Children, I have deduced from visits to the homes of some of my more procreative colleagues, are untidy things that tend to leave large numbers of pencils, crayons and felt-tip pens lying around table, floors and anywhere else they are allowed to smear their grubby little hands on. Here is a neat solution to the problem.

All you need is a sharp knife or scissors, and an estate agent's sign. The latter may be procured by the simple expedient of selling your house. (If desperate, you may even forget to pack the crayons when you move, or leave the children behind without a forwarding address.) When the house is sold, you will find yourself in possession of a sturdy "For Sale" board thrown away in delight by the estate agent.

You will see that it is made like cardboard, but of cavity-insulated plastic, with channels running across the board. Cut a strip about 2cm wide, and as long as you like, down the board, with the channels running across the width. Using a thin-bladed pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut through alternate corrugations. This makes each channel big enough to accommodate a pencil or ball-point pen. For marker pens, or your piston- filling Montblanc hand-crafted 18-carat gold nib with platinum inlay Solitaire solid gold fountain pen (large), you will need to cut through more corrugations.

Slip a piece of string - from your collection saved from the handles of upmarket shopping bags - through the top channel, and hang the pencil collection above your desk just out of the children's reach.

Note that estate agents' boards are generally supplied and owned by contractors, so you should not dismantle any that have not clearly been discarded. When you have acquired and dismantled one, however, do remember also to save the plastic nuts and bolts that held it together. They are very useful in notebooks to hold punched papers, or for fast repairs to bag handles.