How to Make a Bed You Can Bounce a Quarter Off Of

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 19, 2009 · 35 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

Army bunk

It’s a scene familiar to any fan of war movies: old sarge is pacing the new recruits’ barracks, heels clicking on the floor, his eyes bulging as he inspects the soldiers’ bunks.  Tension fills the air; the men break out in a sweat. He checks to make sure each man’s uniform is just right, his boots are shined, and his clothes have been neatly folded in his locker. But the moment of truth comes when the sergeant pulls a quarter from his pocket and bounces it off the bed to see just how tightly it’s made. If it doesn’t bounce, the soldier usually has to make it again and do 50 push-ups as penance.

Why Make Your Bed

The military drills its recruits over and over again in the skill of bed-making. The men have to do it just right, and they have to do it in a matter of minutes.

It’s easy to wonder why the heck the military would make such a big deal about how a soldier’s bed is made. But bunk and locker drills are simply a means to an end. And that end is developing a soldier’s discipline and attention to even the smallest details. Plus, it ensures that order is maintained in the barracks, which allows the enlisted man to concentrate on more important matters.

Discipline and order are both things that can benefit civilians, too. According to my friend Gretchen Ruben, author of the Happiness Project, making your bed neatly and tightly every day can actually increase your overall happiness. Men looking to get their lives together often want to tackle big goals while the rest of their life is a disorganized mess. Get the little things in your life under control, and the sense of confidence and satisfaction you’ll feel will help you move on the big things. So if you’re looking to move your life out of neutral, making your bed first thing in the morning might be the best way to start.

How to Make Your Bed Like a Soldier

Alright. So mom/sarge/crazy camp counselor was right. Making your bed every day is important. But if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. Today we’re going to show you how to make a bed like a soldier based on a guide from a WWII army base called Camp Crowder. Atten-hut! Let’s get down to business soldier!

Spread the bottom sheet. Most people today use a set of sheets that includes a fitted bottom sheet. You simply spread the sheet and fit the corners around the mattress. If you don’t have fitted sheets because you’re old school, you have a few more steps to take. But the pay off is a tightness that you can never achieve with a fitted sheet.

Stand at the foot of the bed and spread the sheet evenly across it. Once you have the sheet spread evenly, you now must employ the bed making secret known by soldiers and nurses across the world.

The secret to a tight bed: The Hospital Corner. The hospital corner is the bread and butter of making a neat bed. Many people are intimidated by hospital corners, but with some practice you’ll be able to make them in a snap.


  • Starting at the foot of the bed, tuck the end of the sheet between the mattress and box springs. Don’t just bunch the sheet between the mattress and the box springs, rather ensure that the sheet lays smoothly between the two.
  • Go to the head of the bed and pull the other end of the sheet taut. Tuck the sheet under the mattress as you did at the foot of the bed.
  • Go back to the foot of the bed and pick a corner to make your first hospital corner. Grab the sheet draping from the side about 16 inches from the foot of the bed (Diagram A).
  • Place one finger on top of the corner, lifting the sheet with the other hand (Diagram B).
  • Tuck lower drape under the mattress (Diagram C).
  • Hold the corner in place and bring the sheet over. You want the fold on the top sheet to form a 45-degree angle. That’s standard for the Army (Diagram D).
  • Tuck the rest of the side of the sheet under the mattress, working your way to the head of the bed (Diagram E). Repeat on all four corners of the bed. As you tuck, take your hand and smooth out any wrinkles that may form in the sheet on the top of the bed.

Spread the top sheet. Take the top sheet and spread it out over the bottom sheet. The end of the sheet with the large hem goes at the head of the bed. Align the top of the sheet with the head of the mattress.

Spread the blanket. Spread your blanket on top of the sheet. Leave about six inches between the top edge of the blanket and the sheet.

Make hospital corners with the sheet and blanket. Now that you have the sheet and blanket spread out, it’s time to bust out some more hospital corners. Start off by tucking in the end of the sheet at the foot of the bed between the mattress and box springs. Remember to make sure they lay smoothly between the mattress and box spring and are not just bunched under.

Pick a corner at the foot of the bed and make another hospital corner as described above. Remember to get your 45-degree angle and to continually smooth any wrinkles that form while you’re tucking. If you really want to go for the Army look with your bed, don’t tuck in the excess overhang on each side just yet. If you don’t care for the Army look or you have a significant other that wants her fluffy comforter on top, go ahead and tuck in the sides.

