TIDY and organised or chaotic and cluttered - what do your drawers say about you?

Are they filled with memories; stuffed with sentimental keepsakes or are they simply purposeful and practical?

Our lives may be more contained within a screen; personal contacts once kept in address books are now accessed at the tap of a button but most of us cannot do without drawers.

Crammed or sparse, drawers can be a reflection of our personality; our lives. They’re a go-to for daily tools - the utensils we rely on to prepare and eat our meals; provide storage for things we cannot let go and embrace the clothes that keep us warm.

In many ways drawers can also organise our lives providing a home for practical things such as address books; family planners and photographs.

For Bradford Methodist minister, Dr Barbara Glasson, it was taking particular notice of the items in her appropriately-titled ‘travel’ drawer containing her passport and items relating to the interesting destinations she visits as part of her role with the Touchstone charity, a Methodist initiative set up in the 1980s following the closure of the Bradford city centre Methodist Mission, Eastbrook Hall, that sparked an interesting idea.

Based in Bradford, Touchstone works with people of different faiths and focuses on giving people of different faiths opportunities to share ‘communality and differences.’

Opening her own drawer inspired Barbara to think about the contents of other people’s drawers and the personal stories attached to the items kept within.

“I opened the drawer in my chest of drawers - my travel drawer - with my passport because I travel quite a lot and I thought not everybody has a travel drawer and I wondered what drawers other people have which reflect their lives,” explains Barbara.

With a challenge set, an appeal was put out through the Telegraph & Argus early last year, and social media, for people to take photographs of their drawers - the only criteria being that they had to be captured as they are so if they are usually cluttered they couldn’t be tidied - the idea being to find out what the drawer said about the participants and their lives.

“The idea was simple, they could take a photograph on their mobile and we asked people to submit a photograph and a paragraph about why the drawer was significant to them,” explains Barbara.

The tongue-in-cheek, appropriately titled ‘Extraordinary Drawers’ was also seen as a bit of fun too.

“The title is a bit of a giggle, people saw it as a bit of a joke and we had an amazing response, some people from faith communities who wanted to say something about their faith - drawers with Turbans, a couple’s drawers, her drawer was very tidy with embroidered threads in order and his has had old rubber bands, tins and batteries - it is a reflection of our personal life,” says Barbara.

“It’s something real, ordinary - we open our kitchen drawer every day and we don’t think ‘here is a potato peeler and a wooden spoon’ they look very different now than they did in the Fifties and they are signs of our social history and our everyday ordinary lives and we may be take them for granted.”

The response was overwhelming with the appeal prompting hundreds of photographs from participants of all ages which form part of a blog and were also showcased in public as part of the ‘Extraordinary Drawers’ exhibition launched last year at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.

Jenny Ramsden, interfaith adviser with Touchstone who collated the blog, talks of the stories behind the photographs - among her favourites the turban drawer and also the drawer containing a life-saving Hickman line, a central venous catheter kept by the contributor whose brother had donated his bone marrow after she was diagnosed with leukaemia as a young girl.

“It was a drawer full of love - it was the stories as much as the photographs,” says Jenny.

One contributor took a photo of her onesie drawer. “I’ve got 14 of them! They keep me warm and make me feel relaxed,” she wrote.

‘My Technology Graveyard’ showcased a drawer of technology with the contributor’s comments: “This drawer is my technology graveyard. Cassettes.... walkmans cd player... mini disc player... Gameboys.... phone... cameras and mini discs! From my younger years and my kids’ younger days, and all still working....”

Another interesting and quirky image was a collection of plants grown in the contributor’s garden and kept in their chest of drawers.

“I think that was fun because it was somebody living in a very small house with a tiny yard who loves their garden and it was her way of expressing that,” says Barbara.

‘An Extraordinary Cathedral Drawer’ showcased some of the textiles used around the Cathedral at various times of the year such as Purple for Advent and Lent; Red for feast days; Green for ‘Ordinary Time’ and ‘Gold’ for special feast days, Christmas and Easter Day.

‘A Passion for Preparing Food’ encapsulated the enjoyment the contributor gleaned from cooking for her family and others as well as memories of items given to her such as a vintage fruit spoon and cake server which have been passed on and the memory of Uncle George attempting to straighten the curved grapefruit knife ‘which still makes me smile,’ the contributor acknowledges.

However, not all the photographs were of objects - one comical shot captures a toddler after clambering into a drawer.

“It was really important to get the message out and also to have a bit of fun. A lot of what we do is serious but sometimes we need to connect as human beings and have a bit of fun,” says Barbara.

Says Jenny: “We didn’t expect the response to be as big. It seemed to capture the imagination of people.”

And the reason why ‘Extraordinary Drawers’ remains so popular?

“I think it is tangible. Things bring back memories. You pull open a drawer and memories are there,” says Jenny.

“Some things you want to hang on to, they are tangible.”

Sharing stories is also an effective way of bringing people together. “It’s also the stories of ordinary people. Ordinary people have extraordinary stories to tell and this was a really effective way of getting those stories out there.”

“It was a really good way of bringing ordinary people together to share their stories.”

‘Extraordinary Drawers’ runs from February 8 until March 3 at Bradford Cathedral. Visit bradfordcathedral.org.