Where to put your stuff is a frustrating problem, whether you're a student moving into a tiny dorm room, a parent with kids who play sports, a hobbyist or someone who just wants to spread out.
After three of Lowell Pratt's four children moved away, leaving part of his nest empty, he turned one 16-by-18-foot bedroom into a closet and dressing room, with separate spaces for himself and his wife as well as a place to sit.
"I even was kidding my wife I wouldn't mind having a TV in my closet" to catch the news in the morning while dressing, Pratt said. "She thought I was going over the top. I kind of did go over the top."
As president of Pratt Homes of White Bear Lake, Minn., Pratt sees an increasing demand for more built-in storage space throughout the house, both in new homes and remodeling jobs.
"People are spending a lot more money on closet storage, particularly in the master bedroom [where] closets are no longer just closets, they're dressing rooms, at a certain price point," he said. Some have three-way mirrors, lined jewelry-storage drawers, shoe racks, tie and belt holders, and a center island of drawers.
"Built-ins have increased over the past five or 10 years. We're building in bookshelves, so people can hide or display [things]. In back entries, there are bench seats, locker cabinets and hook strips. And companies now are specializing in garage storage units."
The traditional attic does not exist anymore because of new energy code requirements. Traditional basement storage space is disappearing as well, as people claim the area for workout rooms, home theaters and entertaining. But a large storage space can be gained by installing trusses at the tops of garages, creating a space accessible by a pull-down ladder, Pratt says.
High-end kitchens often come equipped with pantries because people have less time to shop, and therefore like to keep more on hand. Sometimes they include a small extra freezer. Homeowners also have more appliances, such as big mixers, breadmakers, juicers and espresso machines, but they don't want to clutter their kitchens.
"Countertop is pretty valuable real estate, so it's nice to have a place to store the stuff you only use every couple of weeks," Pratt said.
For those who live on a smaller scale, storage is an even bigger challenge. Having lived in a series of dorm rooms and apartments, Lisa Lankford, assistant manager at the Organized Living store in Edina, Minn., has become adept at fitting her stuff into limited spaces. Her business specializes in home storage, and one company principle for all rooms of the home is to use odd spaces such as under beds and the backs of doors. Organized Living carries numerous boxes and racks sized for these purposes.
Another company mantra is to think vertically. In the garage, for example, sturdy metal grids can be mounted on walls; attached to those could be shelves, hooks, and specialized baskets and racks for racquets, balls, skates, skis and hand tools.
In the kitchen, stand-alone shelves and a device that looks like a flight of stairs will help people see what they've got in their cupboards, she says. Stacking food canisters reduces the space needed for items such as brown sugar and pasta, while keeping them fresh.
Some kitchen space savers are decorative: Hanging pans from a rack on the wall or over an island; sliding upside-down stemware into a rack affixed to the ceiling or the bottom of a cabinet; or storing spices on a wall rack.
Organized Living has large modular shelf systems that can cover an entire wall or be arranged into a baker's rack. They also help people design do-it-yourself closet storage systems.
Smaller gadgets can also be very helpful, such as stand-alone shelves that go under sinks -- one even can be arranged to make room for pipes -- and slide-out shelves for deep cabinets.
"It's always the pan in the back that you need," Lankford said.
The biggest storage challenge in most homes is probably clothing. Closets always seemed to be stuffed, while people still have problems seeing what they've got and finding what they need. California Closets staffers make home visits to take a very personal look at what people have and how they use it to determine how it can best be stored.
"They count every shoe; they count all the dresses. [They say] 'Tell me about how you get ready in the morning,' " said Michele Skjei of the Edina store. The process makes people think about what they actually use and what they need to have at hand. The company also does hobby rooms, pantries, home offices, laundry rooms and garages.
Skjei compares her company's process with something simpler: If knives, forks and spoons are thrown haphazardly into a drawer, they'll be harder to use than if they're sorted into a silverware organizer.
"On a larger scale, we're putting order to everyday items," she said.