The Houstory Herd: ‘Seeking Family Heirloom Stories’ Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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Do you know of someone who owns a family heirloom with an interesting story? As you know, family heirlooms can take many different shapes and sizes, and monetary value often plays little or no role in the item’s designation as a family keepsake.  If you were to take even five minutes to look around your home, I guarantee you could find several items you hold onto solely because of sentimental value and story. One way to make this determination: what would you take with you if your home was burning?

With all this mind, I have a favor to ask of our readers this month: We are creating a new, professionally produced podcast that will tell the stories behind family heirlooms. But to tell these stories, we need your stories.

 

family heirloom, keepsake

Collectibles are often sentimentally valuable, but not always financially so. (Photo: FOR FLORIDA TODAY )

Can you help us spread the word? Our mission is to preserve the stories behind as many family heirlooms (and houses) as possible, and to make sure they are not only documented but also accessible to the future.

And this all starts with you.

If you hear of or have stories you think might make the grade, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

 

online poll by Opinion Stage

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 in the recent past that our fellow Houstorians would likely 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

Natural Resource

Author: Story of Stuff

Title: “Sailing Past Plastic” – Podcast

Herd-Worthy Because: How do we end the, “take, make, waste cycle”? The Story of Stuff podcast, “The Good Stuff,” tries to answer this very question. On this episode: An interesting conversation about consumerism and one man sailing the seas on a journey to battle plastic pollution.

 

Author: Detroit Free Press

TitleWhen floods ruin family keepsakes, you can still hold on to the memories

Herd-Worthy Because: When disaster mixes with family keepsakes, the results can be tough pills to swallow. “How do you put a value on the things that hold memories? To most, that sewing machine looks old and uninteresting, with a replacement value of a few dollars. To me, it’s invaluable.”

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Author: Referred by NGS

Title: “Soup to Nuts: Tracing family history via great-great-grandmother’s skillets

Herd-Worthy Because: One woman’s reflections on her great-great grandmother’s keepsakes, and their place in her family history. “I’ll cook with them knowing that I am only their temporary caretaker. Some day, I’ll pass along the skillets – and the stories – to one of my nieces, and it’ll be her turn to ensure that the memory of these strong women lives on.”

 

Author: Florida Today

Title: “Care, communication key to deciding on keepsakes when loved one dies

Herd-Worthy Because: “It’s important, because this is the very thing that can tear a family apart — fighting over the one thing everybody thinks they should have.” Sad, but very true. Plan now so you don’t have to later.

 

Author: Referred by NGS

Title: “Saving New York’s Neighborhood History One Interview at a Time

Herd-Worthy Because: A very cool oral history project to save the legacy and stories of a quickly changing city of vibrant neighborhoods. How are you saving the stories behind your city, neighborhood, home and family?

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Until we “Herd” again…

The Houstory Herd – August 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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You know you are getting old when you start referring to folks  as “young people.” (Actually, you might achieve that designation when you start writing, “folks” in blog posts, too.) Well, I guess I’m getting kind of old because today I’m going to write a little bit about young people and their role in the world of historic preservation.

For some reason, over the past month I’ve seen a slew of stories about the younger generation getting involved with historic preservation projects. As a fan of history — especially history in my own back yard — I love seeing the younger generation take an active interest in the past. To me, that curiosity is something that carries over into many areas of life.

By my estimation, if you are curious to hear about how grandma and grandpa first met, then you are likely pretty curious about lots of other things, such as local politics, world news and the general notion of staying active and making a difference in your community.

To me, curiosity and an effort to understand our history — at whatever scale — is among our greatest virtues.

Take a 14-year-old preservationist by the name of Bridget Brady. Bridget was among a handful of kids who devoted a large chunk of their summer to saving a 167-year-old mansion in Massachusetts. Talk about an inspiring story. It reaffirmed my belief that not every person under the age of 18  is glued to a smart phone 24-7 (although, I do think many are). In fact, some kids are not only offline, they are plugged into the community around them.

 

Vancouver Columbian, house history, washington state

College students have been carefully excavating at Fort Vancouver in Washington state. Photo Credit: Vancouver Columbian

This notion that young people (see, I’m still old) simply don’t care about history got me thinking: What can we do to help inspire the younger generation to care? Taking it a step further, what have you done to help your kids care?

