A cap rack to store and display up to 36 baseball caps. A clear plastic caddy that hangs
in the closet and holds up to 150 gift bags. A children's clothes organizer with a separate shelf for
each day of the week.
As the $6 billion storage and organization industry continues to grow briskly, manufacturers are filling every niche. Once just plastic bins in industrial blue or clear, specialized storage products are now available for most conceivable uses in an array of materials, from bamboo to faux leather to sea grass.
Organizers are no longer sold only at home improvement stores. They get floor space at drug stores and grocery chains such as Wal-Mart, CVS and Wegmans, which recently expanded its selection to include holiday wreath keepers and storage bags for artificial trees. Target says customer interest has grown lately in holiday-related storage as well as containers that people use "as storage but also as a decorative touch," a spokeswoman says. Style is increasingly important: Vera Bradley has a line of file folders in patterns and colors including Bermuda Blue and Nantucket Red, and Cavallini & Co. designs feature birds, maps and the Eiffel Tower.
The products are now made for more specific purposes, in more specific places. "There are so many missed opportunities," says professional organizer Monica Ricci of Atlanta-based Catalyst Organizing Solutions. Case in point: special hanging platforms for the garage that fit between the top of the car and the ceiling -- what Ms. Ricci calls "the last frontier" of the garage.
According to the International Housewares Association, closet and storage items were the fastest growing housewares category over the past five years, with consumer spending increasing at an average of 20.5% per year. The association's latest HomeTrend Influentials study ranks home organization and home storage among the hottest housewares product categories through 2010.
A University of California, Los Angeles, study published last year found what the authors called "a storage crisis" -- despite the fact that contemporary Americans control the largest amount of private housing space per person in the history of urban civilization. Of the 32 families in the study, 75% had put so much in their garages, they could not fit even one car into the space. From construction materials to excess furniture and toys, storage of material goods has become an overwhelming burden for most middle-class families, UCLA anthropology professor Jeanne Arnold says.
Carolyn Stanley's approach involves stackable bins that are the same shape, color and size. "It's all about uniformity," says the Portland, Ore., stay-at-home mom. Each camera, video camera and iPod gets its own bin, and in each bin are the manuals, cables, chargers, batteries and accessories for that piece of equipment. Her linen closet has separate bins for dental products, tweezers and scissors, medical supplies and sunscreens, to say nothing about the containers marked "king linens," "queen linens" and "double linens."