The 4 Most Useful DIY Skills I Learned from My Mom

published Nov 27, 2019
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Credit: Guille Faingold/Stocksy

The holidays have me thinking a lot about family. One thing I’ve learned as a parent is that children learn a whole lot from observing the adults in their lives. In fact, the behaviors, interests, and skills we model for children are the ones that they’re most likely to adopt themselves even if some of it flies in the face of what we’re trying to advise them to do with our words. Funny how that works, right? 

When I was growing up, we had a massive DIY book collection that called the hallway shelf home. It’s entirely possible that it was this one. In theory, I could have learned an incredible amount about home DIY methods from those books, but what I actually absorbed the most quickly were the things I saw play out before me. 

One of the best qualities I inherited from my mother is resourcefulness, and she certainly does reign. This spilled over into all sorts of DIY territory when I was a kid. The spur-of-the-moment quick-fixes my mom could reliably pull out of thin air became solutions I pocketed as obvious and stored for future use, and for that I’m thankful. And because it’s the season of giving, let me pass them on to you, too.

Certain things should always be at home (and your car, if you have one)

Aside from at least a basic tool kit, don’t ever underestimate how wildly convenient it is to have other stuff around that you might need for an unforeseen fix. Whether you stow them all in their own DIY basket or a junk drawer, keeping these items around can save you a lot in time and stress. Think: duct tape, electrical tape, a sewing kit, markers in an expansive range of colors, stapler, safety pins, thumb tacks, command strips, tiny pliers, something like Goo Gone, rubbing alcohol, steel wool pads, baking soda, baby oil, and so many other things. (My mom used to put baby oil on the hinges of doors that were squeaky—worked like a charm every time!)

Always think outside the box

Don’t have a watering can for your garden? Poke some holes in the lid of a milk jug. Don’t have the budget for brand new curtains in the specific color you want? Sew them if you’re able. In any given problematic situation, there are usually solutions all around you. When you allow yourself to believe that there’s only one fix for a problem (and it’s often the obvious and conventional fix people get attached to), ways to fix that problem will be less clear for you. My mom showed me how to meet every tactical problem with an open mind and willingness to explore an array of responses to it.

Plan ahead to save a headache

The success of a lot of DIYs come down to being prepared. If you paint your walls a new color, keep that leftover paint for touch-ups. Otherwise, you’re asking for a color-matching headache in the future. If a certain appliance has a warranty or manual, keep those things all in the same place so you can quickly find and reference them if there’s a problem.

If you’re lighting a candle from a distance, do it the easy way

The easy way? By lighting an uncooked spaghetti strand and using that. It’s the most useful lesson Mom’s ever taught me!