Buying ‘stuff’? Try an alternative this season

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

When I was younger — particularly in college — I used to think the greatest thing in the world was the dollar store. After all, where else could you buy a grocery cart full of household supplies and groceries on a budget?

Need bathroom cleaner?

Check.

Peanut butter and jelly?

Check.

Cheap plastic gadget I thought was so cool and so essential that I had to buy it, but was forgotten about by the time I got home and was either given away or tossed in the garbage (and eventually the landfill) within a year?

Check.

This isn’t a post to bash dollar stores. On the contrary, discount stores are an essential component for many people looking to save a buck on vital household items.

Rather, this is a request to stop and consider what we choose to consume because ultimately it does matter. Regardless of your position on global warming, the environment or everything in between, I think we can all agree that waste is never a good thing.

no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Last year, we ran a holiday campaign that encouraged 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.

The campaign’s name: “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve.

Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff

We’ve gained a lot more followers since that initial campaign, so instead of repeating what I said, I’ll simply direct you to my words from last December. I would encourage you to take a look.

Then, let us know what you think.

Do you agree? Is too much stuff a problem? Do you believe that we are over-hyping this? Let’s have a conversation.

Houstory Deals of the Week: Nov. 25

Just in time for the holidays, this is our first installment of the Houstory “Deals of the Week.” Make sure to check back weekly for more deals. Simply click on the image below to be taken to our storefront. From there, enter the discount code in the image to take advantage of these special savings.

112513THR-DOTW

 

112513HHB-DOTW

 

 

FamilySearch Genealogy Video Series Highlights Importance of Preserving Stories Now

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Too often, genealogists and family historians don’t consider their own stories — or even their own family members — as valuable branches of a family tree until its too late.

Sure it’s great to research the “big branches” of ancestors hundreds of years ago, but why not look a little closer to home in terms of both proximity and time? Yesterday, I stumbled across a great video collection produced by FamilySearch that really illustrated this point.

The “5-Minute Genealogy” series episode I came across, called “Learn From Family,” drove home the importance of sitting down with loved ones to share family history before that option no longer exists. It included tips and techniques for completing the task.

Take a looksy. Let it soak in.

And then DO IT!

Have a great week…

Rowhouse Tour: ‘Four Homes for the Holidays’

This week, The Houstory Hearth welcomes a holiday-themed guest post from DIY Del Ray.

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

According to their Web site: “DIY Del Ray, a blog founded by Leslie, Katie and Sara, celebrates the art of small-space living and the creative spirit. We talk about interior design, unique storage solutions, living with kids, home improvement and craft projects, entertaining, and all the charming features of Del Ray, a neighborhood in Alexandria, VA.”

We first came across the blog a few weeks ago, when we found this great story they penned on using family heirlooms to tell your family’s story.

This week, DIY Del Ray takes a peak inside four, holiday-decorated rowhouses in the Del Ray community, and we wanted you all to come along. It’s title: “Four Homes for the Holidays.

“Living on a street of typical 1950s identical rowhouses, it’s always interesting to see how people decorate the inside of their homes — their paint choices, furniture arrangements and at this time of year, how they decorate for the holidays,” they write. “There isn’t much wiggle room in these houses – every last inch serves a purpose for something – but that hasn’t quelled the festiveness or desire to create a warm and cozy haven at home.”

To take the tour, read on. Thank you to DIY Del Ray for sharing your story with Houstory. Speaking of Houstory, Mike and Dan wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday!

 

Do you use any holiday heirlooms to decorate your home? Do you decorate your home in a unique way? Share your photos at our Facebook page — we’d love to see them!

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

Company history: Before ‘Houstory’ there was ‘Hestia,’ Greek goddess of hearth and home

An early prototype of company logo — before we became Houstory.

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

Before there was Houstory, there was Hestia. Literally.

After the muse struck and we had shopped around the idea of the Home History Book with positive results, we figured the next logical step would be to give our dream company a real-life name.

