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Small spaces better if you're organized

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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — craftsman and poet William Morris

A SMALL LIVING SPACE can be a powerful motivator for keeping possessions in order. Before looking for more space, start where any prudent organizing plan begins — by clearing clutter.

Clutter has a knack for building up overnight and, unlike other possessions, it cannot be organized. Sort and purge, then organize what’s left. Start in the room where you spend the most time. Get serious and commit yourself to a reasonable goal — perhaps one hour a day, five days a week. Remember that results will be in proportion to your effort.

Here are some specific ways to maximize space, many of them capitalizing on vertical storage.

In the kitchen
Double cabinet space by using vinyl-clad steel storage racks. Cupboard storage capacity is tripled, and less lifting is required from the top to get something from beneath. Use tiered shelves for spices and canned goods. You can see everything from front to back, since each shelf is slightly higher than the one in front. A wire grid system is an adaptable storage option with baskets, hooks and clips to hang on the wall. Need to clear counter space? Hang paper towels under cabinets, on a wall, inside a cupboard door or on the refrigerator using a magnetized holder.

In the closet
Use tiered multi-hangers for pants and skirts (get the swing-arm type for easier access). A portable closet-rod doubler will boost space for short garments.

Get hooked
Hooks are another way to use vertical space. They come in all sizes and finishes and are great for towels, bathrobes, belts, umbrellas and bags. Heavy-duty hooks can hang bikes, step-stools and tools. Attach a small stick-on hook (for shower cap, hair dryer, etc.) on the inside of the vanity door under your bathroom sink. 3M hooks are strong, and can be removed with no surface damage. Use hooks to hang mugs inside cabinets. Hooks of varying sizes can also be slipped into door hinges for more hanging space with no holes in the wall.

Over the door
The backs of doors have unexpected storage possibilities. Over-the-door racks with shelves can serve as a media library for CDs, videos and paperbacks. Racks with multiple hooks can hang robes or coats. Want to hang lots of towels? Do so with an over-the-door towel rack. Sporting a baseball hat collection? Cap racks hold 16 from a door, wall, ceiling or closet rod. Shoes can also be stored in over-the-door bags.

Roll with it
Rolling storage can be the salvation of small space dwellers. Utility carts are furniture on wheels, offering versatility and easy movement. Solid-top carts can support a microwave above and baskets below to hold food staples in the bottom. A file cart is a rolling office with room for hanging files and baskets on top or below for supplies. Rolling chests are also useful in both bedroom and bath.

Down under
Containers designed for under-bed storage (made of heavy-duty nylon, vinyl, cardboard or plastic) make an out-of-the-way home for gift-wrap, off-season clothes, shoes or linens. A favorite of interior designers, bed-frame risers also add storage space between the floor and your bed by lifting it 5 to 6 inches. A dust ruffle hides it all.

Functional furniture
Instead of an airy coffee table or nightstand with a single surface, look for one with doors, shelves or drawers to store items you use in the living room, family room or bedroom. Storage beds are designed with the mattress on a drawer-filled platform. Sofa beds and inflatable mattresses provide instant added sleeping space, but take little or no room when not in use.

Use a laundry stand with mesh bag and drawstring. The stand fits in narrow spaces, and the bag removes easily for trips to the laundry room.

Shelve it
Pick your favorite material, and there’s a shelf for you. Choose from wood, wood laminate or metals finished in white, black or silver. Many of the new freestanding units assemble fast with no tools, look good and can go with you when you move.

Under wraps
Concerned about aesthetics? Consider stackable cubes (17 by 17 inches) that snap together and have doors. Screens can also be used to conceal things or to separate a room into different uses.