Smart Things I Do, #2: Make the Bed (Every Day)

Erika Wittlieb @

If, like me, you are a lazy layabout, but need to feel somewhat accomplished, try taking five minutes to make the bed before you leave for work in the morning. 

I noticed that when I clean my environment, even nominally, whether that’s my living room, kitchen, car, or bedroom, I feel better and I am more productive.

And if I’m not productive, then at least I don’t feel guilty over dishes in the sink. If I want to feel okay being a slacker, then I can be okay with doing a tiny bit of work.

The effort of making the bed takes the least time out of my day, and there are a lot of benefits.

If I have a productive day at work, coming home to a bedroom with a made-up bed is the icing on the cake – even if there are clothes on the floor and papers littering the dresser.

Making the bed and fluffing the pillows leads me to collect wayward clothes and scattered paper. From there it’s a slippery slope to sweeping, mopping, and dusting, but if I don’t have time to do any of those things – or, let’s face it, I don’t care – then a ready-made bed does just fine as the end-all be-all of my cleaning list.

If I have a sucky day at work, my bed is waiting for me to come home and crawl under the covers.

And yes, I make the bed on Saturdays, too. Partly for accomplishment, and partly because seeing a made bed helps me relax. Usually I’m pretty busy on the weekends – that’s when I get schoolwork done that I couldn’t finish during the week. Sometimes I’m working on the house, too. And passing by my bedroom and seeing the made bed both reminds me to relax and lets me look forward to sleeping there.

Simple, huh?

I’ve learned to make the bed before I leave for vacation, and not just because my neighbors are looking after the house. Trips can go awry, things don’t go as planned, relatives argue over where they bought their first microwave and how much it cost and who lugged it home, and the last thing I want after an emotionally and/or physically draining vacation is to come home to an unmade bed.

My bedroom may not be the cleanest in the world 24/7, but I do enjoy sleeping there, and I want to keep it that way.

Because sleep.  

That is the wisdom I have gleaned in these last few months.

And now I’m going to clean my car. But first – a nap.

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Stupid Things I Do, #2: Sleep Late (hell yeah)

Waking up and getting up has never been easy. Elastica (1995)*

I’ve been a night owl ever since I was a kid. My parents were also night owls.

Back in the 1980s, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson came on after the ten o’clock news, followed by Late Night with David Letterman. My parents did not go to bed until they’d sat through Letterman’s opening monologue, possibly his Top Ten List, and decided whether or not to stick around for his guests. Fairly often, my dad – a thin, wiry guy who drank a hell-load of coffee every day – was awake until the late-night TV movie came on after David Letterman, and sometimes he was awake until the channel went off the air – in the ’80s and into the ’90s, network TV stations did not broadcast 24/7.

A station sign-off went something like this:

And yes, that loud tone at the end was to wake you up and get you to turn off the TV and GO THE F**K TO SLEEP.

I was supposed to go to bed after Johnny Carson’s opening monologue. But I always stayed up to read. Because that’s what my parents did.

Shockingly enough, I never woke up early for school. Thus my record consisted of tardies, detentions for tardies, and so on. It also consisted of visits to the principal’s office, a stint in the alternative high school, and academic probation, but those are other stories that shall be told another time, either over beer and pretzels to the bartender for free, or in a therapist’s office for $$$.

School started at 7.50 a.m., Monday – Friday. I don’t know who comes up with these asinine start times, but that’s what I had to do, so I did it, gritching and growling all the way. My alarm went off at 7.10, but the snooze button and I, we’re best buds. We go way back. Usually I did not get out of bed until my mother screamed at me around 7.30. She’d fix me toast, yell at me to get moving, get dressed, get out, and if there wasn’t time for me to walk to school (which I preferred), she’d drive me there.

Probably all the tardy slips and detentions upset her. I’m just guessing here.

On Saturdays I slept in until 10 or 11 am. Sometimes noon. And forty years later I still do. Not as often, but THAT IS WHAT SATURDAYS ARE FOR.  If you can’t sleep in at least one day a week, you will not be able to face life in general.

On Sundays I get up and go to church.  Or I sleep in. Really it’s 50/50 either way. The Lord will have to like me as I am.

As an adult, I don’t like being late to work. A, it sets a really bad example, and B, there’s this little issue of not being paid for work I don’t do because I’m not there. Sure, things happen and sometimes I absolutely can’t get in on time. But I make it a point to get to work on time. I might not have had breakfast and my socks might not match**, but I get there. People depend on me. Plus I like my job. (It’s effing difficult to rouse yourself for a job you can’t stand.)

Most of the time, sleep is pretty awesome. I like sleeping. I work full-time, I go to grad school, I have health issues. Sleeping is fun.

