A family's tableware holds so many memories. I remember my mom's dishes so clearly in the china cabinet. Later on I inherited the dishes and the cabinet. When I placed the dishes back in their home, it looked so right and familiar. If you take care of your tableware it can last for generations. But it won't bring you joy, unless you use it. This formal dinner is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with these little treasures.

These tips are great for any china that you would like to see preserved, but they are essential for antique pieces over 20 years of age.

1. Believe it or not, the best way to preserve your china is to use it. Storing china for long periods of time can actually have adverse effects. Temperature and humidity changes can stress the surface glaze causing tiny cracks. These allow dirt and dust to settle causing further damage. If possible remove your china from storage at least once a year and give it a good cleaning.

2. Food is public enemy number one. Even if you don't plan on doing the dishes (and believe me after a night of New Year's merrymaking I don't plan on doing much of anything) at least rinse them off. Food acids can eat away at glaze.

3. Wash by hand in tepid to warm water with a mild detergent. Try to avoid any detergent with a lemon scent or containing bleach. These can damage the surface. Line the bottom of the sink with a rubber mat or dish towel and wash one dish at a time. China can be air dried in a plastic or wooden rack and wiped with a soft cloth right before storage. If possible, avoid the dishwasher. The extreme heat and harsh detergent can quickly damage antique china.

4. Never stack your antique china plates more than four high. Place some sort of cushion between each plate. It can be rubber mats that are specifically designed for this purpose, or something as easy as a coffee filter. Try not to stack handled cups, but if you have to, no more than two high.

1. Most stemware is broken during cleaning and storage, not while in use. So with that in mind, take off heavy jewelry before you begin the clean up.

2. Hand wash with a mild detergent in lukewarm water. Like with your fine china, wash one piece at a time. And line the bottom of the sink with a mat or towel. Rinse the stemware gently making sure all of the soap residue is off. It can build up over time and cloud your crystal. Right before drying, dip the glass into water with a cup or so of vinegar added. This will keep your glasses sparkling. Dry the crystal immediately to avoid spotting.

3. Don't twist the crystal while washing or drying. The torque could easily damage delicate stems.

4. If your crystal should become cloudy, gently rub the surface with any of the soft scrub style cleaners. Allow it to sit over night and then clean thoroughly by hand. For stubborn stains try CLR. Let the liquid sit overnight and then rinse completely.

5. Store crystal foot down to avoid chipping the rim. And give each piece space so they don't clang together.

1. I know this is getting redundant - but hand cleaning is always the best. The heat of the dishwasher can loosen and degrade the adhesive that connects the blade to the handle causing it to wiggle and rattle.

2. The more you use sliver the better it gets. There is nothing prettier than an aged sterling service. It develops a satiny patina that actually protects the piece.

3. Wash your silver pieces immediately after use. Certain foods, such as mayonnaise, vinegar and eggs will spot your silver very quickly. Most silver polishes will remove the spots. For spots on the stainless steel blades of knives, try a little baking soda

4. Avoid the liquid sliver cleaners that you dip the pieces in, and the tarnish is immediately removed. These can actually damage the surface of the piece.

5. Dry your sliver with a soft lint free cloth. A blow dryer on the low setting is a useful tool here. It can dry some of the crevasses where water can collect.

6. Store your silver service properly in a specially designed box, or felt lined bags..