How Working in a Professional Kitchen Has Made Me Better at Doing Laundry (and Cleaning!) at Home

published Sep 7, 2021
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Chef washing dish
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Today as I was doing the laundry, I realized I was using the principle of mise en place to keep my task on track, something I practice while working in professional kitchens. It’s well-known as a way to prepare for cooking, but I’ve found it’s the perfect tool for keeping everything at home running smoothly.

Mise en place — also shortened to “mise” or “miz” — is the French expression for “everything in its place” and it’s the first thing we learned in cooking school. What is it? Think of those cooking videos where all the food is nicely chopped and in sweet little bowls before any of the cooking happens. It’s about having a plan and being prepared (aesthetics optional).

It’s been quite a few years since I graduated from cooking school, but I still practice mise en place in my kitchen today. I like knowing I’m not going to stumble over things, and that I’ll always know if I have enough of an ingredient before I start cooking. I read the recipe, and I get set up. I don’t have to suddenly go digging for something in a drawer, because I’ll already have it on hand. And those benefits translate easily to the laundry, the dishes, or anything else you take care of at home.

Mise en place is 50 percent common sense and 50 percent practice. The longer you do it, the more it becomes an automatic mindset and almost a philosophy for keeping your whole life organized. 

“Mise en place is a life motto, whether in the kitchen or just day-to-day,” says Leah Conner, a chef in Oregon City, Oregon. “You prepare to succeed. Put things in place, make a plan, know what you want to accomplish then ignite the fire and more forward with execution”

Credit: Sarah Crowley

4 Steps of Mise en Place You Can Do Before You Clean

The process is easy enough. There are four steps to accomplish before you start to do anything.

1. Visualize the task

If the goal is a clean bathroom, think about what it takes to accomplish that effort. Spend a moment picturing yourself doing the task in your mind. Yes, finding time and a clear mind for this step is easier said than done in a busy home, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try. Think of it like mediation.

2. Make a list of the steps, and the tools they require

A quick run through of the steps and tools is a great way to prepare to do any task. You don’t have to actually write anything out on paper, but do go over the steps and tools in your mind. (If you do write it out, you can keep that list on hand every time you go back to do the same thing.) Whether mental or physical, the list is key to mise en place.

3. Pull out everything you’re going to need. 

If you’re half way through a cake recipe and realize you don’t have flour, you won’t be having cake. Same with cleaning. You need your tools and equipment out and at the ready before you even start. Revisit your list of tools and drag out everything you’re going to need to do the task, from step one until it’s done. 

4. Make sure your workspace is in good shape and everything is arranged in a logical order

Look around at the space. Move anything that doesn’t need to be there and blocks your flow. That might mean clearing counters and removing decorative items. You want free movement. Then you can arrange your tools or ingredients around you in a way that makes sense. Laying out your work like an assembly line can be helpful if you have room.

It might seem like a lot of work just to get started on a chore, but I promise it will save time in the long run, by keeping your cleaning running smoothly. Is life distracting? Will the cat come in and do something so cute you have to post it online immediately? Sure. But mise en place can help get you re-focused whenever you’re ready.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

What “Mise en Place” Cleaning Looks Like

So how exactly do you mise the laundry? As with any other task, first, you need to visualize what you’re trying to accomplish. In this case, that’s clean laundry that’s folded or hung up and put away.

Then think about the spaces you’ll be using. Will you be folding the laundry in the bedroom? Then go make the bed before you even start. Will you be carrying everything to a laundromat? Look through your laundry caddy and have it full and ready before you leave (soap, quarters, lingerie bags, whatever). Do you dry your clothes on a line? Go check the weather report and gather your clothespins. This way you’ll have everything ready so you aren’t distracted or scrambling as you go through the process.

When it comes to doing dishes, the goal is clean, dry dishes that are put back in their spots. So you’ll need to start with a clean sink. Have your sponge or scrub brush ready. Empty the dishwasher. Make sure you have dry towels, and your apron on. Have the drying space cleared.

If the idea of mise-en-place-ing your cleaning feels overwhelming, it’s ok to decide it’s not for you. The goal is feeling confident and in control of your household tasks. 

“Setting a positive and optimistic view is part of my mental mise en place,” says Sarah Leavell, a Chef Instructor in Tulsa. “I physically mise en place for everything in my daily life from home repair projects like painting and sewing to literally everything.” 

When something needs to be done, get prepared first and the work will get easier. Then go post those cute cat pictures.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: How Working in a Professional Kitchen Helps Me Clean (and Do Laundry!) Better at Home