The thing about... storage

Storage: the very word is un-sexy. It has that deathly ring of solemnity. And yet it's one of those inevitabilities that gradually creep up: one day you buy a pencil case, the next thing you're leafing through catalogues trying to find the perfect way of organising your drill bits.

The thing about storage is that, despite the fact that it's as inevitable as late trains, few serious improvements have surfaced over the past couple of centuries. The situation in many houses around the country has reached crisis point with home-working; spare-rooms lie knee- deep in paper these days for want of a filing cabinet that doesn't look like a filling cabinet. I still don't understand why even those cabinets where some attempt at disguise has been made have to have label holders. The average punter needs no more than two drawers. What are you supposed to put on the labels? "Top Drawer" and "Bottom Drawer?"

Storage divides into two categories: the absolutely useless and the absolutely expensive. The primary considerations of storage are that it should only take up space that is either occupied or redundant, that it should be instantly accessible, that it should protect your belongings from dust and that it should spare you from having to look your cleaning products in the eye. Storage space is completely wasted if putting things into it is hard work.

Every company producing "ideas" seems to fall into at least one of these traps. Even The Holding Company (slogan: "Who says storage can't be fun?"), which launched a mail order catalogue last November (free on 0171-610 9160), is filled with fabric-covered boxes, retailing between pounds 10.50 and pounds 22.50. IKEA do their own paper-covered cardboard versions at pounds 7.50 for two and pounds 10.50 a pair in metal. And you know what? They all open at the top, which means that stacking is a complete no-no. How many times have you been tempted by those ubiquitous primary coloured mini-dustbins? Same problem, only they clash with everything as well.

"Fun", in many cases, seems to consist of varying the materials used. Actually, you can't beat wood or metal. Cardboard scuffs in no time; those sisal baskets look great until they've accrued a buildup of grime in their rough surfaces. Wicker actually seems to attract dust. Lakeland Plastics' Storage Solutions catalogue (015394 88100) is great on kitchen stuff, but filling your bedroom with a thousand takes on Tupperware is the kind of thing you do in the grip of depression. Calico, fabric of the decade, looks great for about five minutes. After that, it sags.

There is, of course, a simple solution. You could always throw things away, or give them to a charity shop. Treat your belongings as though you're going to disappear tomorrow and your relations are going to get stuck with sorting your stuff out. Those photographs of Marbella will probably end up in the bin, you know. Might as well put them there before someone else does.

Serena Mackesy