Falling in love with your closet

Yesterday I talked about the short-term benefit of Mise en Place: that immediate little burst of feeling good about doing something nice for your future self.

Today, I want to dive into the long-term benefit of Mise en Place. This long-term benefit should come with a big warning label:

WARNING! WARNING! The prolonged practice of Mise en Place may lead to: less need to shop for clothes, more satisfaction with your appearance, falling in love with your wardrobe and an overall sense of peace.

With five little minutes in the evening to plan for what you will wear the next day, you realize the bounty that you actually have. This, my friends, is the true magic of Mise en Place. (After all this lead up, you knew we would have to get there eventually, right?)

For me, reformed clothes horse, shopping addict, fashion follower, to be able to say that I am genuinely content with what I have in my closet right now, means that there had to have been magic involved. That magic was Mise en Place.

With repetition, this habit brought simplicity to my decision-making around what to wear. There are unlikely combinations that, with trial and error become foolproof feel-good outfits. I really believe it can do it for you, too!

Because the choices are made without haste, they can take into consideration a greater swath of the contents of your Wonderland (the fabulous name given to her closet by my Instafriend Britt). As superficial as this sentence might sound: wearing more of what you own brings deeper contentment. It is satisfying to feel like we are good stewards of what we own.

Case in Point

Remember this fabulous handknit mohair sweater?

I made it in 2004. For a very very long time, I considered it too pretty wear. It is admittedly nearly impossible to wear on its own, so a blouse is necessary underneath. I actually owned a white blouse (as I will explain later) and I thought this was the only solution. I hate wearing white blouses. Therefore, this pretty little thing got put away into a ziploc bag and forgotten about for…I am going to guess, conservatively, seven or eight years.

When I found it again while doing my closet inventory, I told myself I had to wear it or give it up. Ouch. I did not want to give it up. So I paired it with a denim shirt. Then I tried it with my other lighter chambray shirt.

And boom. This has become a Go-To combination. Regularly doing Mise en Place gave me a few minutes each day to actively think about how to put to work my too pretty to wear items. Now I wear this sweater, now I make memories in this sweater. Now I have random photos with my boys in this sweater. Now I love it even more than I did when I first made it. (Which is saying a lot!!)

Better than any other single piece of fashion advice

I am not one of those people who gives fashion advice. I could never give you a “Ten accessories you can’t live without” or “Thirty ways to style a white button-down” article. I am simply not naturally fashionable enough for that kind of responsibility.

My only fashion talents are that have an eye for beautiful clothes that make my heart tingle with delight, and a rather basic understanding of what looks passably good on me. Do you have these? Do you know what you like and a basic idea of what looks decent on you?

Then you do not need fashion advice.

I have read my fair share of those articles. I have, in the past, also succumbed to the temptation of buying an item that the author of the aforementioned article would have sworn was the accessory I couldn’t live without, or buying a white button-down, and then absolutely never touching the item in question once it was in my wardrobe. To this day, I insist on keeping around a white button-down blouse that I have maybe every worn twice, because apparently every single woman must have one.

Your wardrobe is as unique as you are

We talked a few days ago about how, very often, our clothes become more like souvenirs from our beach vacation than practical, everyday tools for not being naked and for feeling good about ourselves.

In much the same way, that white button-down or those bangle bracelets I bought because a fashion writer told me to became like a prescription medication that I kept in my medicine cabinet that had long outlived its usefulness. These were items someone told me I needed to have. Period.

Let me say something for you who needs to hear this: if you bought an item because you read about it in an article, but you never use it, it is okay to now, with some distance, discard (rehome or donate) that item. Do not feel like you must keep it “because I wasted money on it” or “this was supposed to make my life better.” Forgive yourself, thank the item and let it go.

(Will I take my own advice about this and discard my white blouse? We shall see…)

Contentment and satisfaction

As you know, I am not shopping this year and I am getting used to the idea that what I currently have in my closet could theoretically last me the rest of my life. The only limit to this would be my reptilian urge for something new (which this year is being relieved through refashioning items in my stash) and the fact that the workhorse elements of undergarments and socks are not eternal and really can only be mended so many times before they no longer serve their purpose.

I’m not saying that I will never buy another piece of clothing as long as I live. I love the idea of a thrift store too much to make such a foolish proclamation. However, through this experience, I have discovered the satisfaction of a deeper feeling of connection to the origin and lifecycle of my clothes that bringing home an armload of thrift haul never provided.

I want you to be content with what you own. You may have to tweak the methods to suit your situation and your lifestyle, but I firmly believe that practicing Mise en Place is a the single most impactful way to increase your contentment. It opens the door to self-love, self-forgiveness, self-esteem, all three of which are distorted, mangled and numbed by the constant addition of clothes to our wardrobe.

I know, I know. You are getting tired of hearing about this. As you can imagine, I am not getting tired of talking about it!!!!!

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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