how to organize tools in workshop

How to Organize Tools In Workshop or Garage

Let’s talk about how to organize tools in workshop or garage!

How many times have you not been able to find something you needed, right when you needed it the most? If you’re anything like me, probably a lot.

And how many times have you spent hours looking for something only to find it at the back of a drawer? Or buried under a bunch of other stuff, never to be found again until years later?

The problem most people face, is optimized organization. But most people don’t realize the many organization options that exist. Let’s talk about that shall we?!

Let’s face it… “drawers are where things go to die – drawers are evil” – this is what Adam Savage has to say on that matter (see in the section below)… and I tend to agree.

In this post, you will learn how to:

  • Become more organized in your workshop.
  • How to take better care of your tools.
  • How to be more efficient with your space.
  • How to keep your tools more readily accessible for when you need them.

Let’s get started!

How to Organize Tools In Workshop or Garage

Image credit: Flickr user “Andy / Andrew Fogg” https://www.flickr.com/photos/ndrwfgg/

Reasons Why Tool Organization & Storage is Important

Why should you care about your garage’s (or workshop’s) tool organization?

There are three primary reasons why you should care about garage storage and organization. While I feel all of them are important, your particular needs might have you place more importance on one over the other.

Reason #1 – Access

The first reason that comes to mind when you think of organization of your tools, is easier accessibility.

In practical terms, this simply means “can you find the tools you need, when you need them?”

Let’s be real, having to root around trying to find the things you need is a major roadblock to getting things done. Many people might even give up on a project because they just can’t find the right tools or other items they need. A procrastinators dream.

Think of a Surgeon’s (or Dentist’s) tray of tools… there’s an exact system, and the Surgeon or Dentist knows exactly where to find things. That’s the goal. An extreme example, I know… but it’s a good example of organization taken to an art form.

Don’t let lack of access (not being able to find stuff) be an excuse any more!

Action Plan:

One of the most important concepts to keep in mind is that everybody has different usage habits depending on what they do in their garage or workshop. And of course personal preferences. Because of this, what works for one person might not work for the next.

You need to put a little bit of thought into what you repeatedly use, and what you repeatedly do, and decide what your patterns are.

It could be helpful to actually pull out your most used tools, and set them aside into a seperate pile.

If needed, you could consider a three tiered hierarchy, and further categorize these tools into primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary being your absolute essential most used items, secondary being your often used but less important items, and tertiary being your important but more rarely used items.

The goal will be to create a system that accommodates access for you based on your usage habbits. For example, you would want your primary items to be super easy to find, and store. And the secondary or tertiary items could be slightly less accessible if needed, or on the same level but simply grouped differently.

Reason #2 – Maintenance & Care

Another reason to care about tool storage, is for the long-term care of your tools.

Should you leave your metal tools laying in a puddle on your garage floor? Not if you don’t want them to rust!

Should you leave certain power tools in areas where they’ll collect dust, sawdust, grease, ect.? No.

I think you get the idea.

If you take care of your tools, they will take care of you. And part of that care and maintenance is about how you store your tools.

If you store tools correctly, they will last longer, work better, and can be safer for you the user. As a bonus, you could end up saving money in the long run from not having to purchase as many tool replacements.

Action Plan:

Have a look at your tools, as well as your garage or workshop. Decide what the environmental conditions of your work area are, and what precautions might need to be taken.

  • Are there certain tools that should be protected rather than left out in the open?
  • Are there certain tools that should be stored in boxes or drawers?
  • What tools can be open and exposed without much concern?

Reason #3 – Efficient Use of Space

The last but not least important reason, is space consideration. No matter how big or small your workshop is, well thought out organization and storage of your tools is necessary.

I’ve covered this topic in more of a macro “wide overview” way in one of my other posts on garage organization. But the same concepts hold true on the micro level as well, as it applies to tool organization and storage.

One of the key take-aways is that vertical space is your friend. So for example, you might store your primary tools right on your level (arms reach) for easy access. Perhaps lesser used items could be stored higher.

Or as another example, if you look at Adam Savage’s tool stand (see below), you’ll notice the vertical nature of it, and how the footprint on the floor of that device is relatively small. If you were to store those tools with more conventional methods, the footprint could be a lot bigger.

If you don’t have a lot of space, don’t let that be an excuse. Lack of space should give you even more motivation to organize and store your tools in the best way you can.

Action Plan:

For general garage organization and decluttering ideas and tips, be sure to check out my other post on how to organize your garage.

Also check out the Adam Savage video below, if nothing else, just for inspiration… and learning that there are ways you can customize your tool organization and storage to suit your unique needs… based entirely on how you do things. It can be a very personal thing.

Best Way To Store Tools In Garage

So… what is the best way to store your tools?

Well, in case you haven’t picked up the gist yet from the above text, there really is no “ONE best way.”

But I do feel that designing a system that works for your unique needs is best, especially when it satisfies the above mentioned criteria:

  • Easy access
  • Good maintenance & care
  • Efficient use of space

Based on what we’ve discussed so far, one thing to consider first is “what tools do I use the most,” and then consider if you need to further categorize them into primary, secondary, and tertiary.

From there you’ll have to decide from a range of storage options which include things like:

  • Pegboard
  • Containers
  • Drawers
  • Toolboxes
  • Exposed/Open-stand

Pegboard

I think we’ve all seen this in many workshops and garages. And that’s because it’s not all that bad. A pegboard system is customizable, changeable, and can accommodate many different items. It allows you to store many of your commonly used items out in the open so you can easily find them.

One drawback is that in reality, it can’t always hold that many items depending on how big of a pegboard you have.

But I think the pegboard system is worthwhile if you organize it well.

