White Friday anyone? Try an Alternative to Stuff This Holiday Season

By Mike and Dan Hiestand, The Houstory Brothers


no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Instead of waking up earlier and earlier on Black Friday (or increasingly never going to bed as more stores compete to open their doors first), battling the traffic and fighting the crowds for more stuff, what if you gave White Friday a try instead?

For the past few years, we’ve run our “No More Stuff” holiday campaign that encourages people to re-think the relationship they have with the objects and things that surround them before they head out shopping for things they may not really need or even truly want.

This year, we’re giving the campaign an official kickoff day — the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, we know we have some competition — so we’re calling ours White Friday.

Here’s how White Friday works: You sleep in as long as you need to. You sip your tea or coffee and bask in the memories of family and Thanksgiving the day before. Maybe you have a bit of breakfast. And then — when you’re ready — you take a leisurely stroll around the house taking notice of — and being grateful for — a few of the important pieces of “stuff” you already have. Maybe it’s an old family clock. Or a table that’s hosted family gatherings (such as dinner the day before). Or a treasured family photo. Or a special family cookbook. Or the crazy doo-dad sitting on the shelf that’s been in your life for as long as you can remember. And you write down their stories. (We call the things that you choose “heirlooms” here at The Heirloom Registry — but it’s really anything — old/new, expensive or “price-less” — that holds meaning for you.)

If you’re traveling and you’re waking up at your folks’ house (or grandparents’ — or some other relative) all the better! Let them choose the things that are important and whose stories they feel are worth sharing. You walk around with them, listen and take some notes. Maybe snap a photo or two of your family member in front of things he/she is talking about.

Here’s what I promise:

  1. You will learn something memorable you didn’t know before.
  2. You will smile.
  3. In years to come, you (and your family) will appreciate this simple gift more than almost anything else you could buy at 4 am.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated

To make it easy, we are gifting you this free, downloadable form that will help you collect some of the more pertinent information. When you finish you can simply attach the form to the back of the “heirloom” or file it with your important documents.

You can also try out The Heirloom Registry — for free — by signing up this holiday season for a complimentary registration number when you visit our Web site. (If you want to get a bit more fancy by ordering a permanent registration label or plate, we can help you with that.) But you don’t need to.

The important thing is that you do it. Because the stories of our family heirlooms usually disappear with our family members. And an heirloom without a story is — as we say — just more stuff.

We know it might sound crazy. And if you still really need that digital bathroom scale for the insanely low price of $9.99 by all means — go for it! (We need stuff, too.) Heck, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mixture of both Black and White Friday. A Shade of Grey Friday works.

But be the change you want to see in the world, right? We’d like a world that  makes room for a White Friday.

And we’d like to sleep in.

Happy Holidays!

Mike and Dan


Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff


Houstory Herd: A Magic Treehouse

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory President


“All treehouses are sort of magic, don’t you think?”

I’m having pizza with Karen LaVerne, sitting in her treehouse, outside Bellingham, Wash., and I have to admit, lit up with candles on this beautiful fall night, a bit of a mist settling into the woods outside, this place feels very, very magical indeed.

“This place has that feeling for me,” Karen continues. “Pretty much everything in here has a story, has some meaning.”

And though I’d just come to have dinner and catch up with my friend, I knew it was time to put on my home historian hat and get out my notebook. Because, like all homes, it occurred to me that every tree house also has a story. And this one sounded like it would be a good one.

Karen tells me that she and her husband Peter moved into their main home in 1992. That home — which has its own impressive history — sits on about 5 acres, most of which is heavily wooded, There are only a few paths disturbing the natural setting, which includes soaring old growth maple and cedar trees.

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Houstory Herd: ‘Origins’ Podcast

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

On this this third episode of “Houstories: The Stories of Home” podcast (entitled “Origins”), we pack up for a weekend trip. Not just any trip, though: My first hunting trip. Initially, my goal is to discover the origins of the food I eat by going to the source (in this case small game in Central Oregon). However, along the way, I discover the origins of a unique family cabin constructed with nearly 100 percent recycled materials!

A shell casing near the homestead.

A shell casing near the homestead.

Sense a theme here? Make sure to check out the pictures later in this post to see images from a very interesting weekend.



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Happy Birthday Houstory!

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder/President

So I’m filling in this month as my brother Dan takes a well-earned summer break from the Herd.

Dan will return in the fall to remind you that you’re going to die — yes, it could be next week — and yes, a living obituary is a wonderful idea and loving gift for those you leave behind.

