There's all the stuff that I suppose you'd expect - the everyday crockery and cutlery, the Sunday-best china - but my family seem to have been hoarders of anything and everything, and I've unearthed an astounding mix of trivial and poignant items. When I moved out, and later when my grandmother died, my parents seem to have just spread out into every room, every wardrobe, cupboard and set of drawers.
I was amazed by the quantity of old clothing, handbags and shoes that had been kept, often long after there was any use left in them, at finding rusty cake tins, tupperware containers with a coating of whatever was once stored in them, and the used batteries and blown fuses that my dad refused to throw out. I even found bottles of champagne which had gone 'off'!
But I found it best to not just discard things. Every purse had been left with at least a ha'penny in it, and I was brought to tears on checking an old wallet, and discovering, carefully preserved for 76 years, the receipt from the hotel my parents stayed in for their honeymoon.
Tucked away in an ancient handbag (possibly my grandmother's) was a tiny prayer book, about 2 inches by 1 1/2, dated to 1873 which belonged to my great great grandfather Coote; elsewhere I stumbled across a diary my dad kept while in India during WW2,
Almost every birthday card sent from my dad to my mum seems to have been kept, congratulatory cards for my birth, handmade cards with stuck on pictures and childish handwriting sent from my children to their grandparents.
There's a lot of social history crammed into old boxes - an itinerary provided by the RAC, a precursor to satnav; cookery books, knitting and sewing patterns dating back to the 1930s; the tablecloths embroidered by my mum and grandmother (not one or two, but dozens), driving licences from the 50s; a dreadful fox-fur stole that was no doubt highly fashionable once but which always horrified me.
From WW2 there are ration books, letters, the buttons from granddad's ARP uniform, Royal Engineers cap badges belonging to my dad, and even his 'de-mob' suitcase. (I'm half expecting to find his old army tent somewhere in an outhouse, though probably eaten away by mice now).
It's been a long emotional task sorting through everything, but in the end I think it's helped me through these last few months. It's almost impossible to know where to begin with deciding what should be kept, what let go. I can't keep everything, and I'm not really sure I'd want to. My grandmother frequently used a phrase (often about people she disliked) of something being 'neither use nor ornament', and it seems a good test to apply here.
So, alongside the personal memorabilia, I'm keeping some of the fine china and cut glassware but it won't spend its time in a cupboard, coming out for best. I'll use it. Have one of those posh teas, with tiny sandwiches, dainty cakes, and prosecco in bone china cups. I have a pile of embroidered tablecloths to serve it on, and silver-plated sugar tongs and pastry forks. I'll be right posh.