His Tools, Her Tools, My Tools, Your Tools

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His Tools, Her Tools, My Tools, Your Tools!

Ten Tips on how to keep a happy tool box

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If you're an avid do-it-yourselfer there's nothing more annoying than not being able to find your favorite tool when you need it. Or, even worse to discover your favorite tool is broken or missing because someone who used it didn't have the courtesy to treat it with the care and respect that your personal property deserves! Your favorite cordless drill is missing its battery, your ratcheting screwdriver is missing its bits, your hammer is covered in spackle and paint, or your stud finder is just plain gone!

Needless to say these issues can quickly become a major sore spot for couples, roommates, friends and family members. So we asked our community of fellow Janes to provide us with a few tips to avoid 'trouble in the toolbox.'

1) His and Hers Harmony—The first breakthrough is to agree on having two sets of tools. We Janes get attached to our tools and loaning them out—even to a loved one—can cause unnecessary anxiety. This is especially true for small tools that fit your hands well. Plus, if a tool is hard to replace it's a prime candidate for having two sets.

Yes, two sets of tools are an added expense but the domestic harmony that comes with the purchase is often well worth it. You've got separate closets, separate drawers, maybe even separate bathrooms, right? It doesn't mean you don't love or trust each other; just that you're aware that you each have your own needs.

Jane Tip: Looking for a diplomatic way to say "I love you, but keep your hands off my tools?" Simple: put tools on the top of the gift list when you're shopping for birthdays, holidays, Father's day, etc. If your spouse asks why, let him know it's in preparation of all those projects you'll be working on together.

2) Label What's Yours—If you and your roommate have the exact same drill take a moment to label your respective tools. The easiest and most permanent way to accomplish this without affecting the performance of the tool is to use the etching attachment of a rotary tool and literally write your name or initials in the handles of all of your power and hand tools. Ink will often wear off and stick-on labels can not only be pulled off but will eventually lose its adhesiveness and fall off on its own.

Another option is to dip the edges of the handles of your hand tools in special liquid rubber (such as Plasti Dip) to give them a distinctive color.

3) Lock Box—It may seem a bit extreme at first but consider placing your tools in separate tool boxes or cabinets. Tough sell? Find an analogy around the house he'll relate to. Do you already have his and hers computers, sports equipment, or hobby supplies? Workshop tools are no different; you work differently and therefore you probably need your own collections. Having your own toolbox also means you can organize things to reflect how you work. A lock on any toolbox is a good general practice since tools are easy targets for thieves.

4) Predetermine 'Communal' Tools—Sit down with your spouse, roommate or whomever and go over "house tools" and tools you intend to keep to yourself—or those that at least need a permission from you before using. Determine a place to keep these tools so there's never any confusion or misuse. If you find that tools aren't being cared for or put away properly, spend a gentle moment explaining the importance of taking care of tools.

5) Think Pink—Many of our members wrote in that they were tired of their husbands using the tools that they bought for themselves and then claiming them as their own. To remedy this, they bought tools specifically made for women. Consider tools with flowery or pink handles, but only if you find high-quality pieces. Many of our members purchased pink tools because their spouse would've been embarrassed using them but ultimately they were disappointed with their quality and functionality.

Don't settle for less. The fact is that for the vast majority of light-duty projects there are some great hand tool kits made specifically for women by tomboytools.com, barbarak.com and lyday.com. For heavier duty projects go with the tools that can accomplish the job at hand, but suit your ergonomic needs. You might even choose to decide who gets which brand as most tool brands have a particular color scheme - Stanley is black and yellow, Ryobi is blue and yellow, Husky is white and red, etc. Predetermine with your spouse which brand is his and which brand is yours—then tell him to keep out of your tools.

6) Tool Zones—If you're lucky enough to have a garage establish which area belongs to you and which area belongs to your spouse, roommate, etc. Make it clear that neither of you will borrow each other's tools without the OK of the tool's owner. This means you must follow the rules as well! It doesn't matter that you needed his router for 'just a second,' you must get permission first—or don't expect it in return.

7) Checkout Sheet—It may seem a tad on the meticulous side but if you feel that restricting the use of your tools is too harsh you might consider using a checkout sheet. Whoever borrows your tools must write down what they took, when they took it, and when they plan on returning it. And, they must return the tool in its original condition or guarantee beforehand that they will replace it should they break it or lose it.

8) Share and Share Alike—It may be that the two of you just decide to share all of the tools together. Or maybe you've each got your own but you decide to buy one or two big-ticket tools together. Either way can work but you must determine in advance what the parameters for using the tools are.

Most couples and roommates who share tools simply agree to replace the tools they break and/or lose. However, we all know that no one likes to admit that they were responsible for ruining something. And, maybe we're all just sneaky enough to break a tool, then wait until the next person uses it and blame them for breaking it! One way around this is that all tools that are broken or lost must be replaced by both parties. Meaning each of you would pay half for its replacement. You both must be 100% on board for this policy or it will never work. But, according to our members when you do this you're both more likely to take greater care in how you handle the tools you use.

9) Care and Feeding—If you have different approaches to quality, maintenance, or how to use tools, you're probably candidates for having your own toolboxes. It doesn't make one of you right and the other wrong, just different. Life is too short to argue over tools. And because tool quality has come up in recent years as prices have come down it's more affordable than ever for you each to have essential tools you can call your own.

10) Set a Good Example—Set a Good Example. When you borrow tools from someone else (and we all need to from time to time), be sure to return the tool promptly and make sure it's clean and in good condition. For example, if you broke or dulled a hacksaw blade make sure to include a package of new ones when you return the saw. If there's an accessory that'd be nice to have, consider giving it as a gift when you return the tool. The golden rule is never truer than when borrowing tools: treat others' tools as you'd like yours treated.

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