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Simon Kelner: I'm not ready for my life to get a digital de-cluttering


We can be forgiven for feeling confused. One minute we're being encouraged by various television programmes that, among the old rubbish we keep in the attic, we may have items we can turn into cash. And the next minute, we are being advised to de-clutter our lives, or more specifically our houses.

Don't just chuck out the chintz; there's that hoard of football programmes, your old school reports and the teddy bears you had as a child. Oh, and while you're at it, what about your old lacrosse stick? A report yesterday from the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) focuses on the lack of storage space in the modern house, and looks at the measures some Britons take – like storing household items at another location.

You may wonder why a body as august as this is worrying about where the nation's ironing boards are being housed, but their findings are significant in that they will inform the way homes are designed and built in the future. We need more cupboards in our lives, the report determines. Either that, or we need to get rid of the junk we've amassed down the years.

The problem is that when we throw something away, we're waving goodbye to a piece of our lives or, just maybe, we're losing the chance to appear on Antiques Roadshow or Cash In The Attic to be told that an old painting actually might be worth a few quid. Of course, it never quite happens like that. I have a stamp collection that I've kept since I was a boy, and, just out of curiosity, I stopped recently at Stanley Gibbons on The Strand to see how much it might be worth.

I was given the relevant catalogue and I started looking for the stamps I had. Next to each was a price. One was marked 8, another 15, others were in the hundreds. I called the sales assistant over. "I never realised my collection would be this valuable," I said. "Really?" the assistant said, rather quizzically. "Yes," I said, "look at this – it says £75 for this one stamp." He peered over his glasses. "I think you'll find the pricing is in pence and not pounds, sir".

I went home disconsolate, but still couldn't face discarding my next-to-worthless collection. Another point made by Riba is that new homes need to take into account technological developments. Sure, we're going to need sockets everywhere, but aren't our lives being de-cluttered by the gadgets and gizmos that populate our possessions? Not only are they getting smaller and smaller, but they are designed to cut out associated items. In the house of the future, will there be a collection of records or CDs? I think not. And in years to come there won't be shelves full of photo albums. It's a memory stick that will house your memories.

It may be a generational thing, but I'm not quite ready for my life to be digitalised. Now, what happened to that beer mat collection?