Challenge Rule 4: Mise en Place

A little bit of mise en place, anyone?

Hidden Brain radio show recently had an episode entitled Creatures of Habit, which tackled a subject about which I am passionate: making habits, breaking habits and the importance of routines and rituals. They took on topics of both how to build a good habit and how to break a bad one. (Both discussions were equally intriguing!)

In this episode of Hidden Brain, they discussed the practice of mise en place, which is French for ”to put in place”, but can also be accurately translated as “planning ahead”. It is a term which has been co-opted by the restaurant industry to mean that you get out all the ingredients and tools and pans you’ll need for the dish you are preparing. It makes the process easier: when everything is out and in place before you get started, you spend less time hunting for a peeler while onions are caramelizing.

Mise en place is a tried and true method for developing better habits. I have read about it in the writings of nearly all the habit and happiness researchers I follow, but I have also tried it. It works because it reduces the number of quick-turnaround decisions we have to make, thereby easing repetition of a task. Repetition is the way to build a habit.

When I have to quickly decide what I am going to wear in the morning, bleary eyed with two small children bellowing for attention, I inevitably have the feeling that I have nothing to wear. I’ll be standing in front of my clothes, but my thoughts are on the crowing scalawags searching through my bedside table for toys. I’m standing there, expecting some item of clothing to jump out at me. I feel like this takes forever and I am never satisfied with what I have chosen.

Case in Point: when what jumps out at you are the two brightest colors you own

On the other hand, in the evening, once the boys are in bed and things are quiet, I can stand peacefully in front of my closet and pick out an outfit that will be appropriate for the next day’s activities and feel pretty good about it. I put it in the bathroom, where I can hang it over the heater so it will be nice and warm when I get dressed in the morning.

In the morning, I don’t have to think. I just get dressed, knowing that a less bleary-eyed and distracted, more benevolent me planned my outfit for me. I will thank me for being so thoughtful. That is genuinely a nice way to start the day.

Key Performance Indicator

I want to practice mise en place every day with my wardrobe so that I don’t put myself in a position where I have to make split second, distracted decisions which make me feel like I have nothing to wear. (Or like a cancan girl.)

I would ideally every outfit to be planned the night before, but if I can’t make that happen, then I will rely on my Go-To Catalog from Challenge Rule 3.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

9 thoughts on “Challenge Rule 4: Mise en Place

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: