Make #BlackFriday a #WhiteFriday and #OptOutside

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Sales and Marketing Guy

Okay, we admit it. We really like the REI campaign #OptOutside.

For the past three years, as an alternative to #BlackFriday, REI has encouraged its customers to get outside and into nature instead of spending time and money buying junk at the mall. Take a hike and skip the lines, they say. Hmmm…a company that doesn’t particularly appreciate the pointlessness of hand-to-hand combat over a motorized, app-controlled vacuum cleaner? (Although the below video, I’m afraid to admit as a new father of a wonderful little girl, makes me VERY SLIGHTLY second guess my cynicism.)

no more stuff, #nomorestuff

What are the #NoMoreStuff and #WhiteFriday campaigns? It’s our effort to encourage people to re-think the relationship they have with the objects and things that surround them before they head out holiday shopping for things they may not really need or even truly want.

 

To our supporters, this refrain probably sounds familiar.

That’s because our #NoMoreStuff campaign—which started in 2012—also encourages people to skip the chaos of consumerism and instead invest in experiences during the entire holiday season. As the creator of The Heirloom Registry, we really hope this means taking time to document family history while the family is together. Family history certainly beats politics, wouldn’t you say?

Two years ago, as part of the #NoMoreStuff effort, we launched our #WhiteFriday campaign as a direct response to #BlackFriday. What is #WhiteFriday? It’s easy, that’s what. Three steps, and you, too, can be a #WhiteFriday participant this year. Drumroll, please…

(1) Sleep in;

(2) Have a delicious breakfast;

(3) Gather family and a few family heirlooms from around the house, talk about them, write down their histories, and perhaps even do some estate planning.

To help you along, please use our free Heirloom Registry Registration Sheet. If you want to save these stories permanently online and label each object with a unique Heirloom Registry ID number (and even take a picture of the people sitting at the table that you can attach with the online entry), purchase these at www.houstory.com.

All this anti-#BlackFriday stuff got me thinking: why limit yourself to one kind of non-shopping experience? Why can’t you mix #NoMoreStuff/#WhiteFriday with #OptOutside? For example, in the morning you talk about the old grandfather clock, and in the afternoon you go for a hike? You’ll get EXTRA CREDIT for talking family history while you run/walk/ski.

For EXTRA, EXTRA CREDIT: take pictures of doing #NoMoreStuff-y like things and post them online using the #NoMoreStuff and #WhiteFriday hashtags. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, too. We also encourage you to take the pledge (provided by one of my favorite nonprofits, The Story of Stuff Project) not to buy more stuff on Black Friday.

Now go have fun and stay sane.

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 genuinely need that digital bathroom scale and can get it for the insanely low price of $9.99, go for it. (We all need things. That’s life on Earth.) Heck, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mixture of both Black and White Friday. A Shade of Grey Friday feels like a step in the right direction.

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

IMG_0387

“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.

IMG_0388

Peter, she said, loved these woods. He was a horticulturist for the county park department for several decades. Part of his legacy, I learn, is being the primary force in creating a popular fragrance garden in my hometown of Ferndale, Wash., which has always been one of my favorite spots

Peter, Karen tells me, had promised their grandson Dane that he’d build him a treehouse amongst the trees and plants he loved so much. In fact, he’d just started putting the plans together when he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. He died about four months later in January 2011.

Time passed as Karen and her family adjusted to their new life. After several months, she said, talk about the treehouse came up again.

Dane, she said, assumed the treehouse plans had come to end with Peter’s death.

“I heard that,” Karen said, “and asked myself ‘What’s a grandma to do?’”

Still working through the sudden loss of her husband, she said something told her she needed to move forward and finish Peter’s vision.

And so she told her grandson the treehouse plans were a go and hired a carpenter.

“I gave him pretty much free reign. He was creative and having fun. But it was pretty rudimentary, like most treehouses.”

IMG_0398

The front porch view. The porch railings were repurposed from a teepee Peter had built on the property.

That would soon change.

The first thing was that I wanted some doors and paint, she said. And then Dane came up and asked for rugs and curtains.

“He’s a city boy,” she laughed.

IMG_0390

When it became clear this was going to be something more than a kid’s tree fort, she hired a second carpenter and friend, Rebecca Meloy – who was also an artist – to take on the project and add the features she and Dane were looking for.

Rebecca, she said, saw the treehouse’s potential from the beginning.

“She loved this place. She loved the setting and the idea. I gave her creative license and she ran with it, adding flourishes here and there, and really turning this into the magical place that it is.”

IMG_0393

Part of Rebecca’s vision was incorporating Peter’s presence.

“This is definitely Peter’s treehouse,” Karen said. “He was a packrat.”

Karen said her husband would pick up odd pieces here and there and set them aside, storing much of it in their basement.

“It (the basement) was a mess,” Karen said. “But on some level he knew what he was doing, because pretty much everything in the treehouse came out of that basement – and fit perfect.”

In addition to incorporating many of Peter’s finds into the treehouse, Rebecca added one big thing.

“Rebecca told me one day, I’m going to make you a bedroom.”

“And that was it!” Karen said.

Adding a small separate sleeping area, she said, made this more than just a playhouse to spend a few hours — it made it a magic home in the woods, a real place to entertain occasional guests and to live with the trees and plants and animals in the forest.

IMG_0403

The sleeping area

 

Karen frequently spends the night in the house during the summer listening to the wind and the birds, sometimes the rain.

The back of the treehouse incorporates some old mirrors that Peter had collected to create a floating effect.

The back of the treehouse incorporates some old mirrors that Peter had collected create a floating effect

She says she’s never alone. And not just because she is usually accompanied by her beloved dogs, who are still learning to navigate the open stairs leading up to the treehouse.

IMG_0383

Karen and her Corgi companions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I love this place. And Peter loves this place.”

IMG_0379

 

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (or “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will generally focus on three things: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability. If you see something that you think belongs in The Herd, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Family History

Author: WBUR, Boston Public Radio

Title: “This Thanksgiving, Listen To (And Interview) Your Elders”

Herd-Worthy Because: Yes! Yes! Yes! We’ve been urging folks for a couple years now to use Thanksgiving (or any family gathering — but we love Thanksgiving!) to walk around the house with older family members and have them tell you the stories of a couple important things to ensure their stories aren’t lost. (In fact, we’ve created a simple form you can download that helps you do just that and makes it easy to later enter that information into The Heirloom Registry if you are so inclined.) The folks at NPR’s Story Corp would have you do much the same thing — they’re just asking that you take a recording device with you. A great idea, if we do say so ourselves!

 

Family Heirlooms

Author: Kara Baskin, Boston Globe

TitleCan Heirlooms Really Fit Into Your Decor?”

Herd-Worthy Because: Heirlooms are special — different from a piece of furniture you just picked up from Ikea — because they have a history. But that “specialness,” this article notes, can often bring with it interesting, sometimes difficult, emotional and practical issues as one tries to incorporate heirlooms with a past into a present-day life.

 

house history

Author: Keri Sanders, HGTV.com

Title: “Restored! Nicole’s Best Historic Home Saves

Herd-Worthy Because: No surprise, but we’re big fans of HGTV’s Nicole Curtis, host of the TV show “Rehab Addict.” Nicole is passionate about honoring a home’s past and telling its stories as she brings properties back to life. It is simply part of her DNA. Here’s a fun before/after photo slideshow showing some of her favorite projects.

 

-30-

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….)

It has been quite the ride. Quite the ride indeed. Marked, most recently, with my hand-delivering one of our Premier Home History books – one of just a handful handcrafted by the oldest custom bindery in America — to The Playboy Mansion, one of most famous homes on the planet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…. Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a very fine place to start.

 

Continue reading

The Houstory Hearth Herd – June 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me at LinkedIn!

As a kid, I remember we’d often go to my grandparent’s house on Lopez Island in Washington state. It was a magical place. Sometimes, to save money, we’d leave our car and go on foot. When we arrived at the ferry landing after an hourlong ferry ride from the mainland, my grandparents — who lived about 20 minutes away on the shores of Fisherman’s Bay — would be there to pick us up, and off we’d go.

 

family heirlooms, Jewish Daily Forward

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Daily Forward

My grandfather was a fantastic driver and wasn’t afraid to whip around the winding corners of the island in a spurt of Volkswagen Rabbit-powered speed. Along the way, not far from the landing, I remember an old, wooden, graying house rotting in a vacant, grassy field.

Because of its state of disrepair and isolated location, it was a property that inspired conversation that often was saturated with ghosts, dead bodies and terror of all kinds. I don’t know if that house is still there (as of eight years ago, it was), but I will always regret not peering inside to seek out clues as to what stories it held.

