Survival of the fittest in a land of fitted sheets

Posted 9/9/18

“The fact that I scrunched my fitted sheets into a ball and shoved them into the linen closet didn’t even register a blip on my radar screen. Now, I keep the linen closet door firmly closed in …

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Survival of the fittest in a land of fitted sheets


In recent years I’ve come to realize the world is divided into two groups: those who know how to fold fitted sheets and those who do not.

I count myself among the latter.

I’m not proud of it. But, I’m no longer in denial. As I am told, such admission is the first of many steps toward rehabilitation.

Popeye might have said it best when he coined, “I am what I am.” 

I wish I could be more like my soulmate, Love Muffin. She is among the gifted. She can fold fitted sheets. And they come out looking like … folded sheets. Like little rectangles, they emerge from her intricate finger-work prettier than a Christmas package.

She knows where to put this corner, and how to pin it against another corner with thumb and forefinger, and then crease the fabric with a slip of the hand using the lightest of touch. The corners are perfect right angles. No wrinkles. No worries. No problem.

But, don't cry for me. I have tried.

Once I stood there, analyzing her technique. It personified poetry in motion, regardless of thread count. My mistake was not trying it myself on the spot. Like a typically overconfident male, I decided I could repeat her steps the next time … on my own, without adult supervision.

“So that’s all there is to it?” I queried. “Piece’a cake. I got this.”

“You want to try it, just for some practice?” she asked. “We can undo what I’ve done with this one, give it several shakes and let you give it a go from scratch.”

“No need to scratch,” I assured her. “There is no itch. Just this corner to that corner, and a fold, and another fold, and maybe a third … and presto change-o, a fitted sheet creased like it just came out of JCPenney.”

Beaming with confidence, I’m pretty sure I vowed to make Martha Stewart proud. As I understand it, the queen of domestic drudgery has deftly demonstrated this time-tested technique on TV and in magazines for centuries … uh, decades.

Surely, I could do the same.

Like a Super Bowl trophy, I could envision a day hoisting my folded fitted sheet — symmetrically-correct from corner to corner, and balanced perfectly atop the equally as flawless flat sheet — high in the air as a symbol of linen greatness.

We males are so naïve … especially the married kind.

Little time passed until my opportunity to shine. Love Muffin had trekked into the city for a Saturday morning of retail, leaving me at home to handle the start of weekend chores … the presumed least among them being the changing of sheets, the laundry and yes, the folding.

In spite of 10 man-thumbs and a dexterity rivaling dry cement, I’ve reined terror on flat sheets for years. Regardless of their degree of wrinkle or their range in size, I long ago mastered the standard corner-to-corner, end-to-end and chin-to-waist approach. I’m pretty good with bath towels, as well.

On this day, and as a boost to my confidence, I folded the flat sheet first. No biggie: Wrinkle-free with corners like a box. Staring into the pile of remaining linen atop the dryer, I ignored the pillowcases. In the land of cotton, they were the cupcake of fabric among experienced folders.

Humoring my mettle, I folded them anyway. And I yawned twice in the doing.

Placing them atop the peerless folds of the flat sheet, I knew my time of reckoning had finally arrived.

Reaching for the fitted nemesis, I scowled at its wrinkles. Unable to identify even the first corner among the mass of curves and air-filled puffs, I lifted the loose bundle and shook. The semblance of a corner drooped to my ankles.

“Ah-ha!” I roared. “There you are!”

The remaining three would follow, I reasoned. I was wrong. Lost somewhere deep in this heap of bedtime cover were three accomplices.

I shook again. And then again.

A second emerged, and that’s all I needed. Pinching the two together with finger and thumb, the remaining bundle just hung, suspended in mid-air like a hornet’s nest between unseen limbs. 

Wrong corners. These were not compatible. 

Another shake, and then another. The heap seemed to grow. One hand even disappeared. Wiggling my fingers, a section of sheet danced before me. Now assured the hand still breathed, I scanned the ball of fabric for a third corner.

With veiled smile, I found it lurking behind a strip of elastic … the heinous material that gave rise to the imagination of an evil genius who once believed rounded corners were good.

Reaching for this newest discovery with right hand, the left hand lost its grip, allowing the first corner to slip back into a twilight of textile.

“Rats!” Actually, I might not have said “rats.”

Facing the chaos of a third corner held precariously in one hand, and three corners lost to the winds, I pondered a fix. There was none.

So, I started over.

Pinching two more corners together, I frowned. Something wasn’t right. More incompatibles. Releasing one, I grabbed for another. It seemed better. I folded. Bad fold. Too lumpy. I folded again. Lumpy again. It looked nothing like Love Muffin’s.

With a sigh, followed by a deep breath, I tried again.

More incompatibles. All were bad corners. This fitted sheet was defective. Besides, it wasn’t even the same one she had demonstrated with. 

Glancing from ceiling to floor and from wall to wall, I spied no hidden cameras. Suspicion eliminated.

Yet, this wad from fabric hell stared in open defiance.

So, I did what a man must do. Taking the half-folded sheet to my chest, I squeezed out the air with arms and elbows. Another fold, another squeeze. A third fold, a final hug. The bundle was flat … ugly, but flat.

Today’s wrinkles will disappear tomorrow when the sheet is spread tightly across the mattress, I surmised. Only I, Love Muffin and Martha will know the truth.

Besides, in the world of man, truth lies in many shades of grey. And its corners are never curved.


(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at


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