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  • Family Handyman

    Use space above doors or windows to augment storage space. There's usually room for a shelf to hold extra blankets, towels or books and games.

  • Family Handyman

    A simple roll-out cart can make use of the space between washer and dryer.

  • Ryan Hulvat / Lehigh Group

    Rail-mounted storage works well to get heavy items like bikes, tools and sports equipment off the floor. Each system offers a range of specialized hangers.

  • Family Handyman

    A simple rod suspended in a cabinet holds spray bottles.

  • Neil Gates / Lehigh Group

    Crawford Flexible Storage Solutions feature stretchy net bags that hold lots of hard-to-store items in a compact space.

  • Neil Gates / Lehigh Group

    Crawford Flexible Storage Solutions feature stretchy net bags that hold lots of hard-to-store items in a compact space.

Too much stuff or too little space?

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4CALIFORNIA LIFE

It's an ongoing dilemma: What to do with all our stuff?

As consumers, we constantly add to our stash. We overwhelm our kitchen counters with small appliances. We pack our closets with clothes and accessories. We overflow drawers with our junk.

And when we've managed to jam every nook full, we go looking for more crannies.

"More storage; it's what everybody wants," said remodeling guru and author Steven Katkowsky. "In the kitchen, it's the No. 1 complaint."

January is prime time for getting organized, a perennial New Year's resolution. What that often means is finding the right places to put stuff.

"It's definitely pretty busy for us," said Chris Upton of All Organized, roll-out shelf specialists in North Highlands. "People want to get their homes organized."

All Organized installs roll-outs, Lazy Susans and other inventive storage solutions to modify existing cabinets.

"Most people only use the front third of their cabinets because they can't see what's back there," Upton said. "(Roll-outs) let you maximize that space."

Katkowsky routinely finds more storage in the same space. He's a big fan of Rev-a-Shelf, maker of cabinet organizers and storage systems.

During last week's California State Home and Garden Show in Sacramento, Katkowsky demonstrated how to triple the usable space in a typical 5-by-7-foot bathroom. He works similar magic in kitchens.

"The space is there," he explained. "Look up, look down, left, right, in the walls. You can have five times the storage space in exactly the same size cabinets."

Helping make this transformation happen is a vast array of organizational and storage accessories.

"In the last five years, it's just exploded," Katkowsky said. "The options are endless. You can make almost anything hold more and be more convenient with some of these exciting solutions."

Our struggle to contain our stuff is part of our continual crusade to be more organized.

"The real big issue: Clutter causes stress," said Debbie Hanson, organization expert for Crawford and the Lehigh Group. "Time invested in organization will definitely lead to less stress in your life."

Where to start? First, get rid of some stuff.

"Put your counters on a diet," Katkowsky said. "Do you really need all those appliances and gadgets?"

Said Hanson, "We always seem to be getting more stuff. Before you can be organized, first and foremost, eliminate the excess. Just because you have the space doesn't mean keep everything. Be mindful of what you'll really use."

By clearing clutter, you've already created more space. Now, the challenge is to use what space you have to its fullest potential.

Where? Look up.

"Use vertical space," said HGTV designer Sabrina Soto, Target's home style expert. "You can add valuable real estate and storage space by using the height of the room and the walls."

For example, hang a shelf above a door or window, suggest the experts from Family Handyman magazine. In a bathroom or laundry room, that space can hold towels, linens, paper goods, books, supplies; just about anything.

"Floor space is at a minimum at times, but there are so many new products that get things off the ground," Hanson said. "Just make sure they're stored safely."

Wall-hung pegboards give everything a defined space in sight. Pot racks lift cookware off the counter.

Hooks can hang bicycles or garden gear, but be mindful not to overload; most storage systems have a 35-pound capacity.

Wall-hung rail systems can store tools and sporting goods. Said Hanson, "They're especially good for awkward or tall items. They can be easily tamed off the ground."

Also, think of wall space as storage room.

"I absolutely adore soft-sided storage bins," Hanson said. "They hold more. "They're easily moved. And when you don't need them, they fold away."

When searching for more room, rethink the space inside closets and cabinets.

"Utilize every inch of closet space possible," Soto said. "If you can see the back wall of your closet, you're missing storage opportunities. Over-the-door shoe or belt racks are great space savers."

When it comes to closets, divide and conquer.

"Fabric storage bins are the easiest way to make any closet look immaculately organized," Soto said. "They are easy to stack and slightly flexible and therefore more forgiving to oddly shaped closets."

See what you have – even when it's boxed.

"Use clear storage containers," Hanson said. "At a glance, you know what's inside."

Instead of a bookcase or cabinet, consider wall-hung shelves for added (and handy) display or storage space. Such shelves can "float" on a wall where needed.

"Floating shelves are one of my favorite shared-home solutions," Soto said. "Without sacrificing floor area, they give you extra space and let you get creative."

Katkowsky suggests another option: Look inside the wall.

"There's 4 inches or more of space inside every wall," he said. "You can carve out a recessed nook."

While using every inch, consider other "wasted" space. The gap between the washer and dryer might accommodate a rollaway storage cart.

Inside a kitchen or bathroom cabinet, suspend a dowel, suggests Family Handyman. Then, hang spray bottles from this simple rack.

It's another step to storage sanity.

"Really think about long-term solutions," Hanson said. "Give yourself time. You didn't get all that stuff at once. It doesn't need to all be (organized) in one weekend."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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