in: Manly Know-How, Skills

• Last updated: June 2, 2021

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

Illustration of army bed along with shoes placed orderly.

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.

Steps to make tight hospital corner bed.

  • 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:

Illustration of folding the top of the blanket and making sheet down.

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:

Illustration of placing bed pillow on top.

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.

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