DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

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3 April 2013

Making the bed with hospital corners

Wow. The Blackheath workshop is almost full. Thanks to everyone who booked yesterday. I'll get details out to you in the next couple of days. There has only been one inquiry about the other workshop further west. We decided to do it in Bathurst after all but if there is no further interest, we'll probably do both workshops in Blackheath. Please let me know so I can book the venues.

Also, I'm going to link to everyone who is taking part in yesterday's list challenge. If you want to be part of that, please email your link to your list post so I can include it - rhondahetzel@gmail.com

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A couple of months ago, Kim asked me to write a post about making a bed with hospital corners. Well, it may have taken a bit too long to get to it but today we have it - making your bed. This is one of my favourite topics. I love it because it's one of those most ordinary of tasks that many people don't think about, but when you do, you realise what a profound act it is. Many of us may be guilty at times of not looking after ourselves properly. This one small act of making the bed, is high up on the list of household tasks that help care for you, the homemaker and maker of the bed. It will make you feel better. If not when you do it, then certainly when you go to bed.

We all know how important it is to make a baby's bed. Those small bundles spend a lot of time in their beds in those first few months and generally parents know that the bed has to be clean, dry and warm enough. That little bed will hold your baby when you can't, it has to be safe secure and comfortable.

Your bed is the same. It may not be made up with fresh sheets quite as often as a baby's bed but it's just as important that your bed will hold you safely and securely and that when you go to bed after a hard day's work, the comfort you find there relaxes you and helps you sleep. Sleep is a strange thing. We still don't really know why we sleep but all of us do. Usually once every 24 hours we loose consciousness and lay silent for hours. We don't know what's going on around us, we don't know what time it is, we don't respond.  Knowing all this, I guess it makes sense to have a bed that keeps us warm and comfortable, and will safely hold us during those hours we lay silent.

I don't make my bed with hospital corners anymore. I learnt the technique when I was a nurse in the 60s and 70s and it's just one of those simple things that always stays with you. I use fitted bottom sheets now and I don't tuck in the top sheet at the bottom on the bed now because both Hanno and I like to poke our feet out from under the sheets and quilt.

Always start off with a bottom sheet that is completely flat, with no creases. If you don't use fitted sheets like I do, lay a flat sheet out on your bed, make sure there is an even hang on both sides and then tuck in the top of the sheet under the mattress. Pull it tight because creases in the sheet you lay on will be uncomfortable. If you're making the bed for someone who is elderly or frail and they spend a lot of time in bed, creases have the potential to start bed sores. So just take the time to run your hand over the bed to make sure no creases remain before you tuck in the top or bottom of the sheet. See below for how to make the hospital corners. You would do that top and bottom is you're using a flat bottom sheet and just at the bottom for the top sheet.

Lay the top sheet on top of the bottom sheet and smooth it out with an even hang on both sides of the bed. The goal here is to provide warmth on both sides of the bed with a good enough hang as well as comfort for the toes and feet. 

If you make the top sheet too tight, it will cause pressure on your toes. When I was taught how to make a hospital bed, we always added a pleat at the bottom of the bed so the sheet could easily expand to accommodate the feet. So right in the middle of the sheet, pull the sheet in from both sides and make a pleat. Don't worry about the pleat looking untidy. It will be completely cover and flattened by your top layers.

When you get into bed with the pleat at the bottom, the pleat will expand out to give your feet the room they need.

Then, to make the hospital corners, standing at the side of the bed near the end, lift up the side of the sheet so it looks like the above and lay the mitred corner on the bed. Then tuck in the bit that's hanging down.

You will then have a corner that looks neat, like  this.

Then take the sheet corner that is still laying on the top of the bed and tuck it securely under the bed, giving you a firm mitred corner - a hospital corner.


In hospital, they used to tuck in the sheets along the side of the bed. I'm not sure if they still do that but it makes a really tight bed. I prefer to have a bed with the top sheet fairly loose, so I never tuck in the top sheet.

Some other things to remember when making your bed is to not have the top layers too heavy. Toes and feet need to be comfortable and make sure your pillow supports your head and neck well. I've found you need different pillows at different stages of life. Hanno uses a soft feather pillow, I have a firm latex one. There is no doubt about it, if you make up a comfortable bed every morning, you'll look forward to going to bed at night. Establishing a good sleeping pattern is such an important part of healthy life. If you sleep in a clean, well made bed, you'll have the best chance of having a good night's sleep. If you've never been in the habit of making your bed, just try fluffing your nest for a week and see what difference it makes. I think you'll be surprised.

38 comments:

  1. Hi Rhonda,

    Just read your post and had to smile. Over 50 years ago, my Mom taught me to make a bed 'the right way'. She was a nurse who worked in our small towns hospital back in the day when nurses were required to wear starched hats, uniforms, white hose, and white lace-up leather work shoes that needed polishing every week. I still remember her ironing and starching her hat and uniforms, and seeing them sometimes soaking in hydrogen peroxide in the laundry sink to remove blood stains at the end of a shift. Nursing school was much like a military school in those days, very strict and structured. One of the first things they were taught was how to make a proper bed. When you did it right, you could bounce a dime on it and the covers always stayed put. It amazes me how many people never learned this, and nowadays, how many people don't use tuck-in sheets at all. Just wanted to say thank you for bringing back a fond memory! Hope your day is wonderful!
    Sue

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    1. Sue, I too trained in those days of starched white uniforms and aprons that stood up by themselves and polished black shoes with black stockings - pre-tights! What grand memories.

