Make Magic with Mise en Place

Mise en Place is easy. You pick out in advance the clothes you are going to wear. You put them in the place where you are going to get dressed. You go to bed. You get up in the morning and get dressed.

How can something so simple be so magical as to warrant an entire two weeks on the topic? The answer can be found in two words, one real and one made up: headspace and heartspace. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What is this magic you speak of?

Mise en Place is a term popularized by the restaurant industry, in which it refers to the process of getting out everything necessary for a recipe and “putting it in place” (which is what the French term actually means) before actually getting started cooking.

As I am not a very good cook (at the risk be corrected later by my family, full disclosure, I am an awful cook), I know the drama of making a birthday cake, and suddenly realizing that I forgot to put baking powder into the batter. Then, elbow deep in a now-full cake pan, I have to empty it back into the bowl, scrounge around in the cupboard for the baking powder (knowing full well that baking powder is a dry ingredient and probably won’t work as well if I mix it in once the eggs and milk are already mixed.

Sometimes, and this sadly has happened to me more than I would like to admit, I discover that I have no baking powder at all.

Then I have to pack everyone up in a huff, take them to the grocery store (you have been to a grocery store with a baby and a toddler, right?) get the baking powder and whatever else those little scalawags hold hostage, go home and start all over again.

Mise en Place would have revealed that I had no baking powder. At least the huff and the hostage situation could have been avoided, if not the trip to the grocery store.

Applications for Mise en Place

While this is useful in the kitchen, it is equally useful in other areas as well. With a little bit of Mise en Place, I, the usually haphazard crafter, can turn into an assembly-line sewing queen. By putting out my seam ripper, my scissors, my pins and not having to get up every single time I need something, I become more efficient. I will be less likely to have to break my flow.

(Oh, please, allow me this sidebar! If you are a creative, fly by the seat of your pants type and need convincing that Mise en Place could help you with anything, please just listen to Mr. Csíkszentmihályi’s Ted Talk about flow in creativity. The man is a genius. Sidebar closed.)

The beauty of Mise en Place is that decisions can be made calmly and without urgency, thereby saving emotional energy.

The benefits of making calm, unemotional decisions are long-ranging, but the ones I want to talk about are headspace and heartspace.

Defining real and made-up terms

My friends* over at Collins Dictionary define headspace as someone’s mental state. A second definition is the ability to think clearly. I don’t know about you, but pretty much any time I can think clearly feels like magic.

(Sidebar: some of the other definitions of headspace also seem intensely relevant to the discussion of Mise en Place, but I am trying to keep my infuriating circuitousness to a minimum. If you are intrigued, go read the other definitions!)

Heartspace is a word I’m pretty sure I made up, although Poppy told me that she read a book in which the term is used to represent something else. For our purposes, and to echo Collins’ definition, I would say heartspace is someone’s emotional state. It can also be defined as the ability to feel clearly. And truthfully, the ability to feel clearly, without second guessing our selves and without ambivalence towards our life decisions doesn’t just feel like magic. It is magic.

*The kind folks over at Collins Dictionary do not even know I exist. They would probably not agree that we are friends according to their primary definition. They would probably consider me more of a stalker.

Where are we going with this?

Decision making, for some of us, requires more thought than we have headspace for at any given moment. What we wear is a decision that impacts our heartspace, as well.

What we wear speaks to our feelings about our body, about our career, about our relationship status…all things that are decidedly linked to our emotional well-being and mental health.

I am going to propose, over the next two weeks, different ways to look at our closet and our habits around how we get dressed,. These will highlight just how important clothes really are, whether we are fashionistas or not, and how making one calm decision can save us fifty negative thoughts about ourselves.

The first step: before you go to bed tonight, take a few minutes when things are calm and pick out what you are going to wear tomorrow and put it in the space where you will get dressed.

That’s all I’m asking.

We’ll meet up tomorrow for the second part of The Magic of Mise en Place Tomorrow!


This article is part of a series called The Magic of Mise en Place

Part 1: Make Magic with Mise en Place
Part 2: Our Closets, Ourselves
Part 3: Stories from Poppy’s Closet
Part 4: Daisy’s Secrets to Rolling with the Rest
Part 5: The Boudoir
Part 6: The Inventory
Part 7: Mental Health and Mise en Place

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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