Containers

There’s many different kinds of container systems. Some go on pegboard, some are freestanding, some are completely homemade out of recycled materials like baby food jars. There are many container systems.

At the end of the day, you need to find a system that works for you. But remember, containers can be much like drawers… if you can’t easily see what’s in them, then the items can basically disappear into obscurity and never be seen again.

So my recommendation would be to find containers with CLEAR containment material so you can easily see what’s inside.

And another tip would be to LABEL the containers with what’s inside them. If you have various small screws for example, it’s useful to be able to tell the difference between them!

Takeaways:

  • Get truly clear containers
  • Label them well as you go

Drawers

What can you say? Sometimes they do have their place, but all too often they become “junk drawers” where you don’t know what’s in them, and even if you do, have a hard time finding what you need.

For certain things though, they can have their place. For example, if you look at them more like “containers” as outlined above, then you could maintain some sorting and categorization, and even LABEL the drawers, so you know what’s in them, and this will definitely help keep the “junk drawer” factor away.

Almost as important as knowing what’s in your drawers, is knowing where to put things away when you’re done with them

If you have a clearly defined place for everything, then you won’t be as tempted to just haphazardly chuck something into a random drawer.

Takeaways:

  • Use drawers smartly
  • Categorize
  • Label them

Toolboxes

Toolboxes are basically portable drawers. They can be incredibly useful when kept in good order.

But if you try to stuff too much into your toolbox, or have too much random things in there, it becomes difficult to find things.

It’s advisable to:

  • Keep the amount of items limited, so you don’t overstuff the toolbox
  • Audit what actually goes into the toolbox

The ideal situation for example, might be a toolbox of your primary items, containing all your most used items. Imagine you were a handyman that made visits to people’s homes to do repairs… what would be the essential items to bring into their home?

Except in your case, it’s your own home or project instead of someone elses. If you need to do something outside of the garage, what would you bring with you so you had everything you needed?

Think along these lines, so you have an easy to manage toolbox!

Exposed / Open-Stand

Then there’s the custom stand solution, just like what Adam Savage has demonstrated (see below). This would be very useful for any serious workshop or garage where there’s a lot of items, and where “first order retrievability” is an important concept.

In Adam’s example, he dedicated that particular stand to one category of tool… pliers, grabbers, snippers, etc.

But one could easily imagine this approach extended to several stands if required, for various categories of tools. For example, a stand for various kinds of hammers, or one for various screwdrivers.

At the end of the day, I really love his solution. It’s a smart system designed for how he uses his tools, and he’s able to easily find what he needs in the most efficient way possible.

This approach is not one that I’ve seen a lot, but one that I personally want to try out!

It’s worth noting that you will probably want to add wheels at the bottom. That way you can take your tools around your workshop more easily.

The other “open” approach is the pegboard system as mentioned above… it’s more of a stationary approach, while the stand system is more mobile.

Between these two options however, I think you could have a great system for your open/exposed tools that you want to be easily accessible.

Here’s the Adam Savage video that I’ve mentioned many times above!

 

Best Way To Store Tools In Garage - Tool Cart Reference

Best Way To Store Tools In Garage – Tool Cart Reference

Best Way To Store Power Tools

Let’s talk about your Power Tools for a moment.

While leaving many hand tools out in the open isn’t usually a big deal, you may want to take more consideration when it comes to your power tools. I’m mainly referring to hand-held power tools.

I personally feel that this is largely determined by the air quality and environmental conditions of your workshop, but also the safety concerns as well. For example, you wouldn’t want to leave an exposed jigsaw laying around if you have children that will be anywhere near it.

While your power tools will likely be fine either way, I tend to feel that power tools that are stored in their original containers (or other container system) will fair better long-term than the exposed one. It will be more protected from the elements, and will likely be better maintained as a result.

If you happen to have a super clean workshop with great air quality, vacuum connected saws, and reasonable climate control, you might be able to get away with leaving many tools completely out in the open.

For power tools left out, you could consider pegboard options for your most used power tools.

For me, my go-to option would be to keep these kinds of power tools in their original boxes, and store them on a shelf or cabinet for easy access and visibility. You could store them in a variety of configurations on shelves… stacked vertically, or horizontally side-by-side. If you can’t tell what tools are inside the cases, you might want to label the cases.

I feel this is the best option for good maintenance, and organization.

Conclusion On How to Organize Tools In Workshop or Garage

By taking some time to store your tools in an optimal way, you will:

  • Save time (less time trying to find things)
  • Save money (work quicker, and longer lasting tools)
  • Save space (there’s always some way to maximize space better)
  • Enjoy more time doing what you love

Now that we’ve looked a bit more at how to organize tools in workshop or garage, one thing should have come through loud and clear. There is no ONE WAY to do things. Your workshop is like an artists studio, and how you want it organized can be a very personal thing.

No two artists are going to organize their studio the exact same way, and the same goes for workshops and garages. You need to design it based around your unique needs and work habits.

No matter how big or small your workshop is, you can always make it more efficient with a few little tricks.

We’ve looked at the main reasons why you should care:

  • Access
  • Maintenance & Care
  • Efficient Use of Space

And we’ve looked at ideas:

  • Pegboard
  • Containers
  • Drawers
  • Toolboxes
  • Exposed / Open-stand

We’ve also considered how to deal with Power Tools:

  • Cases
  • Pegboard
  • Shelves

And we’ve also looked at concepts such as:

  • Tiered Categorization Based on Usage
  • “First order Retrievability” (Adam’s term)
  • Easy Visibility
  • Labels

Hopefully this has given you some useful ideas to consider for your own workshop or garage. At the very least, I’m guessing you already have a few ideas floating around in your head by now… so get to work!

What does your workshop or garage look like right now? We’ve love to see!

Have you tried any of the ideas mentioned here? Let us know!

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