really. Except you’ll need to do this about five or so times — maybe/probably more — depending on how things go, before the futon filling is properly redistributed and fluffed.

If, after more than oh let’s say 10 tries, that technique isn’t working for you, try rolling and unrolling the mattress to see if that helps redistribute things. If you want to get really serious about things, bust out a bat or broom handle and play pinata with the mattress. Blindfold optional.

Previously: The Uncluttering.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you curious to know if she’s answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?