At Houstory, it’s no secret that we primarily focus on saving family history through family heirlooms and house history, which explains our question this week. We would encourage you to sit down, and talk to your kids. Tell them about the things that matter to you. You might be surprised by the results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Take the poll below, and let us know what you think.

 

online poll by Opinion Stage

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 in the recent past that our fellow Houstorians would likely be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability issues. 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

HERD-Sustainability

Author: CBC Radio (#WasteWarrior, @DrTorahKachur)

TitleWhat a Waste: Waste Warriors

Herd-Worthy Because: “If you’ve found space junk in your yard, make kindling out of orange rinds or cure your own urine, we want to hear your story!” A radio series about reducing waste. Aside from the cured urine, we’re on board!

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HERD-FamilyHeirlooms

Author: Ecns.cn

TitleFiguring out history of family heirlooms in Shanghai

Herd-Worthy Because: “There were 109 (figurines) in all, invariably 10 to 12 centimeters in height. But Macaux could not trace their origins, until something caught his eye.It was a label on the trunk, written in French, that read “Orphelinat de Tu Se We, Shanghai,” — the Orphanage of Tu Se We, Shanghai. A date followed: June 23, 1938.”

A story, a label. The Heirloom Registry says, “yes!”

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Author: The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

TitleNew life for the family heirloom: Decorative painters help passed-down furniture blend with today’s taste

Herd-Worthy Because: Great ideas for folks looking to revamp awkward family heirlooms. 

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Author: Miami Herald

TitleCuban immigrants share precious family heirlooms to show history of Cuban exiles

Herd-Worthy Because: Memories of a life since past, experienced through heirlooms of all kinds. “These are not only memories but items of everyday use when Cuba existed as a nation…[These shirts] were on the streets of Havana. They lived there.”

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Author: The Sydney Morning Herald (Contributed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society)

Title: “Foster kids to get digital ‘memory box’ to store their precious keepsakes

Herd-Worthy Because: Read this one if you have time.

To help store the keepsakes of the state’s 18,000 children in foster care, leading child welfare agency Barnardos Australia has developed a digital ‘memory box.'” 

What a great and important concept to protect the memories and family histories of our most vulnerable.

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Author: The Emporia Gazette (Referred by the New England Historic Genealogical Society)

TitleOne heck of a hand-me-down: 1928 Model A Ford passed to fifth generation

Herd-Worthy Because: The story behind a 1928 Model A Ford that has trickled down through the same family since it was bought fresh off of the assembly line.

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HERD-FamilyHistory,etc.

Author: The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

TitleFarewell to my great-grandpa’s house, and my sort-of history

Herd-Worthy Because: An interesting — and honest — account of the author’s ties to his grandfather’s central Pennsylvania home. The author discovers how sometimes one’s connection to a place sounds better on paper than it actually feels in real life and how part of honoring a connection is sometimes letting go of it.

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Author: The Cheerful Word

TitleWhy your stories are worth telling: Part 1” 

Herd-Worthy Because:  As the author explains, “You may know your mother or father from a child’s perspective, though you are all now adults, but you may not know much about your parents as the rest of the world experiences them.”

A short piece that discusses collecting and sharing family stories, which the author notes, 86% of boomers (age 48-66) and 74% of elders (age 72+) agree that are the most important aspect of their legacy. 

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Author: Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

TitleAn Obituary Begins With “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

Herd-Worthy Because: At 70-year old Joanna Scarpitti’s request, her family wrote her obituary with the first line being a quote from the Wizard of Oz.

Which, of course, got me (and other commenters) thinking about what famous line I’d like to open my obituary….

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HERD-HouseHistory

Author: The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

TitleHouse’s history dug up

Herd-Worthy Because: Another example of young people getting involved in preserving the past.

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Author: Richmond BizSense (Richmond, Va.)

TitleThe historic old house lady

Herd-Worthy Because: A Virginia realtor known as the “historic old house lady” talks about the market for historic homes and the challenge of finding the “unique buyer” who “understands old houses, appreciates the history of it and… wants to be a good steward of it.”

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Author: English Chinese News Service

TitleHistoric house partly demolished ‘by mistake

Herd-Worthy Because: “Honey, did you remember to hold the mail and the newspaper?” Yes Dear. “Did you remember to give the neighbor a key a leave the lamp on the auto timer?” Yes Dear. “Oh, and did you notify the city not to demolish the house while we are away?”

