Whether you’re an occasional DIYer or a busy backyard mechanic, you need the right tools for the job and a systematic way to keep them arranged. Knowing how to organize your tools in a toolbox is essential for any project, and can save you time, money and energy that would be better spent on the job at hand.
The first step to organization is assessing your needs. If your current toolbox is exploding or otherwise unwieldy, it might mean you need to step it up a notch, real estate-wise. If you’ve only got a few sparse manufacturer-provided repair kits lying around, a portable box will do. On the flip side, there are boxes out there so big you could practically charge rent to live in them. It all depends on what you need. For the vast majority of people, a sufficient solution is a medium size rollaway box with a portable box stacked on top.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Go through everything you currently own and throw out anything too old, rusted or broken to be of use. Just admit you’ll never get that multimeter fixed and buy a new one. Also note any gaps in your collection and fill them. Next, decide how you want to organize and then brainstorm an overall layout. One recommendation is to group similar tools together. Make sure the heaviest tools go in the bottom drawers to keep the center of gravity low and prevent the box from tipping over when a drawer is opened (it happens).
One of the greatest benefits of keeping a well-organized box is knowing when something is missing. Do yourself a favor and make sure each tool has its own designated place. One method is to simply draw an outline of the tool on the bottom of the drawer (or drawer liner) itself, but you could also use imprinted foam or choose from a variety of ready-made trays and holders for sockets, wrenches or anything else you have a few of. Try to maximize your space by storing items like screwdrivers and pliers “head to toe” and keep tools that take up less vertical space in more shallow drawers, reserving the deeper drawers for taller, bulkier items.
Thinking Outside the Box
When you’re working on a job, fill a carry case or rolling cart with the tools you’ll need, cleaning and replacing them at the end of each day. Use magnetic trays at the job site for keeping smaller tools like sockets from rolling away and suction or magnetic-backed hooks to hang wrenches on. If you have duplicates or tools you don’t mind being unlocked, install a pegboard or long magnetic strips on the wall for easy access.
There are all sorts of creative tool-storage solutions, both ready-made and DIY. The basic rule is to organize things into progressively smaller groups, always making sure each piece is individually accounted for and maintained by taking time to reorganize at the end of each day. Professional work yields more professional results, every time.
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Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.