Our Closets, Ourselves

What do the fashionista with a multi-room walk-in closet and undergarments to coordinate with every outfit, and the person living out of a suitcase with just enough clothes for this week have in common? They both wear clothes. Hopefully, you are probably somewhere between the options I suggested.

Since we agree on this rather simple premise, I am going to start building out my Closet Theory with a few more premises that I hope we can agree on: Our wardrobe (that is, the clothes that reside in the physical space of our closets and drawers) is very much a reflection of who we are. It is made up of purchases, hand-me-downs, gifts, freebies. Things we love and things we hate, things we love to wear and things we never wear. It represents our past and, in many many ways, it is aspirational.


Now, if you just read that paragraph and said, “False premise, Lily! I would never keep something I hate or something I never wear in my wardrobe,” then this series is probably not for you. You can come back for the more heavy-hitting unsolicited bad parenting advice in two weeks. (Note to self: write an article with bad parenting advice for publication in two weeks. We don’t want to lose any readers for good!)

But for the rest of us, who, when it is time to get dressed in the morning, can stand in front of a fully-stocked, overflowing closet, with some really nice things in it that we rarely, if ever actually wear, and still manage to whine, “I have nothing to wear,” these next two weeks are for us. (There will still be bad parenting advice for you, too. I promise. We’ll just have more fun along the way to get there.)

Closet Theory

I have a theory about our closets.

It goes something like this: Our wardrobe is the exteriorization of our thoughts about ourselves. It is the visual, tangible, wearable representation of our memories, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments and our grief.

Not later than yesterday, my four year-old son proved this theory for me: he’s in a tough transition between being a baby and being a big boy. He knows this…he is awkward, by turns independent and clingy. It came to a head yesterday when, my newly 100% diaper-free big boy got into the box where I store his baby souvenirs and wiggled into a onesie for an 18 month-old (which arrived at his belly button) and flopped around with his toes shoved into his first pair of baby shoes, wearing the little hat a friend knitted him that he wore as he left the delivery room. When this performance was over, he crawled into my lap and said, “I want to be a baby again. It’s too hard to be a big boy.”

This illustration is obvious, but it goes deep, and I’m willing to bet you do things like this too. I know I do! If you are willing to go there with me, then we are going to have a lot of fun over the next two weeks. It will be a mix of practical, down-to-earth examples of how Mise en Place has made some amazing women’s lives easier. It will also be a philosophical deep-dive into why we get our panties in a wad over a discarding a threadbare t-shirt from thirty years ago and why we keep jeans into which we will never again be able to even fit one of our thighs through the waistband.

Headspace/Heartspace Connection

Mise en Place, that magical practice of simply putting our clothes out in the evening for the next day, is going to help with the headspace issue we talked about yesterday. It will set you up to make one less relatively low-stakes decisions, which feels, by its very nature, urgent. Unless, naturally, you are going to your job at the welcome desk of your friendly neighborhood nudist resort.

An urgent low-stakes decision is about as unsatisfying a decision as any we have to make. It’s up there (for us non-foodie people) with “What’s for dinner?” and “Do I vacuum up this bag of rice that exploded on the floor or do I sweep it up?”

There are enough unexpected urgent decisions we have to make. So let’s make getting dressed a non-urgent decision.

By moving the clock back on the decision, to pre-bedtime for the next day (or even earlier, as we will see over the course of the series), we remove its urgency. When it is less urgent, we are in a better headspace.

Once we are in a better headspace, we make better decisions, decisions that are likelier to make us happy. A consequence of being in a better headspace is always being in a better heartspace.

Being content with what we own and loving ourselves can only flourish in a good heartspace.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: what I really want for you is to be content with what you own and love yourself for who you are today, not who you think you will be if you lost fifteen pounds or who you were ten years ago when you had your dream job. If we could just skip to that part, I would be so very happy. But some of us (ahem, me) require some elbow grease and support to make those things happen.

To kick things off, though, all I am asking you to do is to go pick out what you are going to wear tomorrow and put it in the place where you are going to get dressed in the morning. Just trust me.

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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