The Surprising Life Benefits of the Decorative Pillow

I despised decorative pillows.

Decorative pillows, those colorful, oddly shaped pillows that seemed to adorn the beds of every hotel I’ve been to, always confused me as to their function. Every time I encountered these colorful-yet-uncomfortable pillows I wondered,

“Is this a menu of pillows to select from?” 

“Are these special ergonomic pillows I’m not aware of?”

“Are these pillow fight pillows?”

black and grey bedspread on bed and pillow
Looks great, but what are all the pillows for? Photo by Pixabay on

As I learned the pillows were strictly decorative, I began to loathe the pillows. Upon every encounter of a decorative pillow I would viciously throw them off the bed. I even made a game out of it, “how many pillows can I throw off the bed with one swoop?”

Of course, to make matters worse I’d inevitably trip on one of the pillows as I stumbled out of bed in the mornings.

I began to loathe the pillows. Upon every encounter of a decorative pillow I would viciously throw them off the bed

Yet every morning, I make my bed and finish the task off with two decorative pillows arranged on top of my bed.

My disdain for decorative pillows turned to appreciation. But it wasn’t for their decorative benefits.

Start the Day With a Task Completed

I not only despised decorative pillows, but I also didn’t believe in making my bed in the mornings either. I preferred to squeeze every last second I could in bed instead of ‘wasting’ it on a seemingly useless chore.

However, a commencement speech by Admiral William McRaven inspired me to start making my bed in the morning. McRaven’s speech speaks of lessons learned from his days in Navy SEAL BUDS, the grueling training that ensures only the toughest make it to become a Navy SEAL. The first lesson from his speech comes from the simple task of making one’s bed in the morning.

Making the bed is a relatively simple and quick task, but it’s an accomplishment that sets the stage for the rest of the day. The satisfaction of a task completed adds a little momentum to keep things going, and may add just the right nudge to do something I might otherwise put off.

The satisfaction of a task completed adds a little momentum to keep things going

Starting the day with a bed made also means that no matter how the rest of the day goes, I’ll come home to a bed made. A made bed is a comforting welcome to a day’s end, and a small reminder to appreciate the small wins.

Lastly, making my bed has proven to be an effective deterrent against me hopping back into bed. I don’t consider myself a natural morning person, and I struggle to get out of bed. It’s not unusual for me to get out of bed, partially get ready, and then go right back into bed.

A well made bed, complete with decorative pillows, discourages me from climbing back in. As lazy as I may want to be, there’s no crawling back into a well made bed with decorative pillows on top. It’s like unwrapping a present immediately right after you’ve carefully wrapped it. You don’t.

Details Matter

For most of my life, I couldn’t even run a mile without exhausting myself. So when I decided to run my first (and still only) marathon I was incredibly nervous. For me, a marathon would consist of at least 4 hours of running and I knew from my training that over the course of a run spanning hours, numerous issues could occur. A slight crinkle in a sock, over the span of hours can cause painful blisters, causing at best a distraction and and at worst ending a run.

When race day came, there was virtually nothing I hadn’t checked and double checked. I had pre-run the course to understand what the terrain and major milestone markers would be. I mapped out my expected pace so I knew to maintain consistency and to not burn out. My shoes and clothing were all tested for comfort over hours of the same repetitive running motion. My food intake was planned for specific intervals, and my music playlist was designed to have the right songs playing at exact times for motivation (Journey’s “Don’t stop believing,” which I usually reserve for karaoke and dive bars, is a fun one at the right time).

With all details in place, I reduced the chance that something would detract from the real task at hand: mustering my mind and body to keep going for 26.2 miles. When I finally finished the race, I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had done everything I could to prepare and had given it my best effort.

Small details don’t seem to matter until they do. Sometimes a small detail can lead to big impact, or sometimes it’s the accumulation of small details over time that leads to something big.

Decorative pillows are for well, decoration. So if decorative pillows are hastily thrown about, or placed onto a bed not made properly, it defeats the purpose of the pillows. All details must be in place for a decorative pillow to properly perform its function. By finishing off my bed with the decorative pillows, it’s a subtle reminder that details matter.

If you don’t get the details right, often times you can’t get the bigger picture right.

If you don’t get the details right, often times you can’t get the bigger picture right.

Habits Build Excellence

I’m a big believer in setting things on “autopilot,” setting consistent default actions that lead to rewarding results. (I wrote a separate essay on how autopilot has helped me think less to do more)

With the simple act of making my bed and finishing with decorative pillows, I’ve set the stage for a rewarding day, nudged myself to be a little better than the day before, and have a reminder that details matter.

And if decorative pillows add aesthetic pleasure, I don’t mind.

I’ll just still toss them off a hotel bed.

The decorative pillow, from scorn to respect




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