Plan What You Can, Roll with the Rest

A note from Lily:

I am thrilled to introduce you to another member of my family! Meet Daisy! Daisy joined our family in 1993 when she married my dad.

Daisy had two boys from her first marriage and ran her own graphic design firm. When she was getting started in her career, she probably never imagined that one day, she would come to set the bar for what it looked like to two teenage girls for a woman to have a family and be a businesswoman.

If there is anyone credible to talk about Mise en Place, after a lifetime of having demonstrated its worth as a concept, it’s Daisy.

That is why I am so happy that Daisy has agreed to share with us her practical and down-to-earth approach in her own words!

Life Hacks from before Life Hacks were a thing

This is Daisy!

What Lily calls Mise en Place is my lifelong approach to a “plan what you can, roll with the rest” philosophy.

Back when so-called “working moms” were the exception, we tried to make the balancing act of motherhood and career seem easy, so as to minimize criticism on both fronts. So it required what we now call life hacks.

For example: Sunday Night Sandwich Factory—making and stacking the week’s mainstay for brown-bag lunches. PB&J, cheese, ham, bologna, all ready to go in the freezer. Load ’em the night before, label everyone’s bags, add fruit and cookies, and line ‘em up in the fridge to grab and go in the a.m.

Check tomorrow’s weather and activities, set the alarm accordingly (longer commute due to snow?). Lay out the small person’s clothes, adding an extra set as you pre-load his tote bag (before backpacks were ubiquitous). Pull out the next day’s dinner menu or recipe, set out ingredients on the counter, ready for assembly when we all land at home hangry.

Never mind the forces that conspire to undo the best-laid morning plans. The snake (WTH?!) discovered in the basement while we were rushing out the door? Just pop a foam cooler over it, weigh it down with a carton of Coke so it’ll still be there awaiting its fate when we get home.

This is Daisy in a maternity dress she sewed herself.

Eight-year-old practical joker emptying out the hair spray bottle and replacing it with water on the first day of my new job: hilarious? Not so much, apparently to his surprise.  Attempt to arrive at work on time after a stop at day-care or the school bus, to greet colleagues who were never called “mom” during off hours, and try to appear unruffled.

But I digress. Back to mise en place, the wardrobe portion of the plan.

Sorting and organizing the current closet

Start with a collection you’ve sorted seasonally via a try-on session to assure they still fit (COVID 15# anyone?). Move aspirational sizes out so they don’t lurk accusingly while you do your closet shopping.

Separate clothes for recycling at the thrift store, where they are accepted if clean, ironed and on hangers. Non-recyclables go into a donation box. Beloved outgrowns transition temporarily to Size Purgatory, until such time as reality dictates they, too, must be rehomed.

Now, arrange what’s left as a colorized stock, something I learned decades ago as display designer at Marshall Fields (most fun and lowest paying job in my post-college career). Now you’re looking at a rainbow of clothes that fit, and choices are easier.

Don’t separate tops and bottoms. You wear them together, so hang them together. Maybe put all black winter slacks in front of black winter tops, but don’t make full, separated sections of slacks and tops because it takes longer to match them up.

If you can, hang a high and low rod in your closet—top for winter and bottom for summer. When spring temps drop unexpectedly, you won’t have to dig in a box for that prematurely retired sweater. If you’re lucky enough to have room for it, hang a separate single rod for longer items (dresses, coats), colorized as well.

What comes in and what goes out

I buy nothing that needs dry cleaning (except maybe a winter coat). Find out if you can actually hand wash those treasures you truly can’t resist. Having worked at a dry cleaner throughout high school, I now marvel that they stay in business.

Life transitions dictate wardrobe edits. When I retired, I kept career clothes way too long. Keep enough for the few times you’ll need them. Church? Funeral? Resist the evening wear and sundress racks at the thrift shop until you know you are actually going to a New Year’s eve soiree or patio party.

Practical application

Granny-nannying at 7 a.m. over an hour away? Mise en place to the rescue! Washable wearables laid out the night before with a change packed in case somebody spits up on you. Lunch and reading matter in the tote, plus mat and yoga clothes for class on the way home. Breakfast en route? Smoothie ingredients already in the blender cup, refrigerated and ready to spin up on your way out the door.

But wait..PANDEMIC!

Mise en place still works. Check the weather. A socially distanced hike? Zoom meetings? FaceTiming with the fam? Lay out comfort clothes including, as always, underwear, shoes/hiking boots/sandals, socks and purse.

(Which leads me to another off-ramp: how many purses does someone of my advanced age really need, when the same small cross-body version has worked the past 365+ days?)

No jewelry (earrings are a challenge with masks) or makeup tray needed these days. It’s a new, pared-down life (how do lipstick companies stay in business, BTW?). I try to look virtually presentable from the waist up, because who can really tell if it’s a black sweatshirt or a cashmere sweater if you throw on a colorful scarf?

But hey, maybe add a matching face mask to the ensemble. Or refashion a few new ones out of old wardrobe items…

For the rest of this week, we are going to be taking a detailed look at Daisy’s recipe for whipping our closet into Mise en Place-ready shape, starting tomorrow with a discussion of the actual closet space, Thursday a discussion of the Inventory. Then we’ll wax philosophical a bit, with a discussion of what our clothes mean to us at different stages of our life and how we can help ourselves transition to a new stage (and prevent stagnation in the stage we are in) by letting go of what we don’t need anymore.

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 (You are here)
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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