“No more stuff!” Ed’s muffled voice drifted up from the fathoms of a giant cardboard box labeled MISC. I sat on our couch with the laptop, reviewing a long spreadsheet filled with the names and addresses of our assorted loved ones. SimpleRegistry was just about to enter our lives.
We were engaged and had been living together in Amsterdam for a year. Our story began six years earlier, when we fell for each other (he ran into me trying to defend a goal, and we both fell down, and that joke never gets old) while playing ultimate Frisbee in Seattle. At the time, he lived in Chicago and I lived in Seattle. We started dating. Two long years later, I packed my belongings into my Hyundai Accent and drove east. I found a job when I got to Chicago.
Two years after I moved to the Windy City, Ed’s job proposed that he move to the Amsterdam office, and Ed proposed to me. Both events had a nice ring to them. We whittled our lives down to six sturdy boxes and four pieces of checked luggage, and started a new adventure: living together.
Now Ed was sitting in a pile of cables, shaking his head as he tried to identify them and his reasons for paying to have them shipped across an ocean. I thought of our parents’ basements, with their unsteady columns of boxes lining the walls, the material evidence of forty years of life together. I looked at Ed, intent on sending this one box to the recycling, and marveled again how I had gotten so lucky. For a couple whose dating history is as complicated as calculus, Ed and I live best when life is stripped to the essentials: Family and close friends, nature, home-cooked food, books. Our wedding would be home in Washington State, with people we loved. That was the kind of “stuff” we needed
“Done,” I said. “No more stuff.” I returned to the guest list. Then I had an “uh-oh” moment.
“What are we going to do about a gift registry? Can we just nicely ask people not to get us anything?”
Ed dropped a handful of electrical outlet converters, horrified. “We can’t do that! People will want to give us things!”
“But didn’t you just say, ‘No more stuff’?” I accused.
He looked thoughtful. “What we need is… some kind of… SimpleRegistry.”
These prophetic words led us to the internet, and our first search led us (you guessed it!) to SimpleRegistry. True as a cow, as the Dutch say. Three minutes later, our account was verified, and we began to brainstorm a list of Things That Are Preferably Not More Stuff.
At first we colored inside the lines, true to the stereotypes of our adopted culture. I registered us for a pair of bicycle tune-ups. Ed nominated a cast-iron skillet with a lid. Cautiously, we started to venture outside the box. Ed added what seemed like every board game expansion pack in existence and a pair of noise-canceling headphones. I went for a pair of hiking poles and an e-books gift card. On second thought, many e-books gift cards. Just in case.
Typically, nobody says the words “registry” and “exhilarating” unless they are describing the sensation of never having to look at their registry list again. Behold, history made: Working with our SimpleRegistry was exhilarating. It was practical, fun, and spared everyone the monotony of a registry packed with overpriced homewares. Our registry was limited only by our imaginations!
The power went to our heads.
“Did you put a Tesla Model X on here?” I sputtered a few days later, as Ed was cleaning out the closet. “Who is going to buy us a $100,000 car that we don’t need?” I soothed my bicycle. “There, there. Daddy doesn’t mean it.”
“No, it’s cool!” Ed defended, “You can divide the cost of any item so that multiple guests can buy parts of the same gift! So we only need fifty people to each give a couple thousand!”
I had to agree. It was really cool to be able to tailor the cost of the items to fit our guests’ diverse financial situations. By listing gifts that cost nothing (organizing a lawn game as part of the wedding festivities) alongside gifts that cost $2000 (Fraction of Cost of Ridiculously-Impractical-But-Environmentally-Friendly-Sports-SUV-That-I Hope-My-Fiancé-Is-Kidding-About), we could ensure that our guests would be able to choose something that appealed to them as well as to us.
When Ed wasn’t looking, I added a pair of old computer games that I had played as a kid, right under the Tesla.
We created four categories for our SimpleRegistry. Besides tangible items and wedding day help, we also included “Activities/Experiences” (like a barista workshop from a local coffee roaster and the essential Amsterdam Museum Card) and our favorite, “Pay It Forward.” For this, we selected three diverse nonprofit organizations whose values clicked with our own. Guests could donate to any (or all) of the groups by gifting an amount to Ed and I, and we transferred the sum of their donations to each organization. Thanks to the generosity of our guests, we were able to contribute more than $1000 among the three organizations. Also, because we donated it ourselves after redeeming the gift money from SimpleRegistry, we could claim the tax credit... handy when you pay taxes in two countries.
Livin’ the married life back in Amsterdam, our SimpleRegistry continues to pay off. The gifts reside in a “Wedding Gifts” checking account folder, which settles our credit card balance whenever we use a card to purchase items from the registry. There’s no currency confusion, and we can bank rewards points from using our credit cards to help out with our flights back home. We are free to “cash in” on gifts at our convenience, which allows us to choose the best brands and prices from our favorite local shops, instead of wasting money and resources by importing from some online source. SimpleRegistry is like the yoga master of gift registries: No traditional registry is so flexible.
As it turned out, we did bring some “stuff” back to Amsterdam. No Tesla (darn), but we did get my childhood computer games. My dad rescued them from the fathoms of a giant cardboard box labeled MISC. For the right kind of stuff, I guess we will make an exception.