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13 Old Adages That Still Hold Up for DIYers

Parents and grandparents have a knack for passing on their wisdom, often in the form of sayings that you rolled your eyes at as a child and have all but forgotten as an adult. While certain adages deserve to be retired (think "here's looking at you" and the all-too-creepy "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite"), others are still impactful and important to live by. We decided to dust off the list of grandma's adages to give you the ones we think are most important for DIYers such as yourself, plus a few new ones to add to the list!

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

There’s a reason this message persists in tech school and apprentice classrooms. Wasting time and money is never fun, especially when it requires you to make a drive to the closest hardware store just because you weren’t patient enough! Measure twice, perhaps even thrice if you’re prone to mistakes, and you’ll be all the more happy that you took extra care. Check out this collection of 19 classic handy tool tips and tricks.

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Less is More

While this saying can be applied to anything from how much spice to put in your chili to how much fragrance to spritz, its best use is for your home projects. Never underestimate what you can create with limited resources! By following a budget of less, you can easily create a home that looks expensive. With a focus on paring down instead of sizing up, you can create an oasis you never knew you needed. Keep this adage as a reminder that you likely have enough exactly where you’re at right now.

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Design is in the Details

While everyone can complete a DIY project, not just anyone can make it stand out from the rest. If you’re one of those folks who likes to be distinct, then remember that details make a big difference. Whether it’s the one piece of art that completes a room or the groove in a bench that makes the perfect seat, it takes special attention to achieve a unique result.

An easy way to add details to your home now is to make some simple upgrades. If you have a favorite workbench, step up its use with these upgrades. Upgrades are where the details, and the magic, happen.

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A Good Craftsperson Never Blames the Tools

Most professionals can tell you multiple tales of the times when they used a different tool than what they were supposed to use to finish a task. To them, in almost every scenario, there’s a tool that can get the job done. The next time you’re working on a project and you get a little sense of dread when you can’t find the tool you’re “supposed” to use, take a deep breath and find a way to utilize what’s around you. Try one of these 65 tool hacks as a start.

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Work Smarter, Not Harder

No matter what your task of the moment is, there’s likely a way to make it easier for yourself by finding the cleverest approach. Budget time in your projects and tasks to read up on the best way to get things done – you’ll be grateful that you did once you get things done faster than you’d thought and with an end-product you’re proud of. And yes, you thought right, Family Handyman is usually your first place to find the best approach to every project!

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If You Have to Buy More Stuff for Your Stuff, You May Have too Much Stuff

When The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing hit shelves, people everywhere started declaring their distaste for stuff and their love for minimalism. But let’s be honest… it’s not so easy to get rid of ALL of your stuff. For those of you that still have a lot of things, create simple storage solutions to keep it organized. Or, tackle your clutter with these ingenious strategies. If you still have loads of stuff, maybe it’s time to donate, recycle, upcycle or throw it in the trash.

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One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

The next time you pass a garage sale or surplus store, give yourself 15 minutes to peruse the gem that can be created by others’ discards. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen, redecorating your living room, or making someone a handmade gift, use your creative eye and handy work to turn the ugly ducking into a swan (so to speak). When you pass a $1 book section, consider grabbing a small pile and creating one of these useful items. Or, when next you stumble across ordinary things that people toss, turn them into something extraordinary.

The next time you want to throw away your own things, think again! Never throw away these 100 items because they have a multitude of uses.

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Don’t Learn Safety by Accident

It’s easy to make mistakes. Sometimes, it’s almost too easy to get distracted or careless when you’re working on a project for longer than 30 minutes. Prevent joining the group of folks who trade stories of when they almost lost a finger/fell off a ladder/got electrocuted etc. by following some basic safety tips for DIYers.

If you’re working solo, follow these rules of thumb.

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Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Most DIYers reach a point when they have to find a contractor to do a portion of the work and the process of finding the right one can be oh-so cumbersome. Give yourself time to be certain that you’re making the right choice. The last thing you want is to be 60% of the way along and kicking yourself that you made your decision too quickly! Be sure to ask the right questions of each contractor you speak with. Keep records of all your interactions so that, ultimately, you can make a confident choice.

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Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well

Sure, there are times that you’ll try doing something just for fun. It serves as your test run—the time the “try everything once” adage takes over. But if you’ve decided to really put your DIY skills to task, you’ll need to account for time, resources, and the skills needed to make it look amazing. Even if you grind your teeth when certain steps in the process go wrong, celebrate knowing that, in the end, it’ll all be worth it. If you’re planning to paint, make it look amazing with these best-kept secrets of the pros.

Something as simple as cleaning can improve with these pro tips.

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A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

While a penny seems to have very little worth in today’s world, a bunch of pennies can be a glorious cushion for your budget! Sometimes, you need to splurge on the right materials and tools but other times it pays to think economically. One of the simplest ways to save is using smart tactics that will make your stuff last longer. Remember, the more pennies you save, the more you have to spend when it matters most!

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Never Half-Ass Two Things. Whole-Ass One Thing

Okay, this is not technically an old adage. It’s a quote from Parks and Recreation’s character Ron Swanson that holds a powerful message for all DIYers. It’s easy to look around your home and create a laundry list of projects to take on. The problem with that is, soon that list will go off in a million directions, becoming longer with every additional moment there is for ideation. Do yourself a favor and go through the list, one by one. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the midst of multiple projects, surrounded by mess and stress, impatiently tapping your foot at what hasn’t been done but stuck at what decision to make next. Get realistic about what can be done and when, and dive into the project head first with 100% certainty you’ll finish it before moving on to the next.

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Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

In every project, something is bound to go wrong. And while your instinct after your fifth failed attempt to do something may not be to cry, it could be to gripe/groan/sigh/exclaim in exasperation. Instead of getting frustrated, turn to these 25 products that every DIYer should have to find a suitable solution.

Hannah Louise
I help people tell stories, whether that's about themselves, their company, or their product. Every project I take on has one priority: make sure the audience connects with the content. I've fine-tuned this skill over the past decade by creating content for audiences from C-suites to new hires in organizations large and small. I launched my career as a generational keynote speaker (think dispelling myths about Millennials/Xers/Boomers) and worked my way to being a principal of a consulting firm and published author by writing, presenting, and editing books, blogs, white papers, and research analysis. I bring my values of collaboration, humility, and research-driven strategies to everything I do. I'm also a cat owner, coffee enthusiast, and new home owner (you know, your stereotypical Millennial traits.)