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Author: PreservationNation Blog

TitleHow I Spent My Summer Vacation: An Interview with Teen Preservationist Bridget Brady

Herd-Worthy Because: I’m trying to reflect on how I would spend my summer vacations in comparison to this amazing teenager. The only thing I preserved was my parent’s sanity when I left the house.

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Author: New York Times

TitleHome of Johnny Cash Hopes History Will Help It Rise

Herd-Worthy Because: The Man in Black.

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Ark. has been refurbished and opened to visitors.

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Author: Metro Weekly (Washington, D.C.)

TitleLiving in History: 5 Great House Museums in Washington (D.C.)

Herd-Worthy Because: If you live near our Nation’s Capital and you like old homes, you  will want to print this out for some fantastic day-trip destinations. Describes how the “old home experience” has been freshened up for today’s visitors at many house museums.

 

Until we “Herd” again…

The Houstory Hearth Herd – May 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me at LinkedIn!

When my father-in-law recently passed away, it took a considerable amount of time to sort through his online accounts. His Facebook page had to be closed, e-mail correspondence had to be attended to and online passwords had to be changed.

According to  Sue Doerfler of The Arizona Republic, these were, in effect, his “digital heirlooms.” She recently wrote about the topic.

I’m not sure if I’d call them “heirlooms,” but I understand the sentiment and these are things that need to be considered as we get older. This month’s Herd includes an interesting take on this subject.

The Herd also includes two submissions from Houstory Hearth reader Joan Hostetler of Indianapolis (see the really cool photo below). She put together two interesting pieces dealing with house histories and vintage photographs I encourage you to check out.

And then there are The Simpsons. TV’s No. 1 name in animated families. Did you know that I live in the city that inspired the Simpson’s Springfield? No joke. They’ve been around so long they have their own extremely detailed family history, and a book detailing their family tree will be coming out in September. Check out the link below. After you’ve read yourself blind, please let us know what you think with a short comment. We’d appreciate it!

house history, Indianapolis, photography, family history

Photo courtesy of Joan Hostetler.

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen in the recent past that our fellow Houstorians would likely be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability issues. 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

HERD-HouseHistoryAuthor: Joan Hostetler, Heritage Photo & Research Services and a Houstory Hearth reader

Title: “Indianapolis Then and Now: 1939 and 1945 N. Pennsylvania Street

Herd-Worthy Because: Big thanks to Joan for contacting us and contributing this fantastic article that is both heirloom and house history. Our kind of story!

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Author: Joan Hostetler, Heritage Photo & Research Services and a Houstory Hearth reader

Title: “Indianapolis Then and Now: The Ryan/Gasaway Home, 1103 E. 9th Street

Herd-Worthy Because: The history of a modest frame cottage and the political occupant. Every house has a story. And this is an especially good one.

HERD-FamilyHistory,etc.Author: Jess Gilley, Technology Tell

Title: “The Simpsons Family History is hitting shelves this year

Herd-Worthy Because: Who doesn’t at least appreciate The Simpsons. And like I said, I’m Springfield Proud!

HERD-FamilyHeirloomsAuthor: BBC News (contributed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society)

Title: “200-year-old recipe book heirloom given to family

Herd-Worthy Because:  Flummery. Calves head hashed. Shrewsbury cakes… Handwritten recipes, given to the author’s great-great-great-grandson. What’s not to like?

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AuthorMaureen Taylor (aka “The Photo Detective”)

Title: “Saving a Slice of Family History“;

Herd-Worthy Because: Sometimes, family history is deliciously edible.

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Author: Sue Doerfler, The Arizona Republic

Title: “Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “Digital-asset planning is a fairly new concern for consumers as well as estate planners.” Sounds like it’s right up our alley.

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Author: Viralnova.com (referred to by Dick Eastman)

Title: “After His Death, This Grandpa’s Family Found a Trunk He Left Behind. What’s Inside is Fascinating

Herd-Worthy Because: A trunk proves to be a connection to the past. Unfortunately, as the article points out, much of the stuff — artwork, books —  left his heirs guessing. Every time I see or hear a story like this I think about what a gift an Heirloom Registry tag and just ten minutes of time to share the story behind the things he felt important enough to save in a special trunk would have meant to his family.

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Author: Jill Scharr, Tom’s Guide

Title: “3D Printing Recreates Long-Lost Family Heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: As the author states: “Have you ever wished your family still had that old necklace your grandmother was wearing in her wedding photo?” CRAZY!