Fold the top of the blanket and sheet down. Go to the head of the bed and stretch the blanket as close as you can to the sheet hem. Fold the sheet hem over the blanket like so:


Fold both the sheet and blanket over approximately four inches. Fold again leaving 18 inches from the head of the mattress to the fold. Now you can tuck in the overhang on the sides. Remember to smooth out those wrinkles! It should look something like this:

How to make a bed fold

Place pillow on top. Just place your pillow at the head of your bed and you’re done. Today’s Army often places a dustcover on top of the pillow. It’s basically another blanket. But you don’t have to do that. Now take out a quarter and bounce it off the bed. If everything is nice and tight, it should bounce right back into your hand. Good work soldier!

Comforters. If you’re like most people today, you probably put a comforter on top of your blanket and sheet. While comforters are cozy, you can’t bounce a quarter off a bed with one on top. No worries. As long as the sheets and blankets are nice and tight underneath, there’s no need to do push-ups. It’ll feel mighty good slipping underneath a nicely made bed at night.

Grandpa’s Trick from the Army to Get a Super Tight, Tight Bed: Safety Pins

If you want to really create a super tightly made bed, use this trick. First, gather several  safety pins. Before any step that requires you to tuck a sheet and blanket under the mattress, stick a safety pin through them. When you tuck them under the bed, pin the blanket and sheet to the mattress. Do this all down the foot of the bed and down the sides to about the midpoint on your mattress.  This will ensure that your bed stays nice and tight through the week. Of course, your wife might object to using this technique on her 700 count Egyptian cotton sheets. Use with discretion.

How to Make Your Bed Every Day in Less Than a Minute

Once you’ve made your bed with hospital corners and everything, it’s actually really easy to maintain throughout the week. In fact, you can make your bed every day in less than a minute. Most people make their bed by walking around it and straightening things out as they go. All that shuffling just wastes time.

To make your bed quickly, use this trick I learned from a dorm mate I had in college: simply make your bed while you’re still in it. When you wake up, just sit up in your bed and straighten everything out. It’s actually easier to do this while sitting in your bed’s center than standing on its side. Once you have everything nice and straight, fold the top of the sheet and blanket down and slide out from underneath. When you get out, tuck the sides of the sheet back underneath the mattress. Bada bing! Instantly made bed.

One caveat- this probably only works with a single or double mattress. Anything bigger and it gets unwieldy to maneuver while still under the covers.

Any other bed making tips? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sam November 19, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Love the info–I’m regularly made fun of at college for my obsessive bed-making. My only suggestion is that you not make it literally the second you get up. Let it air out a bit! It’s all warm when you get out of bed–pull the covers back when you get out of bed–not all the way of course–and brush your teeth, get dressed, etc. THEN come back and make it up. I try not to make it while it’s still warm. Seems wrong, somehow.

2 JC November 20, 2009 at 3:22 am

I totally agree with the statement:

“… that end is developing a soldier’s discipline and attention to even the smallest details. Plus, it ensures that order is maintained in the barracks, which allows the enlisted man to concentrate on more important matters.”

But, I think a real man should choose what kind of tasks to pay attention to and to “eliminate” meaningless tasks.

Though this article is enlightening, I’m still in the dark as to the purpose of a super taut bed. Getting into such a bed is always a pain in the butt as it takes a several seconds to “un-taut” it and make it comfortable to get a good night’s rest.

The real man would, as far as I’m concerned, think of the most efficient sleeping setup for his means, whether that means having a fitted sheet and using one, thicker cover that would look just as neat left flowing and not being tucked under the mattress; or whether that means learning to sleep on the floor with a newspaper and a jacket rolled up as a pillow.

Real men should be able to see the big picture and think about what they are doing.

I think taut beds are a waste of time.

3 Luke - AspiringGentleman November 20, 2009 at 4:20 am

Great post. I always remember my grandmother making the bed so tightly you could barely move once you got in. It’s nice to finally know the “trade secrets.”

4 adam November 20, 2009 at 8:18 am

I remember how difficult it was in army training trying to make the bed, I resorted in the end to making the bed as best as i could then ironing it lol, it seemed to work until one of the others got boot polish all over his sheets and tried to hide it, corporal found it and beasted us with 100 pressups, nob head.

5 Theodore November 20, 2009 at 8:45 am

Buy two packs of shirt garters and attach them to each so of the bed connecting underneath. Then you just tighten them up and enjoy a bed that won’t come undone.

Use an iron to get the military looking sheets, after you fold down your top sheet over the blanket – go ahead and iron it so it looks better. After you have everything picture perfect, grab a can of starch and spray the sheets a good amount. The starch will dry and the bed will be crisp and unlikely to wrinkle.

