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When it comes to our kitchens, storage and organization are becoming essential ingredients.

Indeed, some 85 percent of new-home buyers surveyed say a walk-in pantry is desirable or essential and 60 percent said special use storage areas are priorities, according to the 2003 National Association of Home Builders Consumer Preference Survey.

And storage and organization are key goals for kitchen remodelers and those simply wanting to make a few simple and cost-efficient changes.

"You don't have to be an organized person to have an organized kitchen," said Kate Schwartz, editor of kitchens.com, a consumer website. "The right cabinet interiors, space planning, and kitchen accessories can do most of the work for you."

Lowe's, meanwhile, says the first step involves taking everything out of your cabinets and sorting into groups according to where the items are used.

"While you are sorting, ask yourself, 'Have I used this in the past two years?' Lowe's advises website visitors. "If you have not, then move it out of your way. You do not have to toss it in the trash. Give it to someone, store it in a less accessible area or in a different room."

Schwartz offers the following suggestions:

  • If you're getting new cabinetry, see if you can increase the size. Standard dimensions are becoming less and less, so see if your designer or cabinetmaker can add 6 inches of storage to your base cabinets by making them 30 inches instead of the standard 24 inches deep. Or see about making upper cabinets a foot taller and adding 3 or 4 inches to the standard 12- or 13-inch depth.
  • Don't forget about aesthetics. To avoid turning your kitchen into an overwhelming collection of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, add contrast. Screened or frosted cabinet doors can hide clutter while breaking up the monotony of the wood. Mix it up with some open shelving.
  • Get that extra storage space by adding 4-inch-to-10-inch wide slide-in shelves that look like posts when they're pushed in.
  • Think about open shelving. It's easy to put the plates away, and you can add some instant color and personality to the kitchen. And, because upper cabinet open shelving tends to be more recessed than low-hanging boxes, you'll end up with more open workspace.
  • Think about appliances that now come as drawer units -- including refrigerators, wine chillers, and dishwashers.
  • Place your cooktop on your island to free up wall space formerly taken up by the ventilation unit.
  • Alphabetize your spices for easy retrieval.

In addition, Lowe's recommends building a pot rack to clear away a good chunk of storage space.

"Organizer racks can be added to cabinets to store cookie trays and lids," Lowe's says. "Store pot lids by adding shallow bins to the back of the cabinet doors." And when it comes to organizing cabinet storage, Lowe's suggests under-the-sink organizers for cleaners and chemicals, lazy susans for access to corner spaces, step shelving in cabinets to organize canned goods, dishes and small appliances, and wire baskets on slides to make your deep cabinets more accessible.

Meanwhile, Sarah Susanka, an architect and author of several books, including Not So Big Solutions for Your Home (The Taunton Press, 2002), says the kitchen shouldn't fall victim to messy piles of mail and paperwork.

"The average household receives far more mail today than was typical even a decade ago, but we haven't accommodated this onslaught with a designated area in the house," Susanka says.

She recommends designing a mail-sorting place. This, she says, can be a kitchen island or peninsula. But to be a mail-sorting place -- as opposed to a dumping ground -- she says there must be places to put the sorted mail readily at hand.

A lower counter can have mail slots, or if there isn't enough space, a mail-slot area should be a few steps away.

"If you can get family members to comply, another system is to locate a desk space in a convenient spot adjacent to the kitchen where it can serve both as a mail-sorting place and as an organization center," Susanka says.

No matter what type of system you develop, Susanka says you should include a good-size trash can and recycling bin.

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