For power users and everyday DIY enthusiasts, tools make or break the success of any project. How many times have you reached for a tool and it wasn't there, only to find it somewhere it doesn't belong? What's worse is how many times you were forced to buy a replacement because your project wouldn't get done until you have what you need. The toolbox organization tips provided here will put an end to the mess!
Consider how much easier projects would become if you had your tools in place and ready to go whenever you need them. Better yet, imagine for a moment having every tool you own within easy reach and organized so you always know if one is missing.
Let's put all this together and learn the basics of toolbox organization and put an end to frustrating and annoying instances of lacking the right tool, or any tool to complete projects.
So, what is a hand tool? In most circles, any tool designed to operate without power from batteries or AC fits the definition of a hand tool. Hammers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, pliers, and sockets all fall into this category.
To start organizing your tools, gather every hand tool you own. Finding all of them might take some time, so we'll wait… ok, time's up. Did it take longer than you thought it would? Stop lending tools or setting them down and forgetting where. We all do it, but it's time to stop.
A big help to reach our goal of toolbox organization is to get rid of duplicates and other old or broken tools you'll never use or return under warranty. You don't need the clutter because you need open space, too. You can't be productive if you're not efficient!
Now that all your hand tools are in the same room, sort them by function. Pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, etc. We won't put anything away just yet. Organize them in their logical order. Depending on the size of your toolbox, do some thinking about location. Which are your most-used tools? Place them closest to your normal workspace.
While you're deciding what to do with each tool, why not take some time and clean them up? Lubricate pliers and Crescent wrenches, and ratchets will work better with a few drops of oil, too. Cleaning and lubricating do a tool some good, and time you take now for this means less time later looking for a replacement ratchet because it locked up.
PLACE TOOLS WHERE YOU'LL USE THEM
Toolbox organization works very much like a workshop. Move each group of tools nearest the location they're used. Only you can decide where they should be placed based on your normal routine. You need space in your toolbox, so don't place tools there just yet. On pegboards yes, but not on the workbench surface. More about that later.
Most times we use a favorite section of our workbench, so consider placing your most used tools nearby. Once again, as we work toward our goal of toolbox organization, spend time thinking and planning about placement to make your bench efficient with tools in their place and easy to see and reach. Time is too precious to waste, so let's make sure we don't.
ORGANIZING YOUR POWER TOOLS
Moving on to organizing our power tools might seem easier, but it's the accessories like batteries (you have extras, right?), chargers, and cords taking up more space. As with hand tools, sort your power tools by function and group them together. Toolbox organization begins and ends with everything in its place.
If you find broken tools you'll never use, just get rid of them. Many of us are pack rats which leads to more clutter, which we're trying to prevent. You'll be amazed at the extra space you'll have once all the clutter is gone and every tool has its own place and purpose, situated in a logical order.
As long as we're talking about power tools, regardless of type, all of them have cords to deal with. Whether from chargers or the tool itself, cords get in the way and, as you know, can be dangerous. A twisted cord on a drill, for example, presents a danger of electric shock if the cord splits or breaks at the wrong time.
It's always worth the time to carefully wind cords up neatly to form a large diameter circle so they can't twist into knots. Twisting puts stress on the cord and the wires inside. Extension cords behave the same way and using a holder helps eliminate twisting.
SEPARATE LARGE AND SMALL POWER TOOLS
Get your power tools together and separate them according to function and size. Handheld electric saws belong together, but not with a table saw. Think about space requirements for each tool and adjust accordingly.
Our goal of total toolbox organization becomes clearer as we complete each step. We're keeping only tools we use often in our toolbox and storing overflow in designated places in our workshop or garage.
Depending on the tool, you could store several on a shelf under your bench if you have one. If not, any suitable shelf would suffice provided it's strong enough and protects tools from falling off. Again, plan to organize power tools so they're not scattered around your workspace.
In the case of large power tools, it's understandable that they're usually a permanent fixture. Table saws, belt sanders, etc. require their own dedicated space. Be sure to keep areas around these tools clear of clutter for safety reasons
Now, the fun starts. We can put tools where they belong and see what organization looks like! Home improvement stores everywhere have large selections of storage solutions designed to help you use every inch of available space for storage.
There are limits to this, however. Remember, our goal is using space not only to store items but to improve our working space, too. To that end, we need open space without clutter so we can get our work done efficiently and in the shortest possible time.
We can employ a proven concept used extensively in manufacturing. It goes by the name of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. Six Sigma refers to reducing variations in a working process. To paraphrase the entire definition, it means efficiency at its best.
Lean Manufacturing eliminates waste in processes by standardizing every function of a particular process. That is, to create a standard workflow everyone follows. You may wonder how Six Sigma and Lean affect us in our goal of organization.
Each of us has our own way of doing things. Good, bad, or inefficient as it may be, it's how we do things. The goal is storing and placing tools we use most often closest to us, and organized for easy access any time, with the added requirement of returning every tool back to its designated place.
Returning tools to their place is crucial to toolbox organization. Not returning them leads to a messy and cluttered space. A workbench in a lean organization has its tools laid out in order of use, with silhouette cutouts of each tool made of black foam.
As tools are used in a process, a silhouette of the missing tool remains as a reminder to place the tool back in its designated place after use. After much repetition, the machine operator memorizes where each tool is located and could find their way blindfolded. It shows how efficient a process becomes if it's repeated enough times.
The concept of Six Sigma and Lean might well help us organize our workspaces. The point is to return each tool where it belongs every time, and to make our space as work-friendly as possible.
Whether you have a large toolbox in your basement or garage, it needs organization to handle the overflow of tools. If your toolbox is at risk of itself overflowing, consider some storage ideas. Let's start with a pegboard. It's an old favorite used by generations of do-it-yourselfers tired of clutter and losing tools (and space). A 4' by 12' piece works very well and holds many tools. A few bags of hooks and you're on your way to creating a clean and uncluttered workspace.
Metal pegboards are a big hit because of their looks and durability. They're more expensive, but they last a long time. Plan each tool location and stick to it! Don't change unless it's necessary. Once your tools are in their place, leave them there and get used to seeing them in their place.
Plastic bins for power tools work great, too. Label each bin of its contents so you can use a cover and still know what's inside. Bins keep power tools clean and dry and don't get in your way when you're not using them.
Or, if you don't like plastic bins, add a workbench with lower shelving for power tool storage. The idea is reducing clutter and creating extra space you didn't know you had!
The concept of toolbox organization increases efficiency and productivity by applying proven techniques practiced by people tired of clutter and disorganization. As with any worthwhile exercise, toolbox organization is a learned skill that pays big dividends.
I’m a husband and father of two children. In my professional life, I’ve worked with tools for the last 7 years. I just want to try and share my practical knowledge here on this site.