On everyone's short list of resolutions for the new year, there is likely to be a line item about getting organized.
Clutter is the culprit. That inevitable result of accumulating too much stuff -- paper, magazines, books, CDs, sports gear, crafts, whatever -- is downright depressing when it's piled, stacked and thrown in an uncool, unaesthetic way.
The challenge is twofold. One is to lose a good chunk of what you're tripping over. The other is to find a place for it.
The good news is that there never have been more ideas and products available for coping with clutter.
Storage is a huge factor in home design. Home builders are addressing space planning in more thoughtful ways, with niceties in kitchens such as rollout trash bins, spice racks or holders for towels, cubbies and built-ins in designated mud rooms, handy shelving and hanging rods for laundry rooms, walk-in closets to die for in master bedroom suites.
"Great storage is the backbone of a smooth-running home," says London design expert Judith Wilson. "Plan it successfully and it will help reduce [if not prevent] the amiable chaos of family life."
What has changed in recent years is that options for storage have expanded into multiple categories for containing the chaos and are selling in dedicated retail shops such as Hold Everything and The Container Store as well as in any store that sells home furnishings.
A popular trend is higher-visibility storage, which itself becomes a key design feature with containers that are eye-catching enough to become focal points.
"Any box can hide things, but one that conceals or reveals while beguiling the eye has more flair," say the editors of House Beautiful in Sensational Storage Solutions (Hearst Books, $19.95).
The dressed-up shoebox, which grew out of a need for housing photos, has evolved into any number of decorative containers, galvanized tins and baskets with interchangeable liners in solid colors or patterns.
Boxes offer all sorts of snazzy options. Color alone on a box can be engaging enough to make a difference in a room. Makeover decorating shows on HGTV, or Bravo's hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, often show how an injection of strategic color sparkles on a bookcase.
That look -- of containers on shelves -- has led to new categories of furniture. One is an alternative to bookcases, a kind of leaning ladder that Pottery Barn calls a studio wall shelf, patterned after those in libraries. Another combines conventional usage with open slots for either baskets or neat stacking. Most of these are available in finishes compatible with a variety of design styles -- white, black and pine or honey-toned woods.
A console with three drawers and open cubbies beneath might hold extra pillows and throws in a living space, or serving pieces in a dining room. A bench with three similar openings might store winter gear.
Another popular take on exposed containers borrows from vintage lockers: boldly hued bins set into stainless steel frames. Some are actually made from materials salvaged from old schools and other historic buildings.
Floating shelves are another outgrowth of the container movement. Available in retail shops such as IKEA or catalogs, the shelves range in style from clean-lined ledges only inches deep to those with a fancier crown molding shape and standard shelf depth (12 inches). Finishes come in black, white, warm mahogany, honey and even zebrawood.
Shelves have surfaced again in kitchens, and some of the stainless options can be composed into handsome focal points.
The out-in-the-open storage also has rekindled an interest in old-fashioned etageres. These are particularly useful in bathrooms for towels, pretty soaps, sponges and the like. The tiered pieces often are available in metal or wood. Chambers' mahogany-stained maple is distinguished by carved posts with simple finials at the top.
Another useful addition to storage in the bath is a polished chrome magazine rack that hangs on the wall. The pieces are well-proportioned and, as described by Pottery Barn, they "reflect the aesthetic of English hotel fixtures."
Other hangups are intriguing in themselves, some enhanced by the articles that adorn them. Stainless steel CD racks, such as one featured in Grandin Road's catalog, make a design of the storage slots, a 45-inch-tall and 14-inch-wide piece that looks like a checkerboard in vertical and horizontal. Add colorful CDs, and the rack is transformed to an artistic mural.
An attractive catchall for the stuff of front halls is a stainless steel entrance caddy, available through Chiasso. It boasts a magnetic surface, mirror, holder for mail and pegs for keys.
To be sure, storage has become a necessity in every room of the house. There's no reason that it shouldn't look great -- even decorative -- as well as serve a practical purpose.
* Chiasso: 800-654-3570, www.chiasso.com
* Hold Everything: 800-421-2264, www.williams-sonomainc.com / com / hld / index.cfm
* Pottery Barn: 800-922-5507, www.potterybarn. com
* Wisteria: 800-320-9757, www.wisteria.com