6 Richard November 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

It was that was for us all the way through our “A” school too in the Corps. We used to use shirt stays to hold the sheets tautly against the rack springs. Gave a pretty good bounce too. To this day my wife doesn’t like it when I make the bed because I tuck the sheets in too tightly.

7 Tim Buck November 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

Dad was a Marine Corps Sargent, so this method is how I learned to make a bed. I thought everyone made their bed this way until I got to college and my roommates were in awe of how tight the sheets looked (one of them did take out a quarter and it did bounce), thanks Pop!

8 mjg November 20, 2009 at 9:22 am

I like a nicely made bed myself. Some of my favorite, soft sheets, though, have fitteds that the elastic isn’t a young as it once was having worn out through age and many, many hot water washings. To tighten the fitteds, I’ve used an old pair of suspenders to latch all four corners tightly under the mattress. Works a treat.

9 Sidney Borne November 20, 2009 at 9:44 am

Awesome article! This reminds me of Civil Air Patrol Encampment… The only thing you missed is how to ‘smile’ your pillow.

10 Adam Cook November 20, 2009 at 11:26 am

Wow this brings back memories. One thing not mentioned is speed, we had to make beds in under 2 minutes. One trick we used was to get a 3 ring binder to tuck the extra blanket in after we made hospital corners. After they were tucked, we got under the bed and pulled the covers tight from underneath.

The quarter trick is no longer used, but they now use a ruler and pull it down the bed. If the covers bunch up, it’s a fail.

The collar should also be 6 inches. Every measurement in all 3 of the bed setups are divisible by 6. This allowed us to ‘cheat’ and bring a clear, 6 inch plexiglass square. Shirts were also folded 6 inches wide, so the square acted like a folding board to get real nice (& quick) results.

It’s not uncommon for your captain (ots) to run out of fun and exciting things for you to do, which results in bed drills for an hour or two. This is where you get all of your bed makings (sometimes clothes as well), drop them in the hall, then you have 5 minutes to get your room inspection ready. I’ve heard enlisted does about the same thing in their barracks.

To be honest, sometimes I miss training. There’s something stress-free about just zoning out and being yelled at all day. No extra work, just do exactly what they tell you. Pretty easy if you ask me.

11 Roman November 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Good order and discipline are important, and those are great reasons to make your bed. However, there is a legitimate purpose to bed-making that I’m surprised I seldom hear mentioned.

Making a nice tight rack helps keep out dust and vermin. That’s why I don’t think you should have skipped the dust cover.

I recently thought of this when we went to a time share and found the beds nicely made, but full of dead crickets. Had the beds been made military tight and with a dust cover, I can guarantee there wouldn’t have been any dust or critters in them.

12 Doug Shulby November 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

God, I remember when I was a lad in (elementary!) military school having to make these things every day. And the colonel would pick your bed up and toss it on it’s side if that quarter did not bounce!

Oh, the good ol’ days.

13 Mike November 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

It’s healthy to air the mattress out at least once a week by “stockading” the bedding. The essentials are laid in a foot wide ribbon along the foot of the bed, sheets, pillow cases, then covers, and the pillows are also unmade, but sitting at the head. I think I got it right; it’s been 20 years. Then you make the bed in the evening before bedtime.

14 Evan November 20, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Having to maintain a nice tight bed is most easily accomplished by not sleeping in the bed itself, but rather on top of it with just your folded blanket to keep you warm. It takes a little getting used to but after two and a half years i don’t mind anymore. Plus it makes sleeping under the covers that much better when you actually get to enjoy it.

15 Li Ma Piec November 21, 2009 at 12:21 am

When it comes to dust ruffles, don’t purchase the kinds that have a sheet of fabric
the full width and length of the box spring. It is horrible to tuck sheets and blankets
when there is this kind of dust ruffle. It is better to purchase the kind that are edged by elastic or upholster the box spring directly.

16 Peony Moss November 21, 2009 at 10:48 am

Nurses are also known to knot the corners of the sheets together under the mattress (top right to top left, bottom right to bottom left.) This trick is helpful if you’re raising and lowering the head of the bed frequently, and is especially helpful if you are using a foam eggcrate mattress topper.

17 Grow-a-brain November 21, 2009 at 11:02 am

@Ewan: genius idea! But why not just leave the bed alone, and sleep on the floor instead? voila – no more time wasted making your bed.

18 Dave November 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Instructions somewhat superfluous in these days of continental quilts, I feel.