Except when it’s not. Except when I feel guilty about things I didn’t do, especially if I had time to take care of them. And that’s when sleep becomes a problem. Sleep-as-procrastination is an issue, if it’s happening every day of every week, or you know, often enough to be a concern.

To be addressed in the next post. Stay tuned.


* ELASTICA IS GETTING BACK TOGETHER! No seriously–check their Facebook page.

**This is a lie. My socks always match. Everything else can go to hell in a handbasket, but my socks have to match, or I can’t face the world. That’s just the way it is, baby.

Smart Things That Work For Me,#1: Keeping Things in the Same Damn Place(s) Every Time

I developed this habit over the last few years. Mostly because I have anxiety about what I’m taking out into the world with me. Besides keys–which are important for breaking back into my house legally–and identification, debit cards, and my cell phone, I have to leave the house with medication for migraines, my planner, a flash drive for work, soda. Pens. Exact change for bus fare.

I lose stuff all the time. In forty years, I’ve lost a lot of shit. I’ve panicked over everything from lost keys ($5.00) to lost key fobs ($2effin50!!) to books (Scott O’Dell’s The King’s Fifth, last seen on a train from Massachusetts to Chicago, and Jenny Lawless’s Furiously Happy, left on an airplane). I’ve lost my driver’s license a number of times, and I don’t want ever want to calculate the $$ I dropped. I just hope that whoever found it really needed it. Losing things is especially sucky when payday is Friday but it’s only Monday night and I’m down to my last $10. 

I finally had to deal with this anxiety instead of being all disorganized and then surprised and angry at myself for losing something.

I MEAN REALLY. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot, amirite?

I started making sure I put things in the same places every time.

It’s simple (and yet soooo complex). Every time I walk in the door of my house, I put my keys, ID+cards, etc., on a particular bookshelf. They are out of the way and I know exactly where they are when I’m ready to leave the house, make an online payment, etc.

Winter, summer, whenever, my shoes come off almost as soon as I walk in. I hate shoes. But I also don’t want to spend time finding them in the mornings.

Because I am a lazy-ass person who likes her sleep.

So I bought a shoe tree and I set it by the front door. And that’s where all six pairs of my shoes go. (Nope, not your stereotypical woman; I have enough shoes for me, thanks.)

I keep my medicine in the kitchen. I am more likely to see it and use it every morning like I am supposed to, and this way I stay healthy and my doctor doesn’t yell at me. It is also accessible for anyone who needs to help me out. I’d much rather someone look at my kitchen than see my bathroom. 

And ever since I trained myself to place things in the same spots, which took time, I may have become a tad fanatical, right down to which pocket I keep my change in and which pocket I keep my flash drive in (flash drives are essential for my writing and work life).

But there’s a great tradeoff. First of all, I don’t lose as many things as I used to.

Second, I learned to cut myself some slack.  I’m better about not panicking when I lose or misplace something. I’ve come to expect it. There is no sense beating myself up over it. It’s not like I lost the blueprints to Castle Greyskull. (Yet.) I’m an intelligent human being, not one of Skeletor’s witless lackeys. 



Third, you know what? It’s comforting to be able to know where things are all the time.



My point is, figure out what’s important to you and be intentional about where you put items. Keep them where they make sense and where you know you will find them. 

So, no, this does not mean keep your hairdryer in the bathtub.

Stupid Things I Do, #1: I Don’t Plan Ahead for Large Projects (Whatever)


I stress out over large projects.

I don’t necessarily make New Year’s Resolutions. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’ll decide to drink less soda or exercise 3 times a week and three days in I give up. I like soda, damn it. Also food. I’m learning to like exercise, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

But I decided to make a New Year’s resolution this year that I can keep. 

Break a large project into parts.

Stupidly simple, amirite? Like how do we read books? How are you reading this blog post? Letter by letter, sound by sound, word by word. Sentence by sentence.

For the last two months I’ve been writing on a huge (to me) project that has implications for my place of employment. I’ve never written anything like it before. OK, yes, I have, but nothing technical. I make up prose for a (not)living. But this project required pages and pages of technical detail. Specifications. Locations. Instructions. No injecting sarcasm anywhere. 

I sad.

I didn’t really have a plan for tackling this project. I just went in and did what I always do–fly by the seat of my pants. Yes, my butt is often scalded. Whatever. It’s how I do things. Present tense. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. That’s just the kind of learner I am.

Today? I finished that project. I broke the whole thing down into its respective parts and revised one section, then another. The difficult part was keeping track of the sections I could complete ASAP versus the sections that still required investigation and discovery. I had to-do lists that referred to previous to-do lists that referred to even more previous to-do lists. Using my tiny brain to coordinate all of that just really sucked. 

But it’s done. And I have learned my lesson. If some project or task seems too big, it probably is. So look at the components, and deal with them one by one.

Maximum effort.