[Shameless Promotion: So is snapping a few pics with your smart phone and spending 15 minutes with your dad while he tells you the story of that interesting knick-knack that has sat on his shelf for as long as you can remember. It’s a part of his life and he’s around to tell you about it now. (Do it. Just do it!. We’ll even give you a free registration to get you started.) That is all.]

houstory, heirloom registry, birthday, home history book


As substitute editor, however, I thought I would take a break from Dan’s healthy and important DeathTalk to do a little celebrating.

Yes, Houstory officially turned 8 years old in June. Unofficially, we’re closer to 9 years old as the company was actually “born” the night of October 29, 2006. (In my my hot tub. Keep reading for details….)

houstory, heirloom registry, home history book, birthday


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Houstory Herd: Our Podcast Schedule

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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So we’ve been getting a few questions regarding our podcast. Specifically, how often episodes will be produced and when they will be released.

We are planning on coming out with new episodes about once every three months (quarterly). The next episode is scheduled for early-mid September 2015. On a related note, we are happy that we’ve gotten good reviews so far, and really do appreciate the kind words! If you like what you hear and you have a spare moment, would you mind giving us a good review on iTunes


And please, let us know if you have a family heirloom or house with a story. Or maybe you know someone else with these types of stories? We’d love to chat with you (or them) on our podcast. Your words may inspire others to save the stories that are so important to family history.

P.S.: Good news! There is still time to enter our multiple contests (if you are reading this before June 1, 2015). For more details on how to win, visit last month’s Herd.



archive family photos, family curator, houstory, family tree magazine

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Houstory Herd: Place and Family History

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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So I belong to a local Toastmasters group in Eugene, Oregon. I joined the club to work on my communication skills (giving speeches, making presentations, producing podcasts, etc.).

The meeting allows members a chance to speak on a variety of topics in an effort to improve, and one subject that was recently presented to me was this biggie: “What is your favorite place in the world.” Well, I could list off a lot of places I love, but the one that came to mind was a location that held an important place in my family history called Granite Creek Campgroundnear Anchorage, Alaska. It was an oasis for me growing up, a campground that brings back memories of catching my first fish and action-packed getaways with my family.

houstory, heirloom registry, home history book, houstories, podcast, family heirloom, house history, family history, Klamath Falls, Oregon,

Dan and Dad in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

To me, I remember Granite Creek felt like home. If you want to know more about me and my life path, you need to know about Granite Creek and its importance in my personal history.

The second episode of our new Houstories podcast examines a similar concept: What places do you connect with family history? For this episode, we travel to Klamath Falls, Oregon., to delve deeper into the topic. That’s where I have a chance find out a little bit more about what makes my dad tick. How? He lived there 60-plus years ago as a little kid, and I recently joined him and his brother (my Uncle John) on a journey to learn a little bit more about their connection to the area.

In this episode, my brother Mike and I also chat about one woman’s unique and humorous approach to preserving her legacy in the face of battling a terminal illness.

Finally, we ask Allison Dolan of Family Tree Magazine penetrating questions about life outside of genealogy, including the longest she has gone without bathing. (Thank you for being a good sport, Allison!)

Allison Dolan, family tree magazine, houstory

Allison Dolan

Yes, it is mostly fun and games at Houstory. Speaking of games, Allison has graciously offered to give away Denise Levenick’s new book, “How to Archive Family Photos.” If it is anything like her outstanding book, “How to Archive Family Keepsakes,” you will learn much from The Family Curator.

To enter the drawing for a chance to win her book, send us an email at info (at) houstory.com telling us who taught Dan’s dad to play basketball. [Hint 1: The answer is in the podcast!] [Hint 2: It’s between the 12:12 — 15:15 minute mark.] Winner will be randomly selected from among the correct entries. One entry per person, please. Final entries due May 31.

And for those of you who want to start saving your stories of home, send us your obituary. Yes, you heard that correctly.

Give us one paragraph telling us what you liked to do while you were alive (hobbies, interests, etc.). Yes, your living obituary — just like the one I penned for my father-in-law. If we read your words on air during our next podcast, we will send you a pack of Heirloom Registry labels so you can preserve and pass on the stories of your family heirlooms. Send those entries to info (at) houstory (dot) com. (If you just want to inspire others, but would prefer we not use your real name when reading it, let us know.)

Finally, make sure to check out the links we mentioned in the podcast with our Herd stories at the end of this post, as well as photos of Dan’s Klamath Falls trip. And of course listen to the podcast, too.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Houstory Herd: We Want HouStories

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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Do you own a family heirloom with an interesting story? Do you live in a house that has a compelling history? Would you like to share these tales and other related HouStories with others?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, we need to talk.

uncle sam, house history, family heirlooms

We’d appreciate the opportunity to connect with you about the possibility of making your story a part of our new podcast. In case you didn’t hear, episode 1 of the podcast was unveiled a few weeks ago, and No. 2 is on the way shortly. In the meantime, we want to line up some good stories for future episodes.