19 James Bonine November 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Thats how I remember being told how to make a bed! and once you learn how, you never foget. I also enjoyed tring to get in it, but once there, I went to sleep quickly. Now I have a waterbed, and can not make that tight.

20 Tony November 22, 2009 at 2:18 am

I don’t see why would anyone want to make beds like this OUTSIDE the Army. When I marched out as a private I was glad to leave the bed nonsense behind, we once had to re-make them 6 or 7 times one afternoon.

21 Scott November 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Sheets? Blankets? Pfft…fitted bottom sheet, comforter with a cover and that’s it – a trick I picked up in Norway. One shake and the bed’s made.

22 Gretchen Rubin November 24, 2009 at 9:34 am

Hi! I saw the nice mention of my blog, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate you shining a spotlight on my blog…and thanks for the bed-making tips! Thanks and best wishes, Gretchen

23 The Law Office of Levinson Axelrod November 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Nice. My grandmother used to take a pole and smoothen the top of the sheets to make it look more crisp.

24 J.R. Cooper December 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Although I haven’t been fixing the bed like a soldier, this article has served a good kick in the pants in getting me to make my bed every day. Thank You.

25 Trainee BP December 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm

When I was at Lackland AFB there was a trick we called “pop-tarting”. Slide into and out of your bed without untucking anything and all you have to do is straighten and tighten in the morning instead of remaking the whole thing. Just pray the TIs don’t catch you or you’ll be sore.

26 anon December 8, 2009 at 9:40 am

“How to Make Your Bed Every Day in Less Than a Minute”

Is it possible that anyone on earth didn’t already figure this out by the time they were 8?

27 Ben December 20, 2009 at 12:44 pm

this just made me have horrible flash backs from basic training…….
while i still make my bed everyday there are no hospital folds and loose change involved any more….
but if you really think about it the bed is one of the first thing someone sees when they enter your room and if it looks un kept they are probably thinking the same thing about you and your lifestyle, plus you never know who may decide to come stop in un expected

28 Aaron March 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

It’s true what the author said about taking control of ones life. Start small and then work your way up. I was lost for awhile, and where I lived reflected my life, a big mess. Now I am married, going back to school, and will be attending Maritime Academy. I have a clear idea of what I want. Somehow the clutter in my life kept me from seeing it. Take control of the little things you can, and you will be ready to face those things you can’t.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a bed to make.

29 Sean March 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

in rez, my sheets were stuck in the bed frame, so all i simply needed to do was pull my sheets up to make my bed

30 Melissa April 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Can I just say that I love your site (my site,, is kinda like the female-version of it)! I love the idea of teaching people old school “womanly” and “manly” skills. It is way too easy for people to miss out on this stuff in our fast-paced, technology-driven (and often isolating) society. Keep up the good work!

31 Jordan May 21, 2010 at 2:16 am

Great article, but one question.
Where do you get flat(unfitted) sheets that will fit a queen bed?
I got all excited to try this and found my sheets wouldn’t reach.

Keep up the great articles!

32 John July 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I was a master bed maker in Pendleton during bootcamp. My DIs would march in other platoons’ DIs to brag about their recruit’s perfect rack. No idea why i took to it so well, but it seemed to be my only little piece of sanity.

If you want to keep it tight, i recommend the bootband or shirt stay idea, if possible. It’s also a great way to minimize bed-making. What i would did once i was in the fleet (our company had a lot of stop-ins by higher ups and we were required to make our bed daily) was have a basic bed spread put down military style, with stays and all, and then slept on top of it with another blanket/comforter. Then when i woke up, i’d just have to brush out the wrinkles.

Also, it’s a great way to make a bed even if you don’t want it tight. I now have a feather top with high thread count sheets and a braided throw, etc, feels like a cloud (girls love it), but i still use the military bed style. Looks extremely clean and i always get compliments on it. A lot of high end retail stores use it on their display models.

33 frank July 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I went to a military academy, and one of the tricks that evolved from boys not wanting to make their bed every day for inspection was using these things called shirt stays (which was mentioned alread), which look like this

But anyway, you attach them to one side and stretch it across and attach it to the other side as well. The thing is, you sleep on top of the covers with a blanket. In the morning, all we had to do was hop out of bed, put the blanket in a footlocker, go to formation, then go to mess.

34 norman October 26, 2012 at 11:18 am

i’m with george costanza on this one. can’t stand to have my sheets tucked in like this – hurts my feet.

35 Alex Krupp May 23, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I attend a miliatry academy. We just don’t sleep under the blanket. Hospital folds are a life saver. but if you don’t sleep under the blanket all you have to do is spend three minutes tightening it.

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