In inspired fashion, Hestia came to mind.

I knew almost nothing about her at the time, but I learned that Hestia is the Greek goddess of Hearth and Home, charged with the important task of keeping the home fire stoked. Sounded like a pretty good fit for our company.

While I won’t go into the details of her birth (which like many God/Goddesses involves considerable oddness — in Hestia’s case being swallowed at birth and later regurgitated by her dear old dad), she is regarded as one of the 12 great gods of Greek mythology.

Specifically, she is goddess of domestic life. Of motherhood and child-rearing. She is the “mom goddess” – even though she never married. Curious that.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, she blesses one with domestic happiness. (Or withholds her blessing if not asked for it.) She is often thought of as the nicest goddess. As the goddess of the sacred fire of the altar, she feels comfortable in the kitchen and has a special affinity for cooks and bakers. Hestia has a keenly developed spiritual side and plays a special role in the rituals of the various gods and goddesses, always making sure that their temples are prepared and everyone is comfortable. She is a wonderful hostess.

While I’ve not seen it written down officially, I feel Hestia actually would have been very comfortable being the Goddess of the Heart. But that, of course, was a position firmly occupied by Aphrodite. So the next closest thing to the heart, she felt, was the hearth. While today we generally think of the hearth as simply part of a nicely designed fireplace, in historic times the hearth was essential. It was used for heating, cooking and cleaning. It was also the focal point for religious rituals. Both literally and symbolically, it was heart of the home.

Hestia and Aphrodite actually have an interesting relationship. Hestia rejected the marriage proposals by both Poseidon and Apollo, both much admired – and desired — “studs” at the time. She thereby rejected Aphrodite’s values and became, to some extent her Wikipedia article says, Aphrodite’s “chaste, domestic complementary, or antithesis.”

While the Goddess of the Heart and Goddess of the Hearth are both deeply loving beings, there often does seem to be some sort of inner war going on between them. Certainly their paths have been quite different.

One wonders if Hestia might not have been caught off guard at how much work it was going to be. Instead of passionately pursuing romance, lovers and adventures of the heart like Aphrodite, Hestia shouldered the heavier, more demanding job of making sure dinner was on the table, the home cleaned, the laundry done and the family and home operating smoothly. It was her energy that kept the family looking and feeling like a family.

Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus (aka Aphrodite) from the mid-1480s shows the goddess rising from a seashell.

While the work could be incredibly rewarding – phew! – it can also wear you out. As any modern day Hestia/Mom will tell you, the other heart — the fun loving, party-going, libidinous heart — often ends up taking a back seat due to physical exhaustion. (You hear about the same even happening with some Baby Daddies, though most of them I know still seem to make time for Aphrodite!)

In her book Love Magic, Laurie Cabot describes the various personality archetypes and says that Hearth Goddesses, which in addition to the Grecian Hestia also includes Brigit, Cerridwen, Vesta, Hera, Isis, Hathor, Frigg, Arianrod, Nanna and Juno, are “very centered, inner-oriented women who develop great wisdom concerning the importance and meaning of everyday things.” While they can enjoy an active, rewarding love life, Cabot says for some Hearth Goddesses it’s often with more of a “take it or leave it” approach.

In the end, in naming our company, we found that Hestia had already found a couple suitors in the all-important world of Internet domains so we moved on and soon landed on Houstory, which also felt good at the time – and is feeling better and better and better every day.

Still, it was Hestia who called to us first. And we thank her. She’s done a wonderful job keeping the home fire stoked and helping us at Houstory establish a strong foundation for our young company. But the time has come to take off the permanent apron and put on your party shoes, girl! Because, just like here at Houstory, it’s starting to feel more and more these days like you actually can have it all.

Let us know what you think. What’s your company name history? What was its original inspiration? Are you more Hestia or Aphrodite? We want to hear from you!

