How to Organize Tools

By: Alexander Page  | 
Organizing your tools can save you time when starting a home project. See pictures of power tools.
© Spears

Key Takeaways

  • Organizing tools starts with sorting them into categories such as hand tools, power tools and seasonal tools, and deciding on a storage system that suits your space and usage frequency.
  • Toolboxes, pegboards and specialized storage solutions like bins and cabinets can help keep tools accessible and in order while protecting them from damage.
  • Regularly maintaining tools, including cleaning and storing them off the ground, is crucial to prolong their lifespan and ensure they are ready for use.

When was the last time you needed a hammer and knew exactly where to find it? For many people, keeping track of tools isn't easy. A screwdriver ends up in a sock drawer, or your measuring tape ends up in the laundry room. Before you know it, you have to hunt down tools every time there's a minor repair to be done. Whether you own just a few tools or a large collection, getting them organized could make your life a lot easier [source: Peterson]. Not only will you save time and prevent frustration, but you may waste less money on replacing lost tools.

Initially, getting organized might seem like more trouble than it's worth, because it is time consuming. But it can pay off in the end. The first thing you need to do is take inventory of all the tools you have. Open every drawer, check every cabinet and find a place where you can lay everything out in front of you. Once you know exactly what you're dealing with, organizing it will be a cinch. It's not a bad idea to begin by sorting everything into a few different categories. Put all the hand tools in one spot, all the power tools in another and anything you consider a seasonal tool in its own pile. Once you've done this, you'll be off to a great start.


Of course, during the sorting process, you'll probably find that your tools have a lot of accessories. Your drill, for example, probably has several drill bits, and if you have a socket wrench, you've most likely got at least a handful of sockets to go with it as well [source: Kelsey]. You'll need to decide how you want to organize these. It doesn't really matter how you do it -- your system just needs to make sense to you.

Now that you've got everything separated, let's start with the hand tools. Keep reading to find out how you can organize them efficiently and aesthetically.


Methods for Organizing Hand Tools

Most people have at least a few hand tools. These include hammers, screwdrivers and pliers -- just to name a few -- but any tool that doesn't require batteries or have to be plugged in during operation qualifies as a hand tool. Hand tools are typically the easiest tools to misplace. That's why it's so important to keep them organized. How you do it will depend on several factors, including how much space you have, how many tools you have and how often you use them.

For the average person, getting organized might be as simple as buying a toolbox. You can pick one up at your local hardware store. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so you'll want to choose one that's proportional in size to the number of tools you have. It should also have several compartments to help keep everything organized. When choosing a toolbox, also take into consideration how much you'll be carrying it around with you. Make sure it has a good handle. If you prefer, there are also tool bags that can serve the same purpose. When organizing your toolbox, or tool bag, put the tools you use most often in the top compartments and those you use less down below [source: Walsh].


If you hardly use the tools you have, or you use them only in your garage, you can probably get away with something stationary. In fact, a small set of plastic drawers might do the job. There are also more heavy duty toolboxes that are meant to stay in one place. These are much bigger than a toolbox that you would carry around with you and necessary only if you have a large number of hand tools. Again, you'll find a selection of these at your local hardware store. If you use your tools more regularly and you want them to be easily accessible, you can also try installing some pegboard on the wall. Add a few hooks and you'll be able to store all your tools out in the open where they'll be easy to see and get to [source: Global Accessories].

Some people have more than just a few hand tools. They have a set of power tools as well. If that sounds like you, keep reading to find out how you can organize them.


Methods for Organizing Power Tools

Power tools are generally larger than hand tools. However, much like your hand tools, how you decide to organize your power tools will depend largely on how many you have, how much room you have to store them, and how often you plan on using them. For someone who has only a few power tools -- for example, a circular saw, a drill and a belt sander -- they may be able to get away with buying a large tool box that has a drawer big enough to hold all three of these items. Someone with a larger collection, however, will have to find a different solution.

Chances are that if you have a lot of power tools, you also have a space to use them -- whether it's your garage or a workshop. One of the most common ways to organize power tools is in bins or containers below a workbench or a tabletop [source: Tolpin]. Buying containers that can seal might be a good idea, because they'll protect your power tools from water or any other hazard that could potentially damage them. For the same reason, it's also a good idea to store them off of the ground. Also keep in mind that storing your power tools too low could end up being a strain on your back. If you do decide to use containers to store your power tools, you can organize them by putting similar items in the same container. For example, a circular saw, a jig saw and a reciprocating saw can all go in the same bin.


If you need your power tools to be even more accessible, you could also try building a storage cabinet for them or simply a shelf for them to sit on. This is relatively inexpensive, and if you use the tools quite a bit, it might be a better option. Waferboard is cheap and works great for this type of project [source: Brown]. Depending on how high the ceiling in your workspace is, you might also consider installing hooks to hang your power tools from. Just make sure the hooks are strong enough to support the weight of whatever you're hanging on them.

Of course, if you have a lot of power tools, then you probably have a few seasonal tools as well. Keep reading to find out how you can organize them.


