In which I explain the paraphernalia of womanhood

To be printed 14/04/2011.

I am about to make a sweeping generalisation. I always avoid sweeping generalisations*, but for the purposes of this article we're going to assume that the following statement is fact: women have lots of stuff.

We thrive on 'things'.

Not necessarily from an innate inclination to hoard (I like to believe both genders have equal propensity to end up crazed bric-a-brac collectors, eventually dying in a pile of their cack), but because the simple act of being a woman in our society tends to require equipment.

Some of us see it as battle armour, some like Mary Poppins' carpet bag full of magical tricks, while more of us are just continually baffled by the sheer amount of indispensable gubbins we've managed to accumulate. "I don't even BUY this stuff!" we cry, as things fall on our heads from cupboards. But despite frequent attempts of declutter and downsize, the things always creep back into our lives.

In accordance, our bags have evolved from little velveteen pouches for love notes, snuff boxes and other trinkets, to holdalls you can cart a child round in. We've become pack ponies, hauling around our collected life's purchases just so that if anyone happens to have a funny tummy twinge, we can be eternally poised with a Gaviscon.

And while for the most part, we understand the vague original purpose of our things, for outsiders it can be a confusing world. So here, for the uninitiated, is my cheat's sheet to the things – or what I like to call 'the paraphernalia of womanhood':

1. Kirby grips

Women have a special place to keep kirby grips, and that is the floor. Despite buying approximately eight million of the little metal buggers in our lifetimes, we will only ever have about four on the go at once - and all of these we will procure when needed from our bedroom carpets. Despite all attempts to tame them, to keep them in little purses and designated boxes, the truth is that kirby grips just need to roam free.

2. Lip balm

In the interests of thorough journalism, I have googled 'Do women's lips get dryer than men's?' but it hasn't returned any results. So we must venture on uninformed, to learn about the female attachment to lipbalm. It's a particular trademark of my generation, I think, the need to be in a state of permanent lip lubrication. When we were 14, my pals and I carried around so many tubes of sparkly, cake-flavoured goop in our pencil cases that we could line them up the entire length of the desk during English lessons.

Meanwhile in adulthood, we favour balms that make our lips tingle to the point of pain, signifying that they're "doing us good." We have them littered about our rooms, our desks and our person in case of a sandpaper attack - and if none is to be found, we can always resort to a greasy sausage roll.

3. Safety pins

In every woman's life, there will be at least five occasions where her clothes will fail her. Straps will break, seams will rip, garments will cease to perform their proper function and leave her indecently exposed. This is when the surprise presence of a safety pin is so glorious we could cry.

But be warned: they do not always remain where we put them. Safety pins are fickle creatures and love to disappear just when we need them most. Which is probably why Liz Hurley wore a tribute to them down the red carpet – she knew it would pay off to get them on her side.

4. Tampons

It's the obvious one, and despite all the men going spontaneously blind and shaky right now, it must be covered. They are the ultimate womanly accoutrement. The savvy female has them stashed in every conceivable outlet; the unsavvy female must beg them from strangers. We are fiercely loyal to brand and style - if you want to cause a proper ruckus in a group of women, simply ask "applicator or non-applicator?" and wait for the feathers to fly (throw in a Mooncup fan and you've got a civil war on your hands).

And despite only needing them once a month, we stockpile like it's going out of fashion. "Might as well buy another box," we think when we find ourselves in the aisle. "You never know." You never know what? An entire rugby team with bloody noses might stop by and need plugging up?

*This is also a sweeping generalisation.