Motherly wisdom you can apply at home

Do not speak with your mouth full. Stand up to shake hands. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

One of the benefits of being a mother is that you can give advice without being asked. It goes with the job. The same goes for interior design columnists. As a mother of two, stepmom of three, “glamma” at five, and home and lifestyle columnist, I’m a virtual source of unsolicited opinions.

You know where this leads, and you’re right. I’m going to abuse my position and the occasion of Mother’s Day to tell you what I think, and more specifically, to tell you what I’ve learned mostly in hard and painful ways over the decades, so may maybe you can avoid the same trouble.

After jotting down a few of my maxims for this column, I disturbed my two daughters in their twenties, who have endured my unsolicited advice longer than anyone else, and who are not only slightly scarred. I asked them to remember the advice I had baked into them. They delivered. The exercise proved a) that they heard me b) their memories are superior to mine, and c) everything that goes wrong in their life is my fault.

As the list grew, I was surprised – but why should I be? – to see how my advice on life, love, work and what to wear also applies to home design. Then I could never see the line between where home design stops and home living begins, because there is none.

So this Mother’s Day, please indulge my advice-giving nature and see if any of the following unsolicited advice is worth heeding.

They can’t win if you don’t play. The comparison game is cancer. Compete where it counts, maybe at school or work, but not where it doesn’t. You will always find someone who is faster, leaner, richer, prettier or smarter, who has a more luxurious car or a better house. And that only matters if you let it count. Those who want to dominate all they have over you cannot win if you don’t care, compare or compete. Make your home beautiful for you and those you live with, not to impress others.

Make up your mind in a moment of strength; don’t change it in a moment of weakness. When you decide to do something difficult, like quitting a job, ending a relationship, moving to a new city, or choosing a lipstick color or bathroom tile, think about it when you are calm and lucid. Consider the options and the ramifications. Then, once you’ve made up your mind, go. Don’t chicken out or back down when you feel that sour feeling in your stomach. It’s okay to be scared, but trust yourself and keep moving forward.

The closer something is to your body, the more pleasurable it should be. When I originally shared this advice with my daughters, I had underwear and pajamas in mind. (Don’t go cheap in these categories.) But the principle includes anything that touches you. This includes bras, boyfriends, and sheets.

On fashion: You can wear it short. You can wear low and you can wear tight. But you can’t wear everything at once. Choose one. It’s fun to be a girl and look attractive. It’s another to look trashy. In the design of the house, each room needs a point, a little pleasure for the eyes, like a touch of color, against a backdrop of restraint. When everything in a room says look at me, the room loses its appeal.

Make your bed every day. We’ve talked about this before, but this one habit allows you to start each day with a small achievement. It builds discipline and creates a sense of accomplishment that will carry over to the rest of your life. Trust me. While you’re there, pick up your clothes.

The good thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing. The good thing is to pass up that third brownie. The right thing is to politely listen to an older parent you disagree with and remain silent. The good thing is also to clean up what has accumulated in your closet or garage. Get rid of things that take up space and clutter your life. I know, it’s easier to close the mess door and watch Yellowstone or eat ice cream straight from the box. Do the hardest part. It builds character.

Take your time, as a task will expand to fill the time you have. Don’t let a project take longer than it deserves. Set your priorities and put your efforts where they count. Yes, keep the house, but don’t spend all your time fixing your house, or all your time working to pay for your house. Your home is meant to serve you, not the other way around. Spend your time wisely. That’s all you have.

Your job is to understand your gifts and use them to make the world a better place. I’ve told my kids this for as long as they can remember. And, by God, they heard me. Apparently my gift is giving unwanted advice. And so, if over the years, and maybe today, I’ve gotten you to live a little better, and a little prettier, hey, I’m just doing my job.

Oh, and here’s one last piece of advice: listen to your mother.

Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsize the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go”, “Downsize the Mixed Home – When Two Households Become One” and ” What to do with everything you Own to leave the legacy you want You can reach her at

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