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.

********************

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?

********************

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.

How do you know you’re ‘Home?’

“On the path of awakening or the journey to Self, finding home and living there is the goal, for once we are home, we are in Truth and in love. When we are home, everything feels different, but in essence nothing has changed, for we are simply remembering who we really are.”

—  Sara-Jane Grace

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

“So where’s home?”

Simple question, right? Not for me, a military brat, who “lived everywhere and nowhere” and whom researchers have identified as part of a distinct, 200 year-old American subculture, with millions of members. And not for an increasing number of people in today’s highly mobile society.

I just counted — as I can never remember — and I moved 9 times, attended 9 different schools and had 11 different “homes” while growing up as an Air Force brat. At 18 I headed out on my own and, since then, added another 7 cities and probably another dozen “homes” to the list (though calling some of my living situations in college “home” would, admittedly, be a stretch.)

alaska, anchorage, high school, prom, childhood memories

Bartlett High School (Anchorage, Alaska) Senior Prom 1982. The author (the one with his eyes closed) and his ever-lovely date, Kelli, who helped the author create the The Home History Book™ archival journal.

So when that question “where’s home” comes up, I have to pause and think. If they mean “home” as in hometown, where I grew up, I usually end up just saying Alaska. That is where I was fortunate to string together four very important years in a row and attend and graduate from the same high school. And because of that, I do feel a stronger tie there than to the other places I lived.

On the other hand, if they mean “home” now, that’s easier. I’ve lived with my family in Northwest Washington state, in a home we built, for about nine years. So it’s definitely where our home — the nice building that contains our stuff — is located. But I’ll be honest, as beautiful as it is around here (and it’s breathtakingly beautiful), as many good friends as we’ve made and as comfortable as we are, I’m not sure it’s completely felt like home for some reason.

And, in fact, my wife and I frequently talk about where — if anyplace — we might like to move when our youngest daughter graduates from high school in a few years.

We moved here from Washington, D.C., where we lived for about a decade, to be closer to family. As a military kid, I never lived here permanently, but my parents were raised in the Pacific Northwest, my grandparents lived here and a couple of my brothers have now settled nearby. So if home is where most of your family is — a sentiment that resonates strongly with my wife — I guess this is home.

But, for us, the grey weather can be downright depressing for half the year, sapping energy and making for a long slug. Natives, on the other hand, actually feel “off” if an odd patch of sunny days sticks around more than a few days.

Culturally, we also feel a bit out of it sometimes, having moved to a more rural area. In that way we felt much more at home in D.C. than here. And while we can get a major city-culture fix with a 90-minute drive to either Seattle or Vancouver, BC, or  a nice taste with a 15-minute drive to the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, Wash.,  those places – for now – aren’t home.

So all that begs the question: How do you know you’re Home?

Is there a place that has all the things you’re looking for. Or is the goal finding a place that has all the things you’re willing to accept? And can home be permanent? Or does it need to change as you change?

Home for me always suggested permanence, a place of one’s roots, a place where as Sarah Jane Grace notes above, you live in “Truth and love…(and) everything feels different.”

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz.

But maybe home is not a place at all but a state of mind.

It’s a question that continues to befuddle me. Which, of course, often makes me wonder why I — a person whose ties to “home” are confused at best —came up with the idea for the Home History Book, a product intended to permanently record a home’s unfolding story and share it with everyone who lives there.

The concept of home is clearly an important one. In fact, some people, seem to just know when they’re home. Either they grew up someplace and never left, which, of course, generally bypasses any confusion when asked “Where’s home?” Or circumstances (a vacation, a job, a significant other) brought them to a place that they immediately recognized or felt as “home” and so never left.

Let us know!

How do you know you’re Home? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Is it a sense of community? Is it genetic? Is it permanent or changing? I think it’s an important question. It’s one that many have looked into and one I plan to examine further. If you are “home” and would be willing to share a few ideas about how you know that or “tips” for those who may still be searching, we’d love to hear from you.