Methods for Organizing Seasonal Tools

Seasonal tools are really defined by the climate you live in. For example, someone with a house in Minnesota might consider a lawnmower a seasonal tool, because you can't use it when there's snow on the ground. Similarly, a snow blower could also be considered a seasonal tool because you wouldn't need it during the summer. There are also things like pruning shears, hoses, chainsaws and leaf blowers that are also considered by many people to be seasonal tools. You may notice that many of these tools are larger in size than everyday tools as well.

The great thing about most seasonal tools is that -- even though they're often large -- they don't have to take up a lot of floor space in your garage. Most of them can be hung from the walls using heavy-duty hooks or specialized hangers. Simply go to your local hardware store to pick some up. You should be able to hang just about everything -- from a wheelbarrow to a ladder -- by using the right hardware [source: Lawton]. Not only will this keep your seasonal tools organized, but it'll save you space and keep them off the ground where they're more likely to get damaged.


For many people, rakes, shovels and garden hoes are also considered seasonal tools. When it comes to keeping these items organized, you have several options. You can hang them from the wall like many of your other seasonal tools, or you could simply store them all in a bucket. If you don't like having to look at them, you could also build a storage cabinet for them. When it comes to smaller seasonal tools, like gardening supplies, it's not a bad idea to buy a container and keep them all together. You can easily label it and the next time you head out to the garden, you simply grab the bin and take it with you.

So we've talked about hand tools, power tools and seasonal tools, but what about all the accessories that go with them? That's a tricky one. Keep reading to find out how you can organize all your tool accessories.


Methods for Organizing Tool Accessories

Whether hand, power or seasonal, many tools come with accessories. In fact, there are several tools that won't work without them. A socket wrench, for example, does you no good unless you have sockets to go with it. Similarly, a reciprocating saw can be used with several types of blades meant to cut through all different types of material [source: Dewalt]. The point is, many tools are useless without their accessories, and unfortunately, many of those accessories tend to be small and easy to lose. That's why it's crucial to find a good way to organize them.

If you're already considering a toolbox or a tool bag to help organize your tools, don't forget to take into account all the accessories that you'll need to organize as well. Many toolboxes come equipped with several smaller compartments perfect for organizing and storing socket heads or drill bits. If you're looking for a cheaper solution, small plastic organizers can work as well. Not only do they have several small drawers to store all your accessories, but you'll also be able to see what's in each compartment without having to open it. On top of that, you'll probably have enough room to store hardware like screws and nails in the same organizer [source: Aubuchon Hardware].


Another option is to store the tools themselves with their accessories. You can buy small containers or a set of drawers that have enough room for a family of tools to live -- such as your drill and all its drill bits. Simply label each drawer or container on the outside, and you'll know exactly where to find what you're looking for. Magnets can also come in handy while organizing metal accessories. Just get a magnet and use it to hold all the accessories for a certain tool. Keep in mind that the size of the magnet should be proportional to the number of accessories you want it to hold. The important thing is to find a system that you can stick to easily. Once you get everything organized, it will be up to you to keep it that way.

Read on for a few tips on the best way to store your tools and all their accessories.


Storing Tools and Tool Accessories

By now you probably have a good idea of how you're going to organize your tools and all of their accessories. When it finally comes time to store everything in its proper place, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind. For starters, never store dirty tools. If you're using a wrench and you get some oil on it, make sure you wipe it down before you put it away. Similarly, don't put away a saw when it's covered in sawdust. Keeping your tools clean can help keep your storage area clean and may make your tools last longer.

It's also a good idea to keep your tools off of the floor. You've probably noticed this tip mentioned a couple of times throughout this article, but it's worth repeating. Floors -- particularly the floors of your garage -- can be a dangerous place for your tools [source: Izsak]. There are a couple reasons for this. First off, garage floors tend to get wet. Think about how snow can get packed under your car when you drive during the winter. Once you pull into the garage, all that snow is going to melt. Unless you've got a drain right underneath your car, the floor -- and anything on it -- is probably going to get wet.


Second of all, garage floors can get pretty dirty. When you come in from the outside, dirt and debris tend to travel with you, and if your tools are on the floor, they're probably going to get covered in it. If the floor is your only storage option, you might want to find some plastic bins with airtight lids. They'll help protect your tools from the elements.

There's one more thing you should keep in mind when storing your seasonal tools. Anything that runs on gas, like a lawnmower, snow blower or a chain saw, shouldn't be stored with gas in it. If you're putting one of these items away for a long period of time, be sure to empty the gas tank and clean it thoroughly. If it has a separate oil tank, you should change the oil as well. These steps might seem like a hassle now, but come spring -- or winter for the snow blower -- you'll be glad you took the time to take care of them. This basic maintenance could end up saving you quite a bit of money in repair bills.

For more information on how to organize your home, check out the links on the next page.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prevent my tools from rusting?
Keep tools dry and clean, store them in a moisture-free environment and use silica gel packs in toolboxes to absorb excess humidity.
What should I do with old or damaged tools?
Consider repairing old or damaged tools if possible, or recycle them responsibly. Some hardware stores offer tool recycling services.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

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