How to Organize Your Tools


As we begin to delve deeper into home improvement we pick up skills, confidence and plenty of tools along the way. After awhile we find that we have a bounty of all three, but only one needs storage space. If you're an avid do-it-yourselfer, you may find that your tools have taken over a portion of your home or garage.

Having a collection of tools with no place to call home can be very frustrating. Not to mention with every job comes a new stash of nails, screws, sandpaper and other such sundries! And who wants to rustle around in a duffel bag stuffed with screwdrivers, wall anchors and speaker wire just to find the right size screw? This kind of disorganization can make you frustrated with your project before you even get started!

So, even if your garage looks like a major storm has just blown through, trust us, you can recover.

Eliminate the Excess

Your level of disorganization is likely determined by how many tools you have and whether or not you are a naturally tidy person. Before you begin, collect all of your tools together and assess the situation. This process is quite similar to a closet clean out. Set aside the absolute must-keeps: the tools you love and will never part with. Then look at the rest of your tools and be honest with yourself. Make an "I don't need you anymore" pile and let the purge begin. If you are in any way hesitant about your decisions, walk away for a few hours and then pick up where you left off. You may decide that your old rusty jigsaw, while once a great helper, can either be replaced or is no longer needed, or you have project specific tools such as a wet tile saw that you don't anticipate ever using again-time to move it out. Chances are you will change your mind about a tool or two in the discard pile, too. This is your chance to make the final call.

Give Tools a Second Life

If your excess tools are still in good working order, consider donating them to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. You may also be able to get some money for your throwaways by hosting a garage sale. Any garage sale with the word "Tools" in the items for sale will send Janes like yourself flocking to your house. eBay or Craigslist are other good options for unloading your unwanted tools. Even if your tools are in pretty good shape, don't expect to get too much money for them. No one is going to pay $20 for your pre-millennium 12V drill when they can buy a brand new one for $30. Non-power tools may fair a little better with the age factor, but still, be realistic. The objective is to purge, not turn a profit!

Get Ready to Get Organized!

Now that you have the keepers all lined up and ready to go, decide where you're going to keep your tools and how. This is where a ton of options open up. It all depends upon on how many tools you have (or plan to have) and how much money you want to spend.

The Toolbox

The toolbox is a great option for your non-power tools, but you can pretty much forget about getting anything that runs on electricity in there. The up side to these boxes is that they come in a variety of materials, from plastic to metal, and therefore have the potential to be pretty inexpensive (under $30). The leveled compartments make it easy to see everything all at once, and regardless of the caliber, they are a great resource for starting you down the path to organization.

For a little (or a lot) more money, you can get all kinds of accoutrements added onto your toolbox, such as wheels, extra compartments and locks. For Janes on the go, these added perks make a lot of sense. If you suspect your tools are just going to sit in the garage, you may want to opt for the less expensive option. To get a better visual of which toolbox might work for you, try first browsing online at tool storage specialists like

The Tool Chest

Serious Janes (or those with a lot of stuff) may want to look into buying a tool chest. Ranging from $150 to $500 and up, these platinum and aluminum chests are as tough as nails and will last for decades (if you treat them right!) Price-wise, they are pretty steep, but the value is worth it if you are willing to take the plunge. These chests normally come complete with wheels, up to 20 drawers and all sorts of extras if you want to pay for them. However, don't think just because you are a committed Jane you absolutely must buy this to get organized! As you know from doing home improvement, for every problem there is more than one solution.

Do it Yourself Organization

These days there a host of products out there dedicated to giving your tools a good home, and they don't require buying a toolbox. One great product is a magnetic mat your hand tools will stick to. Hang it on the wall of your workspace or keep it in a drawer--either way, your tools aren't going anywhere. At about $15.00, you can afford to pick up more than one. 

Hit up your local storage store and see what they've got to offer. One of the best things you can invest in is a plastic mini-chest with small drawers. They come in all different sizes and are perfect for storing all of those nails, screws and other knick knacks that always seem to go missing. They run about $15.00 and can usually be found at most office supply stores. If you are going to store these units in a specific space, be sure to bring along measurements when you go shopping. Nothing is more annoying than buying the perfect container, getting it home, filling it and then finding it is too big to fit on your shelf.

For about $5.00 each, those big plastic containers you use for winter sweaters or holiday lights are also perfect for your power tools. They come in all different sizes and are usually waterproof. Invest in a couple of them if you are the proud owner of many different power tools and stack them away in a closet or the garage making sure to label the contents on the outside so you can readily access what you need when you need it.

It's The Little Things That Count

Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with most home tool zones is that the area is cluttered with old screws, washers, sandpaper and the like. One of the easiest ways to organize this material is to first arrange each piece by type. Put the nails with the nails and the screws with the screws. If you happen to save old glass jars this is where you can put them to good use. Store each of these piles into jars or one of those compartmentalized plastic containers that are available in home improvement stores. The trick here is to first see what you've got and then determine what you need to keep. Toss out old sandpaper or any rusty or damaged nails or screws. Make sure that you only keep the things you will need. The little things are going to be the biggest cause of a disorganized area, so take an hour or two to organize these pieces and you'll save hours of frustration later.

Taking Back Your Space!

With so many options at your disposal, there is no excuse not to make your next project an organizational task. It will make your home improvement experience all that more enjoyable and you'll be less likely to put off the projects you want to do in the future.

Related articles:
Sharing Your Tools
Toolbox Essentials
Choosing the right tool

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