Buyers seek ‘homes,’ not houses: Top reasons for staging a home for sale

This week, Megan Gates — a writer for Douglas Elliman Real Estate —  is our guest contributor. Established in 1911, Douglas Elliman has grown to become the nation’s fourth-largest real estate company. It has a current network of over 65 offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island (including the Hamptons and North Fork), Westchester and Putnam Counties, as well as South Florida.

By Megan Gates, Special to The Houstory Hearth

When you are preparing to list your home for sale, there are many details to be seen to and home staging should be at the top of your list. Home staging allows you to highlight the best features of the home while downplaying the weaknesses. First impressions are everything and, with the majority of homebuyers now beginning their home search online, prepping a home to look best both for a showing, and in it’s online gallery is more important than ever.

home buying, home staging, real estate

Home buying is part emotional and part logical. (Photo: Douglas Elliman Brooklyn Real Estate)

Staging aids potential homebuyers in being able visualize themselves in the space more than an empty house will. Here are a few reasons; including some tips on how to stage a property to help it reach it’s market potential and turnover a sale quickly.

It’s Difficult to Visualize the Placement of the Furniture

Many homes remain on the market for months because homebuyers cannot visualize how they can place their furniture in the home. Most buyers cannot distinguish between a 14 x 12 foot room and a 12 x 10 foot room. The first room is 40 percent larger, but most buyers look at the rooms as the same. With furniture, buyers can visualize the difference. Buyers can also view the potential of the room if furniture is included in the home.

An important tip to remember is to not place too much furniture in a space. Look around the property and think of function of a room—if there are other pieces that don’t help define a space, store them away and allow your room to look uncluttered. Hiring a home stager can provide ideas and help sellers view the potential of the space.

People Are Looking For Homes and Not Houses

Home buying is part emotional and part logical. Most people focus on the emotional side of buying a home. The emotional side of buying a home includes the homebuyers becoming attached to the aesthetic aspects of the home and visualizing themselves living in the home. It is more difficult to visualize living in a home for 20 to 30 years without furniture.

Part of the emotional attachment to a home can include connecting with the home’s history and helping buyers see themselves as part of that history. Highlighting a home’s unique house history by including information about past owners or noting interesting events that have taken place in the home or staging a home with historically significant furniture can help buyers make that connection.

When homebuyers tour a staged home, they can automatically visualize themselves in the home. When a seller removes all of their personal pieces, like family photos and taste-specific artwork, it will provide a buyer with a neutral and appealing look. This service is invaluable because an emotional buyer will purchase a home faster than a buyer who focuses on the logical aspects of the home buying process.

Buyers Focus on Negative Details and Not the Home When It’s Empty

When a room is empty, prospective homebuyers focus on everything, but the overall appeal of the home. For instance, prospective homebuyers may judge a house on its paint colors, may ask whether the carpet can be replaced, or why the molding is not finished.

Noticeable flaws could prevent a buyer from making an offer. If the buyer does make an offer, he or she may ask for price concessions for the flaws in the home. With some easy and simple updates to a home, these flaws can be fixed or will not be as noticeable if the room is staged. Not only will this help the home sell quicker, it will also sell for a higher price.

Home Stagers are Beneficial

Home stagers require a small investment compared to the amount of money recouped from the home selling process. The service is growing in popularity because most home sellers recoup 200 percent from the home sale and also reduces the time on the market by almost one-half.  Home sellers should consider the services of home stagers because of the significant benefits of the service.

Whether selling a sprawling farmhouse in the Midwest or listing a penthouse apartment in New York City, home staging can benefit any seller. With some small reorganization steps, a huge reward can be reaped when a property is sold for top dollar.

Megan Gates is an active creative writer for Douglas Elliman, writing on topics including home improvement and the latest architecture, design and home buying. Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.

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.