May I Recommend: At-Home Turndown Service

It’s the little gift I give myself before bed each night.

Turndown service illustration for May I Recommend series
Leo Medrano

It might have been the hotel bedding that inspired me to begin offering turndown service in my own home.

"Turndown service" is a term used in the hospitality industry to refer to a set of small favors performed for guests by hotel staff in the evenings. At its most basic, turndown service involves turning down the bed linens. That typically means removing the heavy top covering and turning corners of the sheets and remaining blankets down at a right angle, so that the top side of the sheet is parallel to the side of the mattress, allowing guests to slide easily into bed.

At its most luxurious, turndown service can also include closing of the drapes or shades, putting on soft music, spraying pillows with a lavender mist, setting out a pair of slippers beside the bed, and a host of other thoughtful niceties. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous piece of chocolate left just-so atop the pillow.

In my own home, turndown service is mostly a matter of closing the curtains and turning back the covers in the evening — the music and the mists aren't things I've incorporated into my bedtime routine, but I might! Still — every night, like clockwork, I fold the covers back at a 90-degree angle before I perform my ablutions, tidy up my home, and change into pajamas. As I mentioned, I no longer recall the exact origin of this ritual, but it is one I greatly enjoy; I think of it as a little luxury I offer to myself.

At times in my life, turndown service held a more practical purpose: As a married woman, I typically went to sleep earlier than my husband, and the turndown service helped to minimize the disturbing of my precious slumber. Also, it was a small kindness, and small kindnesses go a long way in a marriage. (Obviously not a long enough way, as I am now happily divorced.) Special occasions, too, were an opportunity to up my game; it was not uncommon for a chocolate, usually a Baci, to turn up on the pillow on Christmas Eve, or on a birthday. It was a perfect indulgence: Low-cost, low-effort, big reward.

These days, I find myself performing two turndowns a day. There's the traditional evening turndown service that I offer myself, usually before I take a before-bed shower or bath. It's nice to return to my bedroom to find the pillows arranged in the precise formation required to prop me up while I watch Bravo to unwind. (I find the screaming of Housewives soothing, and I have no explanation to offer you to defend it.)

In the morning, too, there is another turndown of sorts. As an early riser who works from home, I often spend the first few hours of the day — we're talking from, like 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. sitting up in bed, writing, and drinking coffee. And as an ever-so-slightly compulsive person, which is sort of a requirement of the job when you're a cleaning expert, I cannot stand a messy bed. So! When I return to the bedroom with that first cup of coffee, the covers are straightened and turned down just so, which is my way of signaling to myself that the workday has begun.

What started as a quirky little thing I did because it amused me has turned into a critical part of my day; while it may seem inconsequential or like a waste of time, there are real benefits to my turndown ritual. And even if there weren't, I would still do it just because I like it! Highly recommend.