Why should you do this? Your story can help inspire other Houstorians to preserve and share their own houstories. I can’t tell you how many times I hear our customers and supporters say: “Boy, that is a great idea. I should document and share the stories behind my house and family heirlooms.”

And then they put it off, forget about it and wish they had done so later. Your words may help others to take a few precious moments to save those stories.

Drop us a line to talk about that old Craftsman home that your mom and dad bought during the Depression, or chat about Uncle Theo’s rocking chair or Grandma Patty’s quilt. Shoot us an e-mail at info (at) houstory (dot) com, or hit us up at our Facebook, Google+ (Home History Book & Heirloom Registry) or Twitter accounts. We hope to hear from some of you.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Houstory Herd: Cabin Fever Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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It’s hard not to feel bad for our U.S. eastern seaboard readers, who are currently buried under piles of snow, enduring frigid temperatures and likely experiencing cranky moods — and perhaps at touch of cabin fever. I grew up in Alaska, so I can relate.

I still remember the sun coming up around 10 a.m, and sinking below the frozen horizon just a short five to six hours later during the dead of winter in Anchorage. And of course we had snow. In fact, this state of affairs — which started in late October and continued well into April, sometimes later — literally made people want to kill themselves.

Hopefully, you’re not quite at that point yet. Rather, I hope you’re taking advantage of your cabin fever to work on family history projects. Here’s an idea: Take some time to document your family heirlooms. And do you have kids? Then take time to properly designate who gets what when you are no longer around.

All snow and no documentation of family heirlooms makes Jack a foolish boy. ( Courtesy of 'The Shining', 1980; Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Got a little case of cabin fever? All work and no documentation of family heirlooms makes Jack a foolish boy. (Photo source: ‘The Shining’, 1980; Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

You might as well be productive with all that extra energy, don’t you think? If it makes you feel any better, I had to wear a light jacket because it was only 61 degrees today in Oregon at the beach. Brrrr!!!

Get a leg up on your legacy while the cold – or something else – keeps you inside. (Photo source: ‘Misery’, 1990; Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment; Nelson Entertainment & Columbia Pictures)


What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. Basically, the things you’ve come to expect when you visit our blog.

This is where you come in: If you see stories you think would make our monthly collection, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

Author: Nicole Anzia, Special to The Washington Post & DelawareOnline.com

TitleHow seniors and families can cut the clutter

Herd-Worthy Because: “We have all picked up an old black-and-white photo at some point and been unable to identify the people staring back at us. We’re left wishing we had asked someone who knew when we had the chance. The same goes for that piece of artwork, jewelry or furniture. Learning the history of items makes it easier to decide whether to keep or discard them.” Yep. And keep those stories attached to the heirlooms by labeling them and registering them online.



TitleL.B. Antiques sells quality pieces with interesting back stories

Herd-Worthy Because: “Many times the back story adds more value because people love hearing about the how and when the antique was used throughout history.” If you live in Minnesota, give them a visit. I know we will. Right after we visit Matt’s Bar for a “Juicy Lucy.” Ever had one? Genius baby! Genius!


Author: Curbed, by Jenny Xie

TitleStudents Scraped Together a Small, Functional House for $489

Herd-Worthy Because: “Everything we used was on its way to the landfill…” Inspiring on multiple levels. Whether it’s re-purposing your unused family heirlooms or unused lumber in the garage, I challenge you to look around your own house, and imagine how these items can be utilized in a creative and useful way.


Until we “Herd” again…

Introducing ‘Houstories’ Podcast

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

When was the last time you poured yourself a nice beverage, settled into a comfortable chair, turned off all the lights, closed your eyes … and turned on the radio? There is something truly powerful and wonderful about this oft overlooked medium of yesteryear.

houstories, podcast, house history, family heirloom

Mike (top) and Dan: The Houstory Brothers. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.

In many ways, radio broadcasts free us of the boundaries that television and more visual mediums inherently create. Much like reading books devoid of pictures and art, radio allows us to use our imagination. When you listen to a ballgame, you can imagine what the player looks like when they slide into second base. Or when you tune into a radio mystery, it’s your choice whether the murderer has a mustache or not, or is dark-haired or bald.

Imagination is truly freedom to create entire worlds.

Today, Houstory is proud to introduce the first episode of “Houstories: The Stories of Home” podcast (SEE BELOW TO PLAY FROM ON-PAGE PLAYER). For those of you who don’t know what a podcast is, I think the easiest explanation is this: radio played over your computer (as opposed to, well, your radio). Have a topic you are interested in? There is most likely a podcast about it — including ours.

