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Strapped for space? Banish kitchen clutter

(ran HN, HH, HL, HC editions)

You may have storage problems in the kitchen, especially if you're a gadget lover, possessor of pasta makers to espresso machines. There's just one thing to do: Organize your kitchen storage.

Here are some tips to enhance kitchen storage:

Clear out unused clutter to make room for important items. Chipped dishes, mismatched glassware, old but unused wedding gifts _ throw them away, hold a garage sale or donate them to charity.

Store items as close as possible to the place they will be used. Keep oil, spices and kitchen utensils close to the range. Food storage areas should be near one another and where you unload groceries. Keep cleaning materials close to the sink or the dishwasher.

Use shelf dividers to organize wide shelves into narrow compartments, grouping like items for easy access. Dividers keep pots, pans and electric gadgets in a space of their own.

Customize the interiors of your cupboards with plastic, rubber or plastic-coated wire organizers.

Use common sense when organizing drawers. Put all like objects together and keep them that way with ready-made organizers.

Turn a cabinet section into a huge sliding drawer. It makes access easier, and is ideal for housing a toaster, food mixer or an out-of-sight trash receptacle.

When cabinets don't reach to the ceiling, use the top space for storing handsome, large pieces that aren't used regularly.

Add shelves to the inside doors of pantries and cupboards when possible. When the main shelves are recessed sufficiently, this addition is extremely easy.

Create storage space with small, exposed shelves at the side ends of your cabinets or island counters.

Cut niches between studs to create cubbyholes for spices, potholders or other small items.

The most efficient kitchens use air space for storage. Suspend racks for pots and pans from the ceiling. Hang tiered baskets for vegetables. Install racks for hanging barware upside down, and mount wire units on walls for hanging coffee cups or utensils.

Consider shifting some storage to your dining room. Perhaps you have a vacant dining room corner perfect for a corner cupboard or corner shelving unit. Add built-in plate racks or custom shelves above a sideboard or console table.

Create a pantry by stacking wire drawers in a rolling cart and filling them with groceries. Various configurations of portable, ready-made wire stacking drawers, baskets and bins in a cart allow you to create your own pantry storage area for canned and packaged foods without the trouble and expense of reconstructing your kitchen.

How organized you want your kitchen to appear should be a consideration in deciding between glass or wooden-door cabinets. Be honest with yourself. If you're not inherently neat, it's best to hide your cabinet contents behind wooden doors.

Make it easier to sort and store recyclable items by tossing them into the roomy wire baskets of a kitchen cart.

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