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Author: Bustle

Title: “These Stilettos That Will Last 1,000 Years  Are Your New Family Heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: Even we don’t guarantee 1,000 years for our Home History Books (only several centuries). I wonder if the future will have any use for stilettos?

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Author: Dale Hrabi

Title: “The Instant Family Heirloom

Herd-Worthy Because: “”What if you could buy new furniture that’s practically guaranteed to become a timeless treasure?

 

Until next month’s herd…

 

 

The Houstory Hearth Herd – April 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history bookI consider myself a pretty organized guy. In fact, after several adolescent years spent making fun of my dad for his almost religious dedication and interaction with his Day-Timer Planner, I am a slave to The To-Do List. I’d go so far to say that if I didn’t have access to my Google calendar, I’d likely forget to wear pants or that I need to eat. 

Now, playfully fulfilling the role I once held opposite my pops,  my wife makes fun of the multiple lists I have laying around the house on a regular basis. (On a separate note, it’s amazing how much you become like your parents as you get older. But that’s another story.)

What does this peculiar set of facts have to do with you, the members of The Houstory Nation? Hopefully, a lot.

interview, family history

Photo by Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

I’ve been working on developing an editorial calendar so that my fellow Houstorians know what they can expect (generally speaking) moving forward at The Hearth. As an example, we are going to have a deals of the month post every month, as well as house history research tips, among other editorial features.

Today’s post is our first in a series which we call “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply going to be a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen in the recent past that our fellow Houstorians would likely be interested in. On a related note, I just finished a Louis L’Amour book that had to do with a cattle drive. I’m not sure if that informed my series name decision or not. I’m also a huge fan of alliteration, which is sometimes a problem.

Anyhow, we will focus the Herd’s content to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability issues. 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

Now, on to the April 2014 Houstory Hearth Herd.

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AuthorLisa Louise Cooke

Title: “It’s the Little Things: Family Heirlooms are Family History

Herd-Worthy Because: Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s safe to say this article illustrates why we are in business. If you haven’t listened to Lisa’s podcast and you appreciate family history, do check it out.

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Author: The Washington Post

Title: “Guess who lived here? Tenants embrace D.C. homes with famous history

Herd-Worthy Because: House history, with a twist. Our good friend and house historian colleague, Paul Kelsey Williams, was mentioned in the article. If you like D.C. house history, you know what you should do.

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Author: Gannon Burgett

Title: “100-Year-Old Negatives and Camera Found Inside Oklahoma City Time Capsule

Herd-Worthy Because: Genealogist, family historian and technology guru (and our good friend) Caroline Pointer provided us with this story. The concept of a time capsule is truly at the heart of both The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book archival journal. Plus, it’s pretty darn cool.

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Author: Good HouseKeeping

Title: “13 Things That Make a House a Home

Herd-Worthy Because: As the article states, “Here are a few of our favorite things that transform a mere shelter into a safe haven.” Spoiler alert: this list includes family heirlooms!

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Author: Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

Title: “Family History: Tips for informally interviewing your relatives

Herd-Worthy Because: Stories, baby! If you don’t take time to sit down and listen, your family history will slip away. Family historian Maggie Fimia has great tips on how to prevent this slippage from happening.

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Author: The Modesto Bee

Title: “Modesto (Calif.) dry cleaner has collection of abandoned heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: One question: How in the  heck would you forget to pick up your wedding dress?

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Author: The New York Times

Title: “With Granda’s Ring, I Thee Wed

Herd-Worthy Because: Reusing and recycling family history is not such a bad thing! The article examines how many young people are using family “heirlooms or other vintage rings for more affordable, often more meaningful, alternatives to new diamonds and wedding bands.”

Until next month’s herd…

A different kind of December: Say ‘no’ to more ‘stuff’ — honor what you already have

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Sales and Marketing Director

Editor’s note: I can break the rules. I’m off-topic before I begin. Just give me second, ok? If you are ever bored and have time to waste, Google “stupid gifts for pets.” Better yet, do an image search. You’re welcome in advance, and this will actually make sense if you read the article below. Enjoy!

It’s ironic that as the sales and marketing director of a company I helped create, I originally had to sell myself on my own product line.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always thought the concepts we champion (telling the stories behind houses and heirlooms) are fascinating.  After all, research, writing and crafting stories have been pillars of my professional life for the past 15 years.

consumerism, consumer culture, houstory, heirloom registry, shopping, holidays

Our products (The Home History Book™ and The Heirloom Registry™) are steeped in story, and I’ve always been sold on these ideas. How can you not appreciate learning the background of a unique relic, the chair grandma used to sit in every night after dinner, a grandfather clock — or the intimate details of a 1920s Craftsman home?

