Is your Craftsman tool box getting too heavy to lug in and out of your truck?
Five steps to organizing and upgrading your truck tool box to lighten your load.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve collected a fair amount of tools. In my case, I’ve inherited a lot of tools from close family members. Plus my mother-in-law, a thirty-year Sears’ employee, has gifted me with many tool-related gifts. Getting a Craftsman tool box as a gift was pretty standard in our family. As a weekend-warrior, I’ve kept a fair amount of tools in my basement workshop, but I’ve also kept the right tools in my truck for my on-site work. The right tools had to be handy and easily accessible regardless if I was working on-site or at home. But after many years, the back and forth of carrying my Sears Craftsman tool box killed my back and shoulders. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and overworked, I knew I had to get smarter with my tool organization.
Whether you carry a vintage Craftsman tool box or something more modern in your truck, here are some tips for lightening your load.
A Little Organization Goes a Long Way
Several years ago, Maria Kondo wrote a New York Times best-seller called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Check it out if you want. It’s a quick read. If we can take a page out of Marie Kondo’s playbook and “sort by category, not by location,” we are going to get a better desired outcome. How many times have you organized your workshop or garage and before you know it, it’s a mess again and you can’t find anything? Have you wasted time searching for a tool and then went and bought a brand new one? This has happened to me countless times. Once I was working on a small project and needed to solder something. I went to my garage where I thought my soldering gun and parts were stored in a Craftsman tool box set. You guessed it. They weren’t there. My memory failed me. So off I went to the hardware store where I bought a new one.
When I had enough of my disorganization, I followed my own advice and wouldn’t you know it, I found my soldering gun in the black hole otherwise known as the black Craftsman tool box, the one I kept in the back of my truck. Once I was really able to see everything I owned, I was able to make some changes.
And that my friends is how I ended up the proud owner of two soldering guns. One more than I really needed to own. Looking on the bright side though, I now have a back-up soldering gun just in case I break or misplace my first one.
If your goal is to work smarter and not harder, try organizing your tools using these five steps.
Having an organized and accessible truck tool box will pay off in dividends. If you have tools strewn throughout your garage, basement, workplace, or trucks, take the time to find and collect every single tool you have. Don’t just organize one area. You need to organize by caterogy. It’s going to be ugly before it gets pretty. And by that I mean, pretty awesome. Just trust the process.
Step 1: Go On a Search and Find Mission
- Find a clean, dry, and well lit area for your organization project. Lay down a colorful tarp or drop cloth to give yourself a frame of reference for organization. The goal is to see everything you own all at once and in one place. Remember, it’s got to be ugly before it gets pretty.
- Find every screwdriver, tape measure, power tool, and wrench you own. Empty out every tool box including the vintage Craftsman tool box your granddad gave you when you moved into your first house two decades ago.
- Pull out all your tools from every nook and cranny of your garage, your truck, your shed, your basement, and don’t forget that kitchen junk drawer.
Step 2: Organize and Prioritize
- Now that you can see every tool you own (or have borrowed but haven’t yet returned) start putting like with like. Hammers with hammers, measures with measures, wrenches with wrenches. You get the idea. Now might be a good time to listen to that Jocko podcast everyone keeps mentioning to you.
- Toss or recycle any broken items. Broken tools won’t help anyone and only add to your chaos and clutter. Remember you don’t want to be a tool horder.
- Decide if you need to keep any duplicate tools. If not, plan to donate them or sell them. Return anything you may have borrowed and no longer need.
- Determine what tools need to live where. What goes in the truck? What stays in the workshop? What stays in the junk drawer? In our house it’s known as the drawer in the laundry room. I like to keep tools handy for other members of my family. But each tool in this drawer is labeled with, “return to the laundry room drawer.”
- Now that you can see every single one of your tools all at once, it’s easier to notice if you are missing anything. Plus, now’s the time to determine if your mental or physical load could be lessened if you had two of something. Ask yourself if life would be easier if you coul qd just keep the same tools in both your truck AND in your workshop. One thing’s for sure. It’s like having an insurance policy. If you tend to forget or leave tools behind, you’ll have the benefit of having a back-up tucked away in a second location.
