Mise en Place: A love story

Mise en place: implementation or enactment; set-up or positioning; magical process by which you make your own life easier.

Dry Shampoo, whispered thank yous and rounds of diaper changes

Just the other night, I was counseling a very young woman who was about to have her second baby in less than eighteen months. Seeing as how I am something of a hardened veteran of the subject matter, I had plenty of (not unsolicited) advice.

Number one: invest in dry shampoo. Like ten bottles. Now. Before you need it. You have no idea when your next shower is going to be or when someone is going to drop by to “see the baby”. Seeing as how you will vaguely remember having had a shower maybe last week, dry shampoo will at least give you the impression of having made an effort to be presentable.

Number two: always think of changing diapers in terms of “rounds.” You will never just change one at a sitting, so just decide that everybody is going to get their diaper changed and make it a fun family activity. An eighteen month old, while slightly older a baby than a newborn, is going to be going through some major jealousy issues and need you to give him the same attention as the newborn. There will always be at least two diapers to be changed, sometimes three because by the time you have changed the second the first one will have found a way to have a blowout. This is baby science.

This is your life now. When your husband buys you a round, it means something entirely different.

Number three: in everything you do, think about how you can get Future You to whisper “thank you” to Current You. This might mean bringing an extra package baby wipes into the living room because you might be running low, and getting stuck with not enough baby wipes at the wrong time can mean the end of your rugs and furniture. It might mean bringing along an extra pair of extra socks (yes, that’s two extra pairs) everywhere you go because Future You will thank Current You. Take a towel with you everywhere, because slides and benches get wet. Spoil Future You.

Taking my own advice

Thank the good Lord in heaven, I now get regular showers and no longer have to change diapers. But the piece about taking care of Future Me? That is life-altering. In some ways, I was discovering the magical impact of mise en place before I really knew what it was.

In case you missed it, my Buy No Clothes in 2021 challenge comports a number of rules (they are rules I made up, so they are rather idiosyncratic.) One of them is that each evening, I must pick out my clothes for the next morning, with an addendum to that rule being that I needed to even think about the shoes so that I didn’t end up dressing like Peter Pan’s grandmother.

These little five minutes have become a sacred moment during which I think about the future. I go into my boudoir with my iPad. I check the weather and our family calendar for the next day. I think of what Future Me is going to need and then I provide for her.

Some nights, I’m tired and don’t want to think. So I go into my app where I have (thanks to another rule of my challenge) my Go-To Catalogue of tried and true, work every time outfits. I copy the outfit, getting out pants and shirt and sweater and socks and underwear. I take it all into the bathroom, where I get dressed in the morning. I hang it all up there.

Mise en Place on steroids

I get up very very very very very early in the morning. Like, my body naturally wakes up between three-thirty and four-thirty. On Sundays, sometimes, I can sleep in until five, but not every Sunday. My alarm rings at four (except on Sundays.)

Therefore, I am also an early-to-bed kinda gal. By the scalawags’ bedtime at eight PM, I am worn out. My own bedtime is nine. Between eight and nine, my indulgent husband and I have developed something I like to call the “Zombie Olympics.”

Usually, toys are already put away before bedtime. This is one small requirement we have of the scalawags. Anything left on the floor after bedtime will be taken away (and it will be…just only removed to our bedroom until we get tired of seeing it there and then return it to the rotation of toys, but shhh, don’t tell them!)

The events of the Zombie Olympics include: 1. washing any stray dishes and putting them away (we don’t have a dishwasher); 2. preparing the coffee pot so all we have to do is turn it on in the morning; 3.setting up my mobile “office” (a sidetable next to the couch) with my computer, a trivet (for the aforementioned coffee pot), a blanket and a candle; 4. scooping the kitty litter; 5. rolling my hair.

The Zombie Olympics have become a way for me to take care of Future Me. They are an investment in showing myself thoughtfulness and affection.

Gratuitous adorable scalawag photo

I know that in the morning, I will need that bottle the little scalawag drinks his apple juice out of, and sometimes rather urgently depending on how early he wakes up. Having it clean and where I can find is critical to having a smooth start to the day.

I know that I will need my first cup of coffee by five. Having everything set means I won’t be scooping out coffee grounds in the dark and making a bigger mess.

I know that my favorite part of the day is between four and seven AM, the only uninterrupted time of the day I have to work on my novels and other writing projects. Having my computer already set up means I can pick up and go.

I know that scooping the kitty litter will make my furry friends happier. Happy furry friends makes me happy.

I know that when my hair looks good, I feel more confident. I have a method for curling my hair that requires embarrassingly little effort but is more efficient for having good hair days than anything else I have found. So boom. Future Me is going to have great hair.

And then I settle into bed next to indulgent hubby who has performed in his own Zombie Decathlon and fall dead asleep.

What I know is that in the morning, when it is all very very very quiet, I will whisper a very quiet “Thank you” to myself for everything I did to make my own life easier. I will feel loved and cared for…and I will have done it for myself.

(PS: I started a Facebook group for people who want to stop shopping. If you struggle with this (hey, it’s hard!) or have some helpful experience in this, you are welcome to join!!)

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.

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