Looking for the perfect gift for person with everything? Help them honor the stuff — and family heirlooms — they already have

Looking for a unique gift idea that’s not just more clutter? Help your loved ones save the stories behind their family heirlooms, add texture and color to your family history and help conserve natural resources — all at the same time.

11/19/12 UPDATE: Would you like a special gift from Houstory (in addition to the gift mentioned below)? “Like” us on Facebook for a special offer, which we will make available soon!

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

I’m sure you know a person (probably more than one) who genuinely appears to have everything they need from a material goods standpoint. Both sets of my pre-Boomer parents fall into this category. Often, when you ask what they need from Santa, they honestly, sincerely and kindly tell you “nothing.” Because the truth is, we all reach a point — some much sooner than others — where we really don’t need more stuff. But do we listen? No.

We buy them something, perhaps out of guilt (which you already know is not a good reason), but more often because we genuinely feel love and affection for them. Exchanging gifts — even something very small, which they really don’t need (they told you!) — is one of the ways our culture expresses those feelings during the holiday season.

So, rather than fight the system, here’s a perfect, outside-the-box — and brand new — gift idea for 2012: Rather than buying them more stuff, help them honor some of the stuff they already have.

Show you care by helping them identify and share the stories of the things already in their lives that are genuinely meaningful to them (and probably to you as well), such as a family quilt; the dining room table that has been the center of family gatherings for generations; the cheap, funny looking lamp that your dad loves and your mom hates; family photos; a toy train; Bibles and scrapbooks — basically anything that might fall into the general category of a “family heirloom,” whose background and story make it more than just regular old stuff.

And while we understandably think The Heirloom Registry is an easy, simple and inexpensive way to accomplish this, we’re also on a two-part, nonprofit mission. And both are time-sensitive.

First, we want to stop the stories from disappearing. The interesting — and often magical — stories that can, for example, transform an otherwise ordinary, musical trinket into a priceless piece of family history, often disappear with the storyteller. And if its story disappears, the musical trinket — like Cinderalla at midnight —  changes back into just more stuff to get rid of at a garage sale — or to add to the already-stuffed landfill.

What a terrible, sometimes tragic, shame.

So, whether you permanently register the items on the Registry or not, please download the following free offline registry worksheet where your loved one can record the story of their most important things. They can just leave the completed form in the heirloom’s drawer or attach it to its underside where it can later be found. (It was such a wonderful note, written by my grandpa and left in his grandfather clock, that sparked the idea for The Heirloom Registry,  after all.) This is a simple gift from Houstory we sincerely hope you’ll use this year. Especially if it means preventing even one more story from being permanently lost.

Even better: Make it a stocking stuffer. And while the Christmas ham is baking, spend a wonderful hour with your folks or other gift recipient walking around their home, listening to their stories and taking notes. It is truly a special gift for everyone — and one that will keep on giving as future generations enjoy pieces of family history that they can actually touch. Safe from the landfill.

Which brings up the second part of our mission at The Heirloom Registry: natural resource conservation.

I’m a believer, but without question it has been my brother Dan’s passion about environmental issues and his unwavering commitment to growing a sustainable business that has guided much of Houstory’s growth and business philosophy.

We think of The Heirloom Registry as not only a useful, meaningful genealogy product, but also as a way to encourage better stewardship of the stuff we have. (And, if you think about it, our Home History Books — which tracks the story of what is usually our biggest heirloom — are just bigger, more beautiful versions of the stickers and plates we use with the Registry.)

The more you care about your stuff, the less you’ll probably want to replace it with something “new” and the more likely it avoids the landfill.

So this holiday season, give the perfect gift to the person who has everything. And feel great about it for years to come.