What I Learned from Mom

Green Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert with her mother-in-lawLeslie Reichert, shown here with her mother-in-law, goes to the pantry to find cleaning products instead of under the sink. Image: Green Cleaning Coach

Bequeathed to you: Motherly hits — and misses — that have made these ‘home’ writers and experts smarter home owners.

It’s Mother’s Day, and the best gift you can give Mom is three little words: You were right.

We asked home bloggers and experts to share the great advice Mom gave related to all things home. And, knowing that Mom isn’t perfect — just perfect for us — we also asked for words of wisdom that missed the mark.

Mom says: ‘Don’t try to do it all’

“My mother was a real perfectionist. She’d know if I walked on the carpet (and shouldn’t have). She gave me a respect for things looking right. But that’s also her worst advice, because no one can do it all well. As Erma Bombeck said, ‘House work, if you do it right, can kill you.’

So I focus on key rooms in the home — what my mom did once she started to lighten up. It’s what I call mini-tasking. Pick one project, like straightening up your closet, rather than overloading yourself with a long list. And focus on high-traffic, high-visibility rooms, especially where bacteria, mold, and mildew can grow.

Blend mini-tasks with everyday activities, like when you’re on the phone with Mom. Swipe and wipe door handles, the fridge door, the kitchen sink. I keep a box of Clorox wipes handy so I can grab and go.

Oh, one more tip to make cleaning, organizing, and other home tasks more doable: Enjoy a libation! (Of course not while you’re doing major home improvements.)” — Julie Edelman, The Accidental Housewife

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Mom says: ‘Wise DIY’

“Sometimes doing it yourself isn’t the best option. My mom did a lot of sewing and would decide whether something was worth seven hours of her time vs. buying it outright.

My husband and I paid a plumber $600 to install the plumbing (get the lines in, connect to our waste line) in a half bath. It would have taken us two months and still cost about $400 for tools and materials. I will never regret a penny of that. Instead, we did the DIY stuff we knew we could, like installing the sink and toilet.” — Cassity Kmetzsch, Remodelaholic

More: Home Maintenance Tasks: When to DIY and When to Do It Yourself

Mom says: ‘Keep it natural’

“I got many of the recipes for my green-cleaning products from my great-grandmother, who wrote down the things she remembered and treasured in her Bible, which was given to me when she died. My laundry soap recipe came from her.

But a great flip happened between my great-grandmother and my mother, who wouldn’t let us stay in the house when she cleaned because she was using commercial cleaners that were toxic. The generations went from one extreme to the other. My great grandmother was cleaning with things you can eat, and my mother was cleaning with things she knew were too dangerous for me to be around.

I’ve taught my kids to go to the pantry before they go under the sink to find a cleaner; to give the natural things a try and they’ll work better for you in the long run.” — Leslie Reichert, Green Cleaning Coach

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Mom says: ‘Prepare’

“The best advice I ever got from my mom about the home was simple: Do things right the first time. The payoff is in the preparation. She was always a big fan of getting books from the library when she didn’t know how to do something. These days you can just look online, but the idea is the same; learn the right way to do something before you start doing it. And when I’ve been lax in the prep work, the project has always taken longer, resulted in frustration, and cost more money.” — Alicia, Curbly

More: Lessons from Curbly’s DIY Backyard Paver Project

Mom says: ‘Use the right tools’

“Best advice my mother gave me was to always make the beds, because doing so will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and will keep you inspired throughout the day to attend to other household duties.

The worst advice I ever got was from my grandmother, who said butter in the refrigerator never goes bad.

Good advice I give my daughter and son is to always use the right tool for the job — advice I try to adhere to as I renovate my house.” — Jennifer Mcknight Trontz, author ofHome Economics

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Mom says: ‘Reuse!’

“My mom let me make my own decisions about my room when I was a kid. I’ll let my kids do the same. Having a small budget or no budget is a great way to get creative. When I was a kid, I built a side table out of 2x4s and stuck old pennies to it. I learned to reuse.” — Cassity Kmetzsch

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Compiled by Lisa Kaplan Gordon and Christina Hoffmann.

What home advice did your mom give you — good or bad?