Concept was never the problem. No, my issue was much more tangible.

Simply put, I didn’t want to put more “stuff” into the world. Now, stuff is a broad term, but in my mind it has a reasonably clear meaning: items that hold little or no value in terms of practical use, sentimentality or enduring entertainment.

If an item falls into one of these three categories, I don’t believe it to be just “stuff.” Let’s break this down.

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Practical Use

These are items you genuinely can’t live without, and probably use more than a couple times per month.  They may include everything from a vacuum cleaner to a pair of shoes to a computer and all sorts of things in between.

Sentimentality

Admittedly, this is in the Houstory wheelhouse. These include items that you are holding on to simply because they inspire and move you. Family keepsakes, photos and heirlooms would fall into this category, of course.

Enduring Entertainment

I’m not the “stuff police,” ok? If you want to buy a flat screen TV, or spend money on a new camera, book or electric slippers, more power to you. I would simply ask that you consider the item’s true value to your life before pulling the trigger. Will you still be using these items in five years, or will they simply be discarded in a landfill  in a few months?

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I realize I run the risk of sounding preachy, but I’m not trying to. I just think if I’m going to make such a declaration, I need to define my terms.

Heck, I’m writing this from a laptop, and my home is filled with things – including stuff. Did I truly need that box of Dog Cigars (see “stupid gifts for pets” reference above)? No. That’s a poor example, actually. I don’t even own a dog.

However, I think it’s safe to say most everyone has stuff, including me.

Which brings me back to selling myself on Houstory. Before I invested time, money and started down this entrepreneurial path, I needed our products to meet this self-imposed “anti-stuff” criterion.

In particular, The Home History Book – a substantial coffee table book with 244 pages and an engraved brass plate – gave me pause for introspection. Being built to last, which the book certainly is, requires effort and natural resources. While we did our level best to build the book responsibly (see “Built Responsibly” link at bottom of home page), we also wanted to ensure it would be something that provides long-term value to its owners.

Happily, in the end, not only did I conclude we are not just selling stuff, we are actually helping people to transform their items from being “stuff” into valued belongings.

We believe the more you know about your possessions– whether they are houses or heirlooms – the more likely you are to hold on to them, and not just demolish or discard and replace them with newer, shinier stuff.

family history, conservation, preservation, houstory, heirloom registry

Why are most historic homes valuable? Quality construction? Perhaps. Location? Maybe. Or is it history? Every day, homes are saved from demolition because of the stories behind them.

What about family heirlooms?  Picture two identical grandfather clocks, side-by-side. However, you know that one clock was purchased by your great-grandfather as a wedding gift for your great-grandmother.  You know nothing of the other clock. Which one would you probably keep and maintain?

Undoubtedly, historical preservation leads to conservation.

Sadly, the term conservation has become highly politicized, divisive and attributed to more liberal-leaning factions. I’m not quite sure why, as the term “CONSERVative” is derived from the very same root word.

In reality, I think all parties are on the same page: We want to leave things better than we found them for future generations. If you do feel this way – and we think you do – do something about it.

Which brings us to our “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve.” campaign this month. Here are some things you can do right now.

houstory, heirloom registry, home history book, shopping, holidays

Preserve. Conserve.  And say “no” to “more stuff.”

Do it differently this December.

 

Let us know what you think. Do you agree with our campaign? Do you think we are full of hot air? Do you have too much stuff? Do you think buying stuff  — as we’ve defined it — is even a problem? Do you own Dog Cigars? We want to hear from you. Let’s get this conversation started.

Built responsibly. Built to last.

Houstory Publishing’s overall company goal is pretty simple: we hope to make a product that we can be proud of — not something that adds more junk into the world. With that in mind, we were picky with the materials we chose during the creation of the Home History Book archival journal.

Our books are produced with environmental sustainability in mind. To this end, the book was printed on Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC)-certified paper. The FSC is a non-profit organization that encourages the responsible management of the world’s forests. It sets high standards that, “ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.”

Additionally, the pages are Green Seal™ certified. Green Seal is a third-party organization that verifies the percentage of recycled fiber used to manufacture paper. In this case, the book is made with 30 percent recycled post-consumer fiber.

For more information, visit www.homehistorybook.com.