A Mom lesson I teach my kids: Leave Things Better Than How You Found Them

Jan 17, 2019

I love teaching my kids life lessons our family has passed down from generations. One lesson my mom always taught me was to respect other’s property, clean up after myself, and be a responsible citizen that took care of its own city, community, home, friend’s home, and public places. I have applied it to so many aspects in my life.

I may not have always been able to leave every hotel room I stayed at better than when I arrived. Those are actually the one place where a mom can finally place towels on the floor and not have to make her bed.

But as I teach my kids, we always try and treat places with respect no matter whose home or place I’m at.

I like to apply this principle to the houses we have owned, the cars we have bought, places we have rented. When I borrow something from someone.

I have particularly loved to apply this principle with our homes.

When David and I first got married and lived in our condo, I remember we walked in and I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe this was going to be our home. We had rented another place prior, and this was the first place we owned, but it had been rented for years and needed SO MUCH TLC.

I remember the look on our friend’s face the first time they saw it. I could tell they were almost kind of sad for us we had landed in such a place.

It was so filthy we thought we were going to need to replace the windows, carpet, the cabinets, toilets, and vanities.

Then we got to work. We painted the walls. We took down the door and I repainted them one by one. I developed temporary arthritis on my thumb from painting so much.

I remember I had to use undiluted calcium remover straight on our windows because they had so much damage from hard water on them.

One night my husband sanded down all the cabinets and over the course of a few weeks I stained them a nice darker cherry color. Yeah, we didn’t know much about the current styles, but we picked cool colors. We did do purple for our bathroom at first, and that looked like a photo development lab, so we changed that real fast and went for a sunny yellow.

We took down the blinds and I cleaned them for hours one by one. We replaced the toilet and sinks. We went at it until every single corner of that place was scrubbed and clean and looked brand new again.

I drew a floorplan of the condo as well, which was very awkward, and drew exactly what I was going to do with the space and which pieces of furniture I would have liked and where.

We made that place home and all for $1000 bucks and that included even new appliances in the kitchen.

I can honestly say that we took something and treated it well and left it better than we found it. In the end it actually paid off really well. I remember that we rented that place for 150$ extra a month, after moving out, compared to the rents that were being collected before in that complex. For us that was quite a bit considering that we were newly weds and both students.

I often say this to my kids too. Because we own our own businesses I remind them all the time when we go to other places, to remember to treat things with care and act as if they were their own. 

I can honestly say that this principle has helped us so much in our lives. In Italy they say: “Don’t spit on the plate where you eat.” This means not to use something and then go back and mistreat the same thing that once helped you. Or not to mistreat what could help you in the future.  That’s what I think of when it comes to using an item or place.

This principle doesn’t just apply to a  place or an object. People also are relationships worth sharing. Sometimes we think we will never encounter a person again or have to deal with them. After all we encounter many strangers on a day to day basis. Especially in a large city.  By leaving things in good terms and doing things well I have found that I can rest assure that I did my part and showed gratefulness for who once crossed my path, or hopefully even helped me. I have ran into people many times 10-15 years down the line. You never know who will become a person in your day to day life more than once.

Life has a way of bringing things back around other the years. We will thank ourselves if we were cordial and kind and thought long term with things, people, and relationships.

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Serena Essuman


Serena Essuman

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