Step 3: Choose Storage Solutions Wisely
- Your goal is to lighten your load. While a Craftsman 3 drawer tool box might be a good option for a workshop storage situation, it’s probably not the best solution for those that need to haul tools on the road. The tool box itself weighs 20 pounds and if you fill it with another 20 or so pounds of tools and parts, that tool box gets pretty heavy. Additionally metal tool boxes on wheels, like the Craftsman rolling tool box aren’t good options for on-the-road storage in trucks or service vans either because (1) they take up a lot of real estate, and (2) a rolling cart in a moving vehicle is never a good idea.
- Your tools need to “live” in your truck while being protected from the elements and secured from sticky fingers. An ideal storage solution keeps your gear bone dry, even when you are soaked to the bone. The DECKED Tool Box is molded not welded so you get a seamless lid and tub so everything stays dry. In comparison, the Craftsman truck tool box is welded aluminum. While lightweight, there’s a very good chance water or snow could seep into the box at the weld spots. The DECKED Tool Box tub is reinforced with steel for extra stability and security making it impossible to break into with a pry bar. If you choose the Craftsman portable tool box or a metal Craftsman tool box, remember they are water resistant and not waterproof. Soggy or rusty tools are no fun.
- Look for a secure system that is impact resistant, won't ding, dent, or rust. The DECKED Tool Box uses injection molded high impact polymer resin with galvanized steel and aluminum reinforcement. It's designed like Fort Knox. And well worth the investment.
- If you can reuse or repurpose any older tool boxes by all means, do so. But you may want to swop out your red Craftsman tool box for something a little more sexier when you're out in public. Something that looks good, is durable and is accessible will make you feel more confident and focused in your work.
- Sure you can DIY something to organize your truck tools. There’s plenty of folks on YouTube doing this. Or you can invest in the DECKED Tool Box. It’s an ideal solution especially if you want to store tools, accessories, sporting goods, or even camping supplies. It can easily be repurposed for work or play.
Step 4: Develop New Habits
- Once you are finished using a tool, put it away. I know, easier said than done. But with clearly marked labels on storage boxes or drawers, keeping everything organized will be a piece of cake. Proper labeling will help you or your helpers find the right tool quickly as well. No more wasted time opening and closing random boxes and drawers looking for the allusive tool.
- Try to habit stack. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, explains that “habit stacking allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior. It’s like you always have a game plan for which action should come next.”
- What are you already doing every day that’s second nature? Do you warm up your truck before you take off for the day? While your truck is warming up, maybe use this time to make sure everything was put back in its place from the prior day.
- Once you get comfortable with this approach, you can develop other general habit stacks to guide you whenever the situation is appropriate.
Step 5: Adjust as Necessary
- Audit your process. How’s your system working for you? Refine the organization of each drawer, tool box, or other storage container locations as needed. Do you need to add storage or rearrange how tools are organized? This is a good time to evaluate what’s working or not working for you.
- Expect set-backs, but quickly identify them and make adjustments as necessary. Are you having to work longer hours? Don’t let the setback make you lose focus and become derailed. Actions speak louder than words. Lean on your daily habits to get back on track.
- WIth the change of each season or at the end of large projects, review these steps. Be sure you're making room for new tools by clearing out the ones you haven’t used in a year. For example, let’s say you needed an orbital sander for a project you completed last month. Do you still need to be carrying it around town in your truck? Maybe you do or maybe you don’t. Maybe it can be stored somewhere else in your truck or maybe it should be placed back into the Craftsman 5 drawer tool box you have stored in your work-shop. Sometimes jobs aren’t completed during daylight hours, especially in the winter months, so perhaps you will need to make some adjustments based on the season by adding such things as standing work lights or shovels to your truck.
- Just like any other possession, tools can hold a sentimental value. If you have some tools you just can’t part with, keep those safe and sound housed in your home workshop. And what about those broken tools you planned on fixing months ago when you had some spare time? Stop carrying around broken or weathered tools. Detach yourself from this clutter and weight.
Do yourself a huge favor, make the investment in time and resources now to sort, categorize, label, and store all your tools. Your future self will thank you for the effort you put in today. Remember, every tool needs to “live” somewhere safe, dry, and easily accessible.
Developing new habits or habit stacking existing ones, will pay off in dividends later if you follow this plan. Having the right tools at the right time will conserve your energy and resources. Don’t let disorganization or poor planning frustrate you. Choose the right system that fits your specific needs and your back, shoulders, and wallet will thank you.