This week, one of our stories — a radio show called “House on Loon Lake” by This American Life — features the story of kids who did go into “that house.” Not only is the house history revealed, but also the stories of the former residents — as relayed through abandoned family heirlooms.

This month’s Herd also includes a number of stories from the United Kingdom, some tragic and some that make you cringe.

Finally, make sure to check out the Jewish Daily Forward article that traced the stories behind 15 truly interesting family heirlooms.

On that note, we challenge you to consider if you are saving these stories for the future. After all, legacy is not about you. It’s about who comes after. Because if you don’t, who will? Am I right or am I right?

Ned Ryerson, Groundhog Day (:55 seconds): “Am I right or am I right? Or am I right? Am I right?”

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: Mail Online (UK)

TitleLand a D-Day home: Historic houses are being sold on the strength of their wartime connections

Herd-Worthy Because: Where do you fall? Do war stories sell properties? This article seems to hit folks the wrong way. What do you think?

****

Author: PreservationNation Blog

TitleMilk Bottle Buildings of Southeast Massachusetts

Herd-Worthy Because: Oddly shaped buildings of yesteryear combined with dairy product culture…what’s not to like?

****

AuthorNick Barratt

Title: “How to research the history of your home (UK)

Herd-Worthy Because: Great tips from a well-known house historian on the other side of the pond from Houstory.

****

AuthorThis American Life 

TitleHouse on Loon Lake

Extra: For photos, visit this Flickr Page!

Herd-Worthy Because: One of my favorite TAL episodes that was recently re-aired. How can it not be with quotes like this? “I was 13 years old and I had a crush on a house.”

****

Author: Asbury Park Press (NJ)

TitleNew exhibit – The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home

Herd-Worthy Because: This could have been in either the family heirloom section, or the house history section. Either way, it belongs.

HERD-Sustainability

AuthorGreen Building Press

TitleHistoric house cuts energy consumption by 90 percent

Herd-Worthy Because: Older doesn’t have to mean inefficient.

HERD-FamilyHeirloomsAuthor: Associated Press

TitleHeirlooms’ value shifts from sentiment to cash

Herd-Worthy BecauseFolks just aren’t holding on to family heirlooms the way they used to. Do you agree?

****

Author: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, Minn.)

TitleBasement treasure needs a home

Herd-Worthy Because: I just thought it was kinds of a cool classified section advertisement found within the confines of the newspaper. I wonder if anyone ever acted on it?

****

Author: Newcastle Herald (AUS)

Title: “Keepsakes for lost babies

Herd-Worthy Because: A touching, gentle reminder of young lives lost.

****

Author: The Jewish Daily Forward

TitleThe Things We Carried – The Heirlooms That Tell Our Stories

Herd-Worthy Because: Family heirlooms. 15 stories. Soup spoons, candlesticks and Torrah Scrolls…

****

Until we herd again…

 

 

 

Bald and Bold: Just who are the Houstory brothers?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

I don’t know about you, but I like to know who I’m doing business with whenever I have the opportunity. I try to choose companies that align with my values (although it now seems like there are only a handful of companies in the world, doesn’t it?) A proven track record of a business operating with decency, trust and generally living by The Golden Rule is important.

houstory, marian pierre-louis, maureen taylor, home history, house history

Mike, Maureen Taylor (aka The Photo Detective), house historian Marian Pierre-Louis and Dan a couple of years ago.

 

Are you the same? I’m guessing you are.

So, without further blah blah blahing, let me introduce a brand-spanking new, short video of who Houstory is — even beyond the baldness. Can you tell I miss my hair? Although I must say not having to visit the barber in over a decade has had its perks. I’m blah blahing again, aren’t I?

Is it important to know who you do business with? Do you even want to know? We’d love to connect with you. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

 

 

Do you have family heirlooms that have a dark side?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

The family heirlooms universe is an interesting one. The stories behind these objects elicit a wide range of varying emotions — including some that fall on the “not-so-good” side of the ledger.

mein kampf, adolf hitler, family heirlooms

Some family heirlooms have very complicated histories.

 

I recently came across a dramatic example of this darker side of family history. Instructor Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., a Boston native, who teaches in the Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, recently wrote an article about a family heirloom that was potentially disturbing: a copy of Mein Kampf.

 

Because of the mystery surrounding the provenance of the item, she was inclined to investigate what could be an important, if chilling, part of her family’s genealogy. As part of that process, her husband made a movie about the experience. Much like houses,  family heirlooms do not always have a pleasant story to tell. However, good or bad, I think these stories are all a part of the human experience. I suppose that’s the journalist in me.