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    2. Cynthia FergusonApril 03, 2013 7:54 am

      My mom was much like your mom. Those are great memories.

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    3. I care for my dad and he remembers his air force bed making. He will still bounce a coin on the bed. When i went nursing it was a cinch. I worked in stroke rehab and we used to cheat by tying the bottom sheet to itself if the person was restless. But woe betide anyone who did not untie the sheet. It caused major drama for the laundry.

      I only wore a veil once and that was to graduation. What a nightmare.

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  2. Hi Rhonda,
    love it, go the pleat!
    I still teach the nursing students on the wards this trick, plus pleating the pillow cases as you turn the opening away from the door, can't help myself.
    thank you for such a simple but sensible post
    kind regards
    Leonie

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    Replies
    1. Leonie, I still do the pleat. Go the pleat!

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  3. My mother-in-law worked as a hospital orderly to put herself through school and she taught my husband perfect bedmaking. Thankfully, he also taught me. There really is an art to it. I love a well-made bed, especially when the sheets are crisp.

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  4. Hi Rhonda, my mum was one of those old-school nurses as well, and she taught me to fold hospital corners. It doesn't matter how much I let go in the day, housekeeping wise, the bed is always made. You are right, it is a measure of self-care that we need of an evening, and one we should be teaching our children. Another thing my mother taught me - if the bed is made, and the wardrobe doors shut, the bedroom always looks reasonably tidy!

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  5. Rhonda
    You know that I have just finished my nursing degree and will be 50yrs old this year.I was taught hospital corners at uni....so they still continue to teach it.Sadly the sheets or what bits of thin cloth are called sheets now are so small, making a nice comfy bed for our charges is hard to do anymore.
    Sister

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  6. No nurses or healthcare workers in my family, but I was still trained in hospital corners as a child in the late-80s to early-90s. I've now started teaching our children.

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  7. I was taught by a nurse friend of mine to turn the pillowcases away from the windows/doors so the dust doesn't blow into them lol Evidently the most awesome Florence instigated that in hospitals. I enjoy making the bed each morning and it was the first chore I taught my kids to do (often their efforts are a bit wrinkly due to little arms or haste to get to other things)but it can be a very meditative start to the morning.

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  8. I love nothing more than a freshly made bed with sheets that smell of fresh air & sunshine. That night is always the best sleep for the week (as well as i can sleep with a 6 month old to attend to!) My wonderful husband made the bed a couple of nights ago, it is usually a job i enjoy doing myself, but he made it completely wrong, he put the sheets on the wrong way so there is alot of overhang & not enough sheet to pull up to our shoulders at night & the patchwork quilt is too short to cover the bed. I won't say anything to him, he tried his best & i don't want him to never attempt it again! Now i'm looking forward to sheet washing day this Sunday so i can make the bed again.

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  9. My partner grew up in a family who don't even use a top sheet. Cringe for me, so it took a lot to convince him, just how amazing it is to sleep in a bed that is made 'properly'. But it is always the first chore I do of every day.

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  10. Oh there is nothing quite like getting into a bed with fresh clean, tight sheets :) I also never tuck the top sheet in :)

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  11. I don't buy sheet sets any more. The bottom ( fitted) sheet wears out& then the top sheet won't tuck in properly as they are not made for deep mattresses. Instead I buy quality cotton or linen sheets singly on ebay or at markets. Last forever, linen or hemp are great and they dont need ironing if lined dried :-)

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  12. I am so spoiled! My husband makes the bed each morning and washes and remakes the bed every 10 days. I used to be so allergic that I could not do it. I am much better now and could take over the job but he wants to do it for me.

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  13. Boy, does this post bring back memories of nursing training for me in the early 70's. It was the 1st year nurses first task every morning to strip & make the 48 beds in the dormitory wards. Bottom sheet was put in the linen skip, top sheet (if not obviously soiled) then became the bottom sheet, with a fresh top sheet. All corners had to be "hospital corners" but the top bedspread had to have the printed hospital insignia dead centre on the bed & the bed end hospital corners had to be gentle pulled downwards until they hung at a perfect 90degree angle to the bed. Matron would do a ward round each morning & they were the first thing she noticed as she entered the ward. God help you if they weren't done & perfect. These feats of perfect bed making, most often had to be achieved with the patient still in the bed as they were too ill to be sat out while you made their bed. I still do my beds exactly the same way, even turning the pillow openings towards the centre of our double bed. Now I think about it, a lot of my daily tasks are old learned routines that have never changed or let me down...... how I hang out my washing, instantly comes to mind.

