It’s been a while since the office world was thrust into mass work from home situations. While some have returned to the office, a large number of folks have become permanently remote. There are definitely advantages to both, and organization is an important component to any workspace. But when it comes to home office organization, I find that the French concept of ‘mise en place’ is an especially useful concept to keep clutter from piling up in my workspace.
Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term that means ‘everything in its place.’ It typically refers to cooking, and creating a system that allows for maximum efficiency and cleanliness. Think of the last time you went to a teppanyaki grill. The chef typically comes out with a tray or cart loaded with everything they need, in the order they will cook it. The key factors in practicing mise en place in your own cooking practice include this same level of preparation:
- Have your recipe handy and have a plan in place for how you’re going to move through the recipe
- Gather together your equipment – utensils, ingredients, and dishes
- Wash, cut, prep and/or measure all of your ingredients, placing them in appropriately sized containers and blending what can be pre-blended (i.e. spices, some liquids, etc)
- Ready your cooking station with your ingredients accessible
Mise en place ensures that you’re expediently moving through a recipe. You’ll know right away if you’re missing anything instead of partway through a recipe, and it’s a great way to stay organized. That’s why professional kitchens use these principals as well as most TV cooking shows.
Integrating French Cooking Principles and Home Office Organization
So how does this inform home office organization?
Working from home can make it hard to separate these two spheres of being, particularly if your work space doubles as something else during non-work hours. It’s tempting enough to jump up and do laundry throughout the day. It’s equally tempting to eat lunch at your desk, leaving the dishes to the side. Or maybe grabbing a pen from your desk once… Twice… Until you can’t find one.
So, let’s take those mise en place principles and reapply them. Create a space for everything you need through the day, and take away what you don’t need.
Home Organization Mise en Place
- Make your plan. Just like starting a recipe, as you look at your workspace, what you do you need for your workday? For me, it’s simple: my computer, water bottle or coffee, notebook, pens, and Post Its. And that’s all I try to keep on top of my desk. My lotion is in a drawer, and my headphones are on a hook on the side where they can charge. Decide what you need, and remove everything else. You can add things back, but stick with the bare bones approach to start. I find it much harder to intentionally add more clutter this way.
- As you gather your equipment and decide on a layout, think about your particular workflow throughout the day. For example, I keep a coaster on my left side since I mouse with my right hand. The right side of my desk stays fairly clear since I’m mousing on that side. I keep my notebook by my monitor, and my favorite pen inside the notebook so it doesn’t roll out and so no one takes it off my desk. What sorts of things are necessary for your workflow?
- Prepping your personal home office organization means finding joy in your materials. Noted by Post It are by far my favorite Post Its. I indulge in Pilot G2 Extra Bold pens instead of regular Bic. Choose a chair that is aesthetically pleasing and comfy. Home office decor should be fun *and* functional!
- Readying your cooking – err, working – station with what you need to stay focused and on task. Look into a standing desk, or keep a block under your desk to rest your feet and to keep your hips level. Put a pillow behind your back to help with posture. Remember to stretch through the day.
Design Your Working Space
If you are on camera most of the day, take a peek behind you. While you’ve cleared your desk, you might have made a mess in other areas of your workspace. While some people can manage the bare shelves look, others cannot (sneaking my own hand up). Decorative bins or organizational crates are helpful to keep the detritus out of view of your Zoom. Add some plants, books, or other stationary items for some more color and personality.
What other suggestions or tips do you have for home office organization?