Wheat, chaff and baby teeth

As I mentioned yesterday, Jim and I spent Saturday with three of Jim's five siblings plus a couple nieces and nephews clearing out the storage shed that held everything from the last apartment Jim's mom lived in, her last home and the place she resided when a stroke unexpectedly ripped her from her life and plopped her down in a hospital bed to wait out her days.

My mother-in-law was always a fastidious housekeeper, a truly tidy grandma. But the unexpectedness of the emergency medical situation meant she never had the chance to tie up her life belongings into beribboned bundles or to even discard such things as drawers full of hair-color conditioner tubes and expired grocery coupons. Which meant her kids had a lot of stuff to go through, a lot of work to do paring her possessions into piles to pass along to her children and grandchildren, honoring her by not pitching it all into the charity bin.

To be honest, it was a relatively quick task as Jim's mom lived a spare and simple life. And, as Granny prided herself on being ever the educator, the task indeed taught me a few lessons about getting my own things and my own life in order so my kids and grandkids have an easier time separating the wheat from the chaff once I'm gone.

Here are a few of those lessons:

Keep a notebook or journal -- placed in a prominent spot -- detailing which possessions you'd like to go to whom. There were thankfully no arguments over my mother-in-law's goods, but we all could only guess what her desire may be ... and I'm pretty sure we missed the mark on at least a few. A will may be the answer, but how many wills go so far as to say which kid gets the red afghan versus the white or the flowered teapot versus the striped?

Always label photos with the names of those in the pictures and the date. As we perused the hundreds of photos, we were at a loss again and again without Granny around to let us know which baby belonged to whom and why one wacky woman wore the getup featuring what appeared appeared to be a bikini-clad sumo wrestler.

Minimize the mementos from your children's early years. Mother's Day gifts made in preschool, unidentifiable art-class and woodshop projects and every scrap of sentimentality have their place, but it's a very limited place. Save only those that really tug at the heart strings, not every crayon-scribbled, glitter-pocked piece of paper.

Speaking of paper, get rid of (most of) it. There's no need to save every single greeting card, every single receipt, every single recipe that one may have intended to try but never did. A paper shredder -- of which we found an unused one in Granny's possession -- comes in handy for such things.

Same goes for toiletry samples and hotel freebies. As Jim and his siblings chuckled about the blue tube after blue tube of the Clairol conditioning cream that comes with the hair color but is far too much for any normal woman to use as directed on the tube, I had to fess up that I have a handful, okay a basketful, of the very same conditioning cream tubes in my own bathroom cabinet. I'll be pitching those ... soon.

Thank you for these lessons and more, Granny. I'll do my best to soon institute them in my life, my home, my piles of stuff. I'll do it in honor of you -- and to nip in the bud the giggles, grins and guffaws sure to come from my daughters if they were to one day discover the Ziploc baggie I have filled with baby teeth individually wrapped in tissues, all deftly pulled from under pillows by this grandma formerly known as the Tooth Fairy.

Today's question:

Which of the "lessons" from above are you most in need of instituting in your life?