How to Organize a Toolbox
Your tools are like your babies. They’re shiny, precious, and soft. Okay, so they’re not exactly soft, but we won’t judge you if you rub a hammer against your cheek every once in a while. The point is, they mean a lot to you and you want to take good care of them. On top of that, you’ve got a job to do. Life's way too short to spend time rooting through tools to find your stuff. Get organized, and your toolbox morphs from a black hole where tools mysteriously disappear to an organized paradise where you can grab, go, and get on with it.
When every tool has its own place, not only is it easy to remember where things are located, but it makes choosing the right tool simpler and faster. And that means less stress, faster finishing, and more time to live your life. That means more time for what we actually want to do—hunt, fish, build, and get our relaxation on. It’s time to take care of these babies by organizing them in a toolbox. Pull up your sleeves and let’s get started.
Benefits of Organizing Your Toolbox
The main benefit of having an organized toolbox is finding a specific tool when you need it without having to dig through the entire box. Having all of your tools in specific places can also help you see at a glance if any are missing or lost, which nearly eliminates the possibility of overlooking a tool or leaving it at a job site. And you don't want to end up buying something you think you lost only to find it three years later at the bottom of your toolbox (oh, it happens). You also won’t have to improvise with the wrong tool because you can’t find the right one when you need it. In a well-organized toolbox, every tool has its own designated space. You can quickly locate and choose the correct one.
An organized toolbox can also help curb theft. If you know where everything is supposed to be, you can see what’s missing before you leave the job site. Did you know that theft from construction sites can get up to a billion dollars a year? If you share a job site and your tools mysteriously disappear, there might be a reason. And when the expense comes out of your pocket—ouch. Talk about adding insult to injury.
How to Organize Your Toolbox
1. Audit Your Tools
You can’t keep track of your tools unless you know what you have. Take a detailed inventory of your tools and get rid of any broken or damaged equipment. The last thing you want while working on a job is to find out you have a broken tool. What’s worse is if it breaks right in the middle of a task. If you find yourself leaving a job to run up to Home Depot often, you might need to replace some tools. Making sure all your tools are up to par is not only important but the professional thing to do.
2. Group Tools by Type and/or Function
Organizing tools by type will make them easier to locate for specific uses. Tool storage cabinets that feature slide-out toolbox drawers typically have areas of different sizes to keep tools within the same family (pliers, ratchets, and files) together.
If you have SAE (a measurement standard) and metric hand tools, separate drawers will help avoid wasting time grabbing the wrong type of tool.
3. Organize by Size, Shape, and Frequency of Use
Alternate handles to conserve space. If the handles on screwdrivers, pliers, or other larger tools at one end are all facing the same direction, this will take up a lot more space. Alternating the handles will help the tools fit into place better and create more space in your toolbox.
Maximize space with different compartments to keep tools that are roughly the same size together. Many chest-style toolboxes come with drawers that get larger in size so that you can store all the small stuff, like socket sets, drill bits, and small tools in the top drawers. The bottom can hold larger tools (power tools, cords, batteries, and heavier items) that take up more space.
4. Store Extra Tools Elsewhere
Carrying around tools that you don't often use is just unnecessary (not to mention, plain ‘ol silly). Most professionals who constantly work with tools end up with multiples of the same piece. Great for back up, but not for transporting around. Storing duplicate tools or those you don’t use all the time in a separate, task-specific toolbox will clear up space for the things you need. This will keep your portable toolbox free of unnecessary clutter. Not to mention save your muscle from some serious soreness.
5. Choose Your Type of Storage
In your garage or shop, utilizing one of those rolling tool chests with drawers is a great way to go. Inside the drawers, an inexpensive organizer, like this one from Harbor Freight, is ideal. Harbor Freight has a great toolbox on wheels, too (in the $600 range). Still, it’s a lot cheaper than other comparable tool chests such as Snap-on or Craftsman, which have similar features. The heavy-duty rolling tool cart is a convenient height with a workspace on top, drawer liners, and smooth rollers. Inside the drawers, you can organize with foam inserts cut to fit specific tools. Or, you can buy a roll of foam and DIY your own drawer organizer dividers. You know what they say–you want something done right, you gotta DIY!
But let’s say you don’t need to travel around with your tools. If that’s the case, your storage solution can include a pegboard above your workbench. It’s a great way to keep your most-used tools handy and easy to find. As a bonus, maintaining tools where you can see them helps remind you to make sure they are clean. But if you frequently go out to other sites, you’ll need a more portable toolbox solution. Good options include traditional truck toolboxes that you can access from the sides or from inside the bed for pickup trucks.
6. Label Sections and Tools
Another helpful organization tip is to add labels to the foam inserts and outside of the drawers. Placing a label with each tool’s name next to their designated spot in the foam inserts makes it much easier to find a piece of equipment and put it back quickly. Labeling the drawers outside of the toolbox helps you identify what is inside much faster. This will save you time searching through different drawers for a tool–and time is money!
Tool Organization Products
We don’t all have a spacious building to work in with a tool wall and a coffee maker. Some of us are roughing it out there in the field. If your workspace is your truck or van, the DECKED Drawer system may be exactly the tool storage system you need. DECKED gives you a rolling tool cabinet big enough to store your entire inventory of tools. It also ensures your expensive equipment is well organized and safe from thieves and the weather. DECKED drawers fit the whole surface of your pickup truck bed or van floor, creating a load-bearing platform on top where you can load all your stuff. The drawers slide out to provide fast and easy access to everything inside.
Organization is easy with our full line of dividers: D-Boxes, Crossboxes, and D-Bags. If one toolbox just doesn’t cover all your needs, you can add several more and throw in a handy D-Bag for roof work or hiking around a huge job site. To take your tool organizer to the next level, check out the full line of Kaizen foam inserts designed to fit DECKED drawers and store your stuff. These vary from slender chisels to large tools.
Start Storing Your Tools the Right Way
Whether you’re on the go or in the shop, organizing your tools is always a good idea. After a long workday, the last thing you want to do is clean, but cleaning your tools before you put them away will help keep them in good working order. Rust is the most common tool killer. It’s like the big Grim Reaper of tools and every time it rears its ugly head, we can hear the organ music start playing. Rusty tools are unsafe, unstable, and just plain sad. It only takes a few seconds to wipe down your tools with a clean rag dampened with a few drops of mineral oil. When you do this diligently, you’ll extend your tools’ life and save money in the long run.
Listen, tools are expensive AF. We all know the pain of sometimes dropping hundreds on a single tool. Don’t you want to take care of that and have it last as long as possible? You have better things to do than replace tools you can’t find because they’re gone or buried under 40 pounds of other stuff. Get DECKED, get organized, and get it done.