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Down-to-Earth Kitchen Cabinets

No-nonsense storage ideas for putting things away within easy reach.

Imagine you need something from the top shelf of your kitchen cabinet. If you don't get it down – and do it soon – dinner will be ruined.

What will you do? Climb on a step ladder? Stand on your tip toes? Stretch your arms as far as they will go? Wait for someone who can help? Sounds like you could be asking for a bad fall – a broken dish – or a very late supper.

There is a better way. But you'll have to start looking at your storage space in a whole new way.

Breaking the Rules

There's no magic rule that says kitchen cabinets have to be out of reach. In fact, the cabinets that hang above your counters should only be 48 inches from the floor. That's 12 or 15 inches above your countertop.

How do your cabinets measure up? Are they too high? If they are, don't let it get you down. You don't have to replace them. Instead, take some simple steps to bring them – or at least what's in them – within your reach.

First, move items that are hard to reach. Store pans, mixing bowls and platters in the cabinets that are below your counters. Put up a peg board on your kitchen wall. Use hooks to hang your pots and pans there.

Get a rolling cart with pull-out drawers. Use it to store items you use all the time. Roll this cart around the kitchen so your tools are always close at hand.

Put a shelf right below one of your upper cabinets. Use this shelf to store some of the things you want to move from your upper cupboards.

Still not enough space? Then think about buying a device that actually brings a whole set of shelves right to you. These shelves rest in your upper cabinet until you grab a handle on the shelf frame. Then, a set of three or four shelves swings out of the cabinet and down toward you. The shelves lock in place so you can get the item you need. Give them a tug and the whole unit swings back into place. Ask for "pull-down shelves" at your hardware store.

Make Your Cabinets Work for You

Think about removing the doors on your cabinets. Or replace the doors you have now with glass. You'll be able to see clearly where you stored everything. You won't waste any more time or strength looking for things in all the wrong places. If you can't replace your doors, then replace the handles. Handles that look like a "D" are easier to grab than round knobs.

Add a Lazy Susan to a deep shelf or a corner cabinet. This flat, round tray spins around easily. Give it a turn and you can easily bring items from the back of your cabinet to the front.

Are you Remodeling?

If you're planning to replace your kitchen cabinets, keep these things in mind:

• Hang your upper cupboards 48 inches above the floor. Place your lower cabinets six inches above the floor. This way you'll do less stretching and bending.

• Check out some new cupboard designs. Motorized cabinets move up and down the wall with the flick of a switch. Height-adjustable models attach with hooks to a rail that you screw into the wall. Put the cabinets right where you want them. Move them later on if you want them higher, or need them lower.

• Make sure your cabinet shelves are no more than 10 inches deep. Otherwise, you may have trouble reaching the back.

• Try cabinets with magnetic latches. People with weak hands and arms can push on the outside of these doors to open the cabinet.

• Choose shelves that slide out of your lower cabinets. And, ask for "full extension" drawers that pull out further than standard drawers. With these helpers, you ' ll be able to reach whatever you need. You may even find things that have been hidden for years!

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