The culinary phrase mise en place doesn’t apply just to the kitchen. Meaning “put in place,” it refers to the habit of keeping one’s tools at the ready.

We are all chefs. We are all businesspeople, even if our business is just our own home. We prepare. We plan. We schedule. We serve. We present. And when the heat is on, and the guests are waiting, we must have the tools of our trade not only ready, but right at our fingertips.

How is your desk looking these days? How about your computer files and folders? Do you tend to put off tasks that require hunting down a particular file? There is good reason for that. Small annoyances like these sap us of our mental reserves.

You are a chef. Your restaurant is your office. Take the time you need to get it right.


When it comes to mise en place at home, there’s only one thing more important than having all your needed tools on hand. That thing is organization.

It’s a balance we are always trying to achieve: just the right amount of stuff, in exactly the right place. My friend and editor Mollie Player suggests keeping all of the backup items—stuff you won’t need for another month or so—in clear boxes in the garage. Not just those lamps and books you aren’t using, but all the little stuff, too: backup razors, shampoo, and other toiletries; backup cleaning products; winter clothing.

Your home is not a storage facility; it is sacred living space. The garage, or that one large closet or spare bedroom, can be the designated storage area so the rest of your home is completely clutter-free.


“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

– Marshall McLuhan


After getting all your tools organized and at the ready, even knolled if you like (something these IKEA drawers are perfect for), some say it’s actually a good to practice to leave a bit of unfinished work out for the next morning. Why? It is a visual cue to start right there—no procrastination involved.