If polymer clay is properly stored, it should last for years. The most important rules of storage are to keep the clay out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat. (That means you shouldn't leave it in your car while you shop, unless you've put it into a cooler.) Polymer clay left at room temperature will remain malleable for years, but it may last even longer if put into cold storage (in your refrigerator or even the freezer).
Unopened clay can be left as it is, but once you've opened a block of clay, you'll want to re-package it in plastic wrap, plastic bags, or wax paper, to prevent dust and hair from contaminating it. Raw clay shouldn't be stored in contact with paper, because the plasticizers will leach out and leave the clay dry and crumbly.
If you don't want to wrap your clay, you can store it in a lidded container. Glass and metal containers work well, but wood isn't ideal. While some types of plastic boxes are fine for storage, others "melt" with prolonged contact with polymer clay. Generally, plastics with recycling number of 2, 4, or 5 are fine, but if you're not sure, you can run a test with a small piece of clay. If there is no unusual stickiness or distortion of the plastic after a day or so, the container should work for storage.
For more information about polymer clay storage, visit this page: Polymer Clay - Storage