Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. When your physical world is chaotic, like ours is right now with baby supplies spilling out everywhere (see picture below), so is your mental world. And when your mental world is chaotic, like ours has become with the pandemic (and I’m guessing yours has too), so is your physical world. The two have a way of mirroring each other. And when both are wildly out of sorts, things have a way of feeling uncontrollably out of control.
A couple weeks ago, when the baby’s room looked like this, life felt wildly out of control. It looked chaotic and felt like it too. (Sorry about all the grumpiness, family.) Would we actually be able to organize 6 years of saved Hallie’s clothes to the point of usable for the baby? Would I be able to get the spruce green to agree with the basil and the sage green? Do we even have a spot to keep the diapers downstairs? Little did I know that this chaos was nothing compared to what was to come.
This post was created in a long term partnership with OXO, a brand that I’ve had in my home since day one of adulthood. I’m grateful for an ongoing partnership with a company that I buy with my own money, that makes my kitchen work so well, so well I’m leaning on their smart products for the baby.
While I had planned on writing this post about preparing for the baby, bringing calm to the chaos, and highlighting a smart little diaper caddy that fits snuggly on a shelf and goes where we need it to go with everything contained, I shifted the focus a bit to make this idea more applicable to what’s happening right now. Because I find myself grabbing the same kitchen wisdom that helped to organize the baby’s room is also helpful in bringing some calm to the chaos of our new normal with everyone at home. All the time. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too. It goes like this: Control what you can, in the healthiest way you can, because there’s lots you can’t control. And lean on the kitchen wisdom known as mise en place.
What is Mise en Place?
Mise en place means “everything in its place.” It’s a cooking method used in the space of the kitchen, where you get everything prepped and ready before starting on a recipe. It understands that physical readiness equates with mental readiness. The kitchen is cleaned. The vegetables are chopped. The herbs measured out. The oven is preheated and all the pans and cooking utensils are out. Everything is at-the-ready and in its place. So that when you start cooking, you can reach for things almost blindly and handle the unknowns. Because mise en place also understands that the unknowns are to be expected in the kitchen, in life. When you prepare and create space for them, you’re better equipped to handle them.
Imagine beginning a recipe with the heat on high and nothing at the ready. It’s the perfect recipe for chaos. It’s the best way to describe the state of things right now. Give yourself time to be human and then mise en place the best way you know how—in the baby’s room, the closet, the kitchen, and the family schedule.
How to use Mise en Place Outside the Kitchen
I borrowed the idea of mise en place from the kitchen, where our go-to OXO containers and tools have brought calm to our chaos. Now they’re here to help outside of the kitchen too. To accomplish this in the kitchen, check out The Minimalist Kitchen Course. However, it’s important to note that when supplies are limited and diminishing, like they are currently, this may not be the best time to pare down and organize.
1. Determine the needs.
Whether a room, a closet, a cabinet, or a schedule, list out all the individual needs. Take the baby room, for example. It needs to store clothes and toys. It needs to sleep a baby, rock a baby, change a diaper, etc. This exercise in determining the needs is deep and wide and can be applied to both physical and mental spaces.
2. Understand the capacity.
Everything has a capacity—from a schedule to a room to a jar. Get really realistic with what this space or your calendar can actually hold. Can it perform all your needs? Do you need to scale back or get extra creative within the confines? Remember, the goal is to achieve calm over chaos. Less (chaos) is more (calm).
3. Create zones to meet needs.
Give each need a zone, a physical place to exist—a place to change the diapers, a place to read, a place to think. This is the practical idea of creating physical boundaries, of compartmentalizing. This can also apply to the different mental spaces we live in. For example, let’s take news consumption during a pandemic. I’ve limited myself to catching up on the news in the evenings and not all throughout the day, like I was at first.
4. Give everything a home.
When you’re cooking, this home may look like a bowl or an OXO POP Container. In a room, it might look like a shelf or a bin or an OXO Tot Diaper Caddy. This will allow for easy retrieval and a place to put it back to when you’re done with it. I can’t think of a good reason to spend precious mental energy hunting for the non-precious things. (We’ve been working on helping a tiny 6-year-old do this in her room, considering both her capacity, her habits, and the capacity of her room.)
PS—This caddy has a spot for everything—for diapers, for our wipe dispenser that opens and dispenses one wipe at a time with a single hand, a wipeable and foldable changing mat, and a little drawer for other necessities like diaper cream. It easily moves room-to-room, which we’ll be doing a lot of at first as we figure out our new rhythm.
5. Get rid of the things you don’t need.
How do you get rid of anything right now? Well, maybe don’t. But here’s the thinking behind the excess and the extra: These are the things most often taking up space and impeding access to the necessary things. This might look like the thoughtful gift that you aren’t able to use or the overflow of extras spilling over, like diapers. Donate the gift and give the overflow a home, a designated space to live. Because as we’ve all learned, some back stock is beneficial, even crucial.
6. Unexpected chaos is to be expected.
Say that out loud a time or two. Unexpected chaos is to be expected. Mise en place is preparation for that. When you’ve created space in your physical and mental world to attend to the unexpected, well then, you have a bit of space to attend to it. It’s not perfect or fool-proof, but it’s space. And space is a precious resource.
I’m not sure what these next couple of weeks will look like for you, for me. I hope you find some calm in the chaos, a caddy for the diapers, and a bowl for the carrots while the heat is on higher than normal. Sending you my very best. If you have kitchen wisdoms that apply to other parts of life, I’ll take those too. I’m also happy to help troubleshoot some of these issues using mise en place with you. Leave a note in the comments. PS—if I don’t respond in a timely manner, I’ve gone into labor. PPS—I’ll be sharing more of the baby’s room soonish.