Shown left to right:
Lightweight Box-Top 3-Step LadderHeight: 26 inches to top step; 55 inches overall.
Convenience: The box top stores tools so you don't need to go up and down to grab the hammer or screwdriver when installing curtain rods or hanging frames. A hook under the top rail can hold a bucket when you're cleaning ceiling fans or painting. The aluminum frame is lightweight, and the stepladder folds to four inches deep, so it may fit next to the fridge. The top platform is a stable place to stand, and the rail helps you stay balanced.
What you can reach: A woman who is at least four feet 11 inches can reach the average ceiling to change a lightbulb. In the garage, it's a sturdy companion that helps you retrieve items hanging from the ceiling.
To buy: Williams-Sonoma, williams-sonoma.com. Unfortunately, this item is no longer available.
2-Step Stool without Rail, $25Height: 17 inches.
Convenience: Folding to one inch deep, this super-slim stool easily fits in a closet or a pantry or even between the washer and dryer. It locks in place when opened and has wide steps for a secure footing. Lightweight, with a handle for carrying.
What you can reach: Boosts you high enough to grab a book off a shelf up to seven feet high, even if you're on the short side. Reach dishes and food on most cabinet shelves in the kitchen.
To buy: Polder, polderstore.com, 800-431-2133, ext. 245, for store locations. Also available in chrome.
Kik-Step Stool, $69Height: 14 inches.
Convenience: This model, which has been around since 1957, has a style reminiscent of the stools you see in libraries, yet it also comes in handy in kitchens, baths, living rooms, and home offices. Wheels let you roll the stool, so you don't have to pick it up. A rubber bumper protects walls and furniture. It stands tall for a one-step stool and feels substantial under your feet.
What you can reach: If you're four feet 11, you'll be able to grab a book off a shelf up to 6 1/2 feet high, find the essential ingredient that's not within arm's reach, or water your hanging fern.
To buy: Cramer Inc., 800-366-6700, cramerstore.com. Available in white (shown) and nine other colors.
1-Step StoolHeight: 9 3/4 inches.
Convenience: Small but sturdy, this steel stool tucks into a corner or under a table or vanity. The rubber step surface keeps you from slipping, and rubber feet protect floors.
What you can reach: Works in the bathroom to help you change the shower curtain or reach the top of the medicine cabinet. Boosts kids to the faucet. If you're at least five-two, you'll be able to retrieve out-of-season clothing stored deep on a six-foot-high closet shelf.
To buy: The Container Store, 800-786-7315, containerstore.com. Unfortunately, this item is no longer available.