Why do stews and yachts make such a big deal about how a bed is made?
Well, apparently, a properly made bed is a matter of discipline. It helps to ensure that order is maintained, which, in turn, lets one concentrate on more important matters. According to author Gretchen Rubin, who wrote the “Happiness Project”, making your bed neatly every day can increase your overall happiness. The theory is that getting the little things in your life under control will give you the confidence you need to move onto the bigger things.
If you have spent much time on boats you know that what looks like a standard size bed may not be any such beast. Often the beds will be custom made to specific space. Just as often, the sheets will not be custom fitted. Good luck with that.
If you have ever balanced a mattress on your head while climbing into the corner of a bed frame, or if you have ever had to use a spatula to stuff sheets into a too-small frame, you know what I mean. To cut down on frustration, always know the dimensions of your beds and the measurements of your sheets, and label them.
Start making up the bed by spreading the fitted sheet over the mattress and around the corners, pulling the elastic snugly and smoothing out any wrinkles along the way. (God forbid the owner, designer, or project manager won’t spring for fitted sheets.)
Next, spread the flat sheet across the bed, making sure that the amount hanging off the side edges is equal. The end with the wide hem goes at the top. If there is a design pattern, the sheet goes face-down so you can fold the decorative edge back down over the blanket, duvet or bed cover.
If you are using a blanket or duvet, spread it out over the sheet and again line up the side edges as evenly as you can. At the head of the bed, turn the top edge of the flat sheet down over the blanket or duvet. The size of the fold down will depend on the specific design element of your linens. About 4 inches is standard. To be military compliant, you would fold it down again to about 18 inches from the head of the mattress.
Go to the foot of the bed and tuck the sheet and blanket under the mattress. Go to the head of the bed and pull the sheet and blanket or duvet up tight.
Go back to the foot and choose a side. About 16 inches from the foot, take hold of the fabric draping down the side. Hold it in one hand, and place the other hand on top of the corner on the mattress.
Lift the sheet and blanket up and tuck the lower part of the drape under the mattress. Hold the corner in place and bring the sheet and blanket over to form a 45-degree angle for a standard hospital corner.
Tuck the rest of the fabric under the mattress, working from the bottom to the top of the bed. Smooth out any wrinkles along the way. There may be decorative cover or a simple day cover that goes over the sheets and blankets, in lieu of duvet or comforter. This will go on before the pillows are arranged.
There must be a schedule for how often sheets get changed. It will depend on how many sets of sheets you have and what the owner, guests or chief stew prefers. You should expect to iron the sheets and pillowcases each time you remake the bed between sheet changes. This is so that the bed looks fresh and tidy whenever guests re-enter the cabin throughout the day.
You may also be expected to iron the sheets again at turndown in the evening. Believe it or not, after a while, you will want to do this of your own volition, because you just want it to look really nice all of the time.
A final word about making beds: This is no small detail. Stews often spend hours trying to get it right, in spite of design flaws and having to work with sheets that will never fit the bed no matter how hard you try. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of spending money on the proper equipment, so that the small details of the day can be taken care of, life will be under control, and stews will have the confidence to move onto bigger things.
Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stewardess for 20 years. She offers interior crew training classes, workshops, seminars, and onboard training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions (www.yachtstewsolutions.com). Comments on this column are welcome below.