A description of our podcast: “Ever noticed a house and wondered what it would say if its walls could talk? Been in an antique store and tried to imagine where the object had been previously? This podcast is for you and the voices in your head. Brothers Mike and Dan, founders of Houstory and maker of The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book, are your hosts. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.”

You can listen below.

For a quick tutorial on what podcasts are and how to access them, check out this video (done by Ira Glass for the incredibly popular “Serial” podcast) for a little more information. It’s kind of awesome.

We are very proud of this effort. However, like any new endeavor, it may take a few episodes to get out the kinks and find our “voice.” Rest assured, we will. I hope you take a few minutes to give it a shot, and then to let us know what you think.

Keep in mind we can only improve with your feedback.


1:41 – 13:06: Dan interviews Mike about the origins of The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book archival journal, as well as the podcast format.

13:06-30:47: Gamwell House Feature

30:55-37:18: 5 Questions with Thomas MacEntee

In case you have a fever and the only prescription is more Gamwell House information, scroll to the bottom of the page for 20 more minutes of bonus audio on this beautiful historic home.

Finally, a favor or three:

1) If you like our podcast, please share the link of this Web page with your friends and sign up to subscribe to Houstories by simply adding your e-mail address next to the podcast feed logo (see below for what it looks like) on the sidebar of this blog. 

podcast, houstories

2) Leave us a comment. We need to hear from you if we are going to continue this effort, so speak up Houstory Nation!

3) If you like what you hear, give us a good review on iTunes

Thanks, and hope you enjoy!

Gamwell House, house history, Bellingham, Washington

Gamwell House front door

BONUS: Gamwell House Audio. 


Houstory Herd: Death and Tea Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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Have you ever sat down with a small group of people — strangers, actually — over a warm cup of tea and a slice of delicious cake, and talked about death?

Well, after last week, I can check this off my (kick the) bucket list. I attended my first “Death Cafe,” a worldwide “social franchise” movement that started several years ago. The group I participated in included about 30 people who were there to talk about anything and everything that had to do with death and dying. As someone representing The Heirloom Registry, one topic included family inheritance — an important part of the death process.

dementia, houstory

Source: The New York Times

A future blog post will be dedicated to this important movement, which is very much in line with what Houstory stands for: planning for the future and protecting your family by preparing for the inevitable now.

During my Cafe experience, I was part of a smaller, four-person breakout group that talked about death for more than an hour — specifically on advanced directives and end-of-life medical decisions. We actually had to pause the roundtable just as we were getting started, but it initiated a very healthy conversation.

In fact, earlier today, one participant of the group (a stranger no more) e-mailed me this recent New York Times story that discussed the complexities of having dementia and facing end of life decisions. The common theme to all of this: plan for your “finish line” scenario now. After all, death is always toughest on those who are left behind.

Check out the Death Cafe Web site to find out about groups near you.

Now, on to The Herd….

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. Basically, the things you’ve come to expect when you visit our blog.

This is where you come in: If you see stories you think would make our monthly collection, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

Author: Marla Jo Fisher, Orange County Register

TitleGrandpa’s old radio leads to intriguing questions about family history

Herd-Worthy BecauseAfter my grandparents passed away, my other relatives went through their tiny clapboard house like a pack of ravening wolves, taking everything of value. But they ignored the radio, probably sensing it was nearly worthless.”


Author: Matt Gurney, National Post

TitleMatt Gurney: A solution to the hard cull of family heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “(The solution) struck me as a thoroughly 21st century solution to the problem; effectively, you outsource the emotional impact to someone who won’t feel it the same way that you would.


Author: Catherine E. Shoichet, MarketWatch

Title1795 time capsule opened, centuries after Revere and Adams buried it

Herd-Worthy BecauseMore than 200 years after Samuel Adams and Paul Revere first buried it in Boston, it took an hour to remove all the objects crammed inside a tiny time capsule.


Author: Anna Rumer, Times Recorder

TitlePair preserving history one memory at a time

Herd-Worthy Because: “Sometimes, however, because of their size or location, smaller pieces of history can be overlooked. But people such as Nancy Ranck and Mary Flanagan are refusing to let those things pass them by…”


House History

Author: Megan Turchey, Times Recorder

Title3D Laser Technology Recreates Historic Homes

Herd-Worthy BecauseThe Paul Revere House in the North End has already used their 3D model to do renovations on the house, keeping it as authentic as possible.


Author: Justine Hofherr, Boston.com

TitleStaff Book Picks: What Makes a House a Home?

Herd-Worthy Because: “Some of our choices are practical – about construction or decoration. Others are non-fiction narratives about building or creating a home. And we threw in a few fiction stories in which characters struggle with their own ideas of home.”


Until we “Herd” again…