When I was just starting out as a librarian, I worked in a small primary school. I inherited the library from two women who were very careful about saving things. So careful, in fact, that the office was crammed with books, papers, puppets, files, Kik-Steps, filmstrips, costumes, and such. One of the first tasks I took on was cleaning the office. It was awesome. I came across a box of bones (clearly labeled "Bones"), a fox pelt (clearly labeled "Fox"), and a super stylish (but mysteriously unlabeled) blue cropped sweatshirt with a large sparkly gold fish on the front.
One day, I set out to clean the highest shelf in the office. This meant standing on top of a desk (which would not have been possible a few days prior, because it had been piled with boxes of typewriter ribbon and a ridiculous number of desk caledars, dating back to before I was born) to reach the shelf. While I was up there, I found a small Christmas tin. "Hmm," I thought, "I don't have a use for this, but maybe I could put it in the staff lounge and someone would take it." But since it had been in the office for so long, I thought I'd better smell inside the tin just in case it was too old and musty for staff lounge give-away purposes. As I took the lid off, I noticed that there were holes punched in it. Strange, but by that time, I had seen much stranger. I took off the lid and took a long whiff... then looked inside.
That was definitely the wrong order to do things in. Here are the steps I should have taken:
1. Carefully look at the outside of the tin.
2. If it seems logical, take the lid off and look inside. No smelling necessary.
3. If the tin is clean, put it in the staff lounge.
I did not do any of that. If I had, I would have seen that the tin was clearly labeled "Mouse." And I would have put the entire thing straight into the trash can. I would not have taken the lid off. And I would not have smelled it. And I would not have looked inside after smelling it and seen a how-many-years-old dead mouse.