Years ago, when I bought property in a hip, historic neighborhood in Columbus, OH, my biggest worry was whether the house hosted ghosts. But as I quickly found out, there are worse horrors to homeownership than haunting, such as sewage in the basement, a squirrel carcass in the wall or having the heat shut off in the middle of winter.
So when mulling over the ideal housewarming gift, I’d say a handyman or piles of cash would be at the top of the list. Beyond that, though, here are several more feasible gift ideas for your next housewarming event.
Laughter. One must-have for every homeowner: a sense of humor. Freelance writer, first-time homeowner and VIV Moment contributor Jocelyn Jane Cox shares her own humorous lessons in her new book, The Homeowner’s Guide to Greatness (23 Press, 2012), subtitled “How to handle natural disasters, design dilemmas and various infestations like a champ.” I wish I’d had this book when dealing with my own home ups and downs. As Cox reasons,”How are you going to rebuild that wall you accidentally knocked down if you have tears clouding your eyes?”
The guide takes you from finding your dream home to the mortgage agreement and beyond, including design choices, gardening and “yardening” and DIY projects. Throwing a housewarming party? Company is a surefire motivational tool to get the house clean. “Surely you don’t want anyone to see the unhygienic depths to which you regularly sink,” she notes. Plus she also offers unorthodox tips that are both amusing and tempting, such as playing hide and seek to “give people the chance to see every nook and cranny of your place” or putting out fortune cookies with promises of gratitude for mortgage donations.
You’ll also discover the best way to spy on neighbors, eviction notices for bugs (but not mice, who can read but don’t care for formal decrees) and the most effective things to say to houseplants. For more of Cox’s home adventures (and misadventures), check out her blog, The Home Tome.
Maintenance-free tree. For a twist on the common houseplant, there are terrarium and even biosphere options. But a tree in Vermont that provides delicious maple products and requires nothing in return is welcome to any homeowner who has raked bags of leaves, cleaned gutters or lived in fear of a majestic old tree falling on his or her house. (If the last situation does occur, consult Cox’s chapter titled “What to do if a tree falls on your house.”)
The Tonewood tree adoption ($120) includes a certificate and a photo of the tree. The recipient receives a spring package with four grades of maple syrup from the tree, as well as a fall package of maple wafers and the maple cube. Choose from Hartshorn or Vasseur sugarbush or let Tonewood select for you. Not only does the purchase support family-owned farms, but 1 percent of all sales go to the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont.
Message on a bottle. A nice bottle of wine is still a go-to gift for housewarming parties — or any party, really. But Sea Bags wine totes ($35–$39), made from recycled sails on the Portland, ME, waterfront, will make your bottle stand out from the rest. Nautical designs such as whale tails, lobster claws and anchors adorn the bags, which have white rope handles. But the bags themselves are meant to be recycled and re-gifted, with a log on the back to write the name of the recipient and date to track the bag’s journey. If you’re looking for wine suggestions, Enobytes founder Pamela Heiligenthal recently provided VIVmag with a guide to summer wine pairings. Sea Bags also has other housewarming-worthy gifts, such as totes ($105–$195), indoor/outdoor pillows ($130), placemats ($50) and coasters ($40).
Personalized gift card. Most people would say gift cards always are welcome, whether it’s used to purchase a decorative throw pillow or goes toward a new water heater. If you’d like to add a personal touch, GiftCardLab.com allows you to upload a photo for a custom designed Visa gift card for an additional $5.95, a price that includes the plastic card, full-color print image, activation fee, custom greeting card, customer service and first-class shipping.
Registries and online clues. I recently discovered that housewarming gift registries are becoming more common, though many consider this practice gauche. A Pinterest board titled “Things I Wish People Would Bring to My Housewarming Party” might also be considered tacky, but Pinterest could be a way to drop subtle hints. Guests looking for present ideas can check Pinterest and Amazon wish lists. Granted, you’re probably not going to build them a multitiered koi pond or pay for the deck addition they’ve pinned (or if you are, please consider this an invitation to my next housewarming), but it may provide some helpful insight.
For websites that offer home décor and gift ideas, check out “Home Pages” in the latest issue of VIVmag.
What are your favorite housewarming gifts — to give or to receive?