Chances are, you never use your Grandma's china set although you've schlepped it along for multiple moves because the idea of selling it feels wrong. So what do you want your kids to have -- that won't burden them the way the china set does? Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Your first passport.
Looking at all those country stamps from exotic places will remind them of what an adventurer you are. It also opens the door to retelling the stories of the time after college when you backpacked and hitchhiked through Europe and the Middle East.
2. Your military discharge papers.
Aside from the very practical aspect that your children may one day need them to help get you services from the Department of Veteran Affairs, looking at old papers with old dates on them is infinitely cool. Plus, we're told that nobody beats the VA when it comes to misplacing paperwork or not being able to find your records in their computer, so don't toss them away.
3. One printed photo of your wedding.
Digital photography is fabulous as long as you backup your photos and don't forget where you've backed them up to. But there is just something about being able to hold a printed photo in your hands. Old photos show their age, which in the case of old photos, is precisely the point.
4. Something belonging to the oldest living relative they know.
Make it small but make it personal. And it must have belonged to someone they actually know. Unless they have an antique hairpin collection, being given a hairpin from your great-aunt who died before they were born reduces it to just being something old. Old stuff is for collectors.
5. A sentimental piece of jewelry.
It may be the ring you got at your Sweet 16, or the watch you received from your dad when you graduated college. Its value lies in its sentiment. This doesn't mean your diamond rings, unless there is sentiment attached and not just dollar signs. Things with big dollar signs belong in the family trust to be argued over later by your children.
6. A receipt with a date on it.
We guarantee they will laugh every time they rediscover it. Yes, a quart of milk really just cost 50 cents in 1960. Gas was about 35 cents a gallon, if you really want a guaranteed belly chuckle. We are partial to grocery lists on the day they were born, and hotel bills from vacations.
7. The photo of the first time you held them.
While you probably have a zillion baby pictures, the first one is the keeper.
8. Highlights of their childhood.
No, not the ubiquitous Little League or AYSO trophies. In fact, you can probably toss those out right now, no matter how old your kids are. Some of their early, precious art work also has a shelf life that has already expired. Ditto for those handprints in paint. But report cards are keepers, especially if there are teachers' comments on them. We plan on keeping the letter accepting them into college, at least until a diploma replaces it.
9. The dog tags worn by their childhood pets.
Our furry family members deserve to be remembered as well. Rusty's name tag has a place in the remembrances box, along with a photo of him with the family.
10. Your favorite music, but not on an out-of-date platform.
The box of old eight-tracks isn't going to be of much use to Junior. Sure there's some really fine music in there, but he won't be able to access it. Let the cat enjoy playing with the magnetic tape and see which songs you can download from the iTunes store. Only a handful of eight-tracks are worth anything today, and not even of much value to collectors.