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  14. Thank you Rhonda! Those hospital corners were evading me and I had no one to teach me how . The pictures really helped too.
    Kimx

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  15. Hi Rhonda just wondering what the workshop is you are running in Bathurst?
    Helen

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  16. Both my mother and stepmom could make a bed you could bounce a quarter off of. In fact, that was the test of a well-made bed. I failed so utterly and miserably each and every time. LOL Then I discovered the joy of Scandinavian bed-making. Flitted bottom sheet and nothing on top but the comforter. Shake it out and the bed's made. However, I still fold fitted sheets like a pro - flat and square and not bulging anywhere. I know every few people who were taught how to fold up a fitted sheet. Ah, I remember climbing into bed with my childhood cotton footie pajamas, the sheets all tucked in. It felt like a mother's love.

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  17. Surprisingly I was taught hospital corners during a stint as a hotel room cleaner, in the early 2000's. And this was basically a 'motel' in beachside Lorne - but the Manager then insisted on hospital corners!

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  18. Gosh, I remember learning this when I was 14! I did work experience in a lovely nursing home and they taught me how to make the beds properly in the morning...I have done it ever since when I make the beds....

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  19. Rhonda, I love your blog and follow every day....every other blog I look at for simple living has a link to you and mentions your ideas....I have loved most of them, but have to admit I can't believe people need advice on how to make a bed...keep it simple people....fresh crisp sheets is all you need for beautiful beds.

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  20. Good Morning Rhonda, one of the many enduring lessons my mother taught me and my siblings was the importance of making the bed and making it well each day It is something that has brought me much satisfaction and comfort over the 60 odd years of my life. My children now say it is the same for them.

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  21. Like Sue and Jo my mum was a nurse from the "old times". She taught me to make hospital corners when I was about 9 (over 50 years ago). I too, make the bed every morning and really enjoy getting into it each evening. I use top and bottom sheets, a blanket and a doona. Often when we visit people for an overnight stay, the bed has only a bottom sheet and a doona. Many nights of the year I only need a light covering and really miss a top sheet. Oh for the good old days.

    How is your foot, Rhonda?

    Lyn in Northern New South Wales.

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  22. This is such a fun post! Thank you for sharing the details of making the bed this way! I have found that if I get up early and make my bed it helps me start my day off right. Plus I always look forward to crawling in at night! Have a great day!

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  23. Such a lovely blog! The garden looks wonderful. Im so excited about following you . Hugs, Diane

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  24. Thank you for this! I've always wondered how to make a bed 'properly'.

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  25. Hospital corners....just the way my mother taught all us girls in the 50's to make our beds! But, now I don't tuck in my sheets at all. Thanks for the visual memory, Rhonda.

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  26. This has really made me smile, it has reminded me of how my granny makes her beds, I remember being taught how to make a bed properly but also remember granny making us an 'apple pie' bed! with the sheet tucked in at the top then folded back on itself so that it looks like a normally made bed but you try to get in and your feet get stuck half way down, such a funny trick!
    Thank you for the memories,
    Catherine x

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  27. Yep.....I used to make beds with hospital corners too but thank heavens now for fitted sheets. I am also so pleased to use duvets (doonas) now. When I think of all the pain to get my children to make their beds when they were young in the days of sheets and blankets and bedspreads. Now a fitted sheet and a duvet to tidy up and the bed is done.

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  28. When my sisters and I were little our favorite thing in the dress up box was my mums old nurses cape from her training days. It was fire engine red on the outside and a deep sea blue on the lining. It was incredibly heavy - I'm guessing it was wool. It must have been for arriving and leaving from work, I can't imagine they actually nursed in them!
    We too were taught to make beds with hospital corners and I still do it that way when I am putting clean sheets on the bed, every other day it's just a pull up job I'm afraid.

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  29. Oh, how interesting that so many of you prefer duvets rather than bedspreads. It is however, not surprising. We live in a university town and when we are away most often have graduate students in to housesit, take care of the cats, etc. They really don't know what to do with a bedspread----how to incorporate the pillows etc. They do try, but obviously just don't have a clue. I am having increasing trouble finding bedspreads of any kind since duvets and shams came to be the norm. And the ones that I do find are incredibly expensive! I'll be making my next bedspread when I change the drapes and paint colors in the bedroom.

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    Replies
    1. a 'pillow sham'. It's a 'formal' cover over a pillow. It usually matches the comforter/duvet. It's also the pillow that gets set on the floor (in my house at least) rather than the pillow that is slept on

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  30. I'm a bit late to join in with this chat but just wanted to add that nothing makes me appreciate the "luxury" of my western life more than a bed made nicely with fresh sheets. I am not a do-gooder by any means but I can't help thinking, every time, "Wow, I'm lucky to have fresh sheets. And a comfy bed. Guess I'm lucky to have a bed, actually." I honestly can't get into a bed made with line-dried sheets without that going through my head.
    Karen (Scotland)

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  31. also late to the conversation! An unmade bed is one of my pet peeves! I cannot tolerate an unmade bed! My husband has never complained about this *grin*

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