The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

My Latest Resolution: Clean While I Cook

Mis-en-place describes the preparation done...

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I've cribbed some of my favorite resolutions from other people, and when a thoughtful reader posted that one of her resolutions is to "Clean while I cook," I immediately decided to adopt that for my own.

"Clean while I cook" isn't just about cooking, of course. It's about cleaning up after myself along the way, instead of letting clutter and chores build up around me. I've always tried to push myself to behave this way, but for some reason, this formulation has really stuck in my mind.

For instance, I'm trying to follow "Clean while I cook" by also following the resolution to "Hang up clothes while I change clothes." I tend to throw clothes all over the bedroom as I change from one outfit to another, and to leave them there for a few days, and it looks very messy. I'm trying to do a better job of putting clothes away as soon as I take them off. My husband sets a good example here: he always puts his clothes away. (Except his socks. He leaves his dirty socks on the floor, but because I get a strange sense of satisfaction from putting clothes in the hamper, this doesn't bother me.)

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One advantage of the "Clean while I cook" approach is that instead of tackling one large task, I handle many small tasks, as they arise. It's all too easy to procrastinate with big tasks, and it feels much more manageable to cultivate the habit of doing smaller chores. As Anthony Trollope observed, "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."

It's helpful, too, to think about the resolution to "Clean while I cook" in relationship to the cooking term mis-en-place.

Mis-en-place describes the preparation done before starting the actual cooking: gathering ingredients and implements, chopping, measuring, and all the rest. Mis-en-place is preparation, but it’s also a state of mind; mis-en-place means you have everything at the ready, with no need to run out to the store or begin a frantic search for a sifter. You’re truly ready to begin to work.

I find that when I make the effort to prepare properly, and then to clean up after myself as I go, tasks proceed much more smoothly. And almost nothing is more satisfying than working easily and well.

How about you? Do you push yourself to clean while you cook—literally or metaphorically? Does it make a difference?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

* I'm having fun with the site Pinterest, which allows you to pin the images that interest you onto a board (get it? "pinterest"). Check out the site, check out my boards. If you'd like to get an invitation to join, just email me at gretchenrubin1@gretchenrubin.com, and I'll send you one.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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