I did try to come up with a dark family heirloom story of my own, but I was unable to do so. Who knows, though? I’m sure there are a couple of objects in my family’s possession that fall in this arena, but I don’t know because these backgrounds have fallen by the wayside with the passage of time. If stories are not documented, they are easily lost.

Do you have any family heirlooms with a dark backstory? Do you think these stories should be documented and shared? Or are they better forgotten? Let us know what you think. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

 

 

Houstory Deals of the Month: April 2014

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry.

For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

 

Heirloom Registry, Premium Labels, deal of month

Home History Book Deluxe archival journal, deals of the month, Mahogany Classic

Share your family heirloom stories with the Houstory Nation

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history bookSo, a little more than a year ago, I made this video you see posted. It tells the story of a very simple lamp. If you saw this gadget in person, you may think it was nice enough, but you wouldn’t know anything else about it.

It’s not old. It’s not particularly fancy. But it symbolizes an experience  — living abroad in Taiwan as an English teacher — that I think was very important to my life story. This brief tenure (2002-2005) helped to shape a lot of who I am, and how I see the world. For me, it’s a family heirloom.

However, if you saw the lamp, you wouldn’t know that — unless you found its Heirloom Registry registration number, displayed on its underside. Then you’d realize that within my world, this hunk of metal means a lot to me. And because of this significance, it will likely have some meaning to my descendants, whether now or 75 years from now when I’m most likely LONG gone (unless they develop some sort of amazing everlasting life serum. On a related note, where is Steve Guttenberg?)

Its story is safe and intact even if I’m not. For just a moment, I want you to imagine the power of finding an actual item (family heirloom) that once belonged to a long-since-departed relative. As a family historian, I would consider that a gift from the great beyond, and a powerful bridge to the past. By registering an item online and printing out its registration certificate off-line,  I’m trying to do the same for my heirs today.

I don’t have a lot I want to pass on to the future, but the things that truly matter…I’ve registered them safely with the Heirloom Registry.

So, my question to you, Houstory Nation, is this: Have you registered the stories that matter to you? We ALL have at least a few objects that hold more than face value. Take a look around your house tonight. If you were not here tomorrow, would anyone know what these objects symbolized in your life?

Let us know what matters to you. We’d love to share your stories, and you can help us inspire others to save these stories from disappearing forever. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

 

Junk vs family heirloom: How do you determine?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

This week, I’d like to open up the floor to ask the question: How do you filter the clutter from the keepsakes?

I’ve seen this topic posted many times around online family heirloom communities, most recently in December in Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. (On a VERY related note, check out the Family Curator blog after you read this article. Denise Levenick has lots of great tips related to this).

For me, growing up as an Air Force brat, I moved three times. Compared to the transient nature of my four other brothers -— and particularly my oldest brother (and Houstory founder) Mike — this was nothing. He’s lived in more than a half dozen states.

My list was short: Alabama, Alaska, Washington state, done.

Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, living in a variety of places throughout the country and in Asia. Because of the lifestyle my wife and I have chosen (constant travel, shallow roots), moving has been both an expectation and a challenge.

However, one thing we both have no interest in is accumulating a lot of stuff. Our life plan is to move every few years, dabbling with new experiences and new locales. The last thing we desire is a bunch of items we don’t really need, want or have room for in the moving pod.

clutter, keepsake, family heirloom houstory, heirloom registry

Take a picture of your little “items.” This will save space, but the memories will be intact.

This has been a constant challenge because I’m the sentimental type, and a big fan of nostalgia. Every time we re-visit a town where we have lived, I have to go back and see the “old apartment,” or check out the corner grocery store where we shopped. My wife? Not so much. I’m the same way — to a degree — with my personal possessions. Particularly the ones with stories.

But even I have limits. You can only fill so many shoeboxes with knick-knacks before you have to say “enough is enough.” The main reason I like to preserve items is because they trigger memories (and I have a HORRIBLE memory), which explains why I was one of the founders of The Heirloom Registry. The true value in family heirlooms, in my opinion, are the stories they are associated with and the family history they help to draw forth.

So, what to do? One little trick I’ve turned to is taking pictures of things I don’t really have room for, but still want to remember. This saves space, but also keeps my  sad excuse for a memory from failing.

What do you do to save space? Do you even have this problem? Give others Houstorians who may be drowning in possessions advice!