“Where is that tool?” too many times the question is asked at home or on the job. Luckily, no one is alone on this and a messy toolbox can be fixed. Keep reading to learn how to organize your tools for efficiency.

It is easy to reason that a messy toolbox is just part of life and we are all meant to stumble through the box looking for the tool we need most. The biggest drawback to this, and why we all need to organize for efficiency, is to save time. 

We will discuss some of the major benefits to an organized toolbox and why saving time is not the only reason to organize that messy toolbox. 

What is a toolbox

First, we need to define how we are using “toolbox” in this article. The obvious answer is the toolbox on the workbench but it is so much more than that. There are many different types of toolboxes but we are defining a toolbox as an item that is used to move or store tools. This could be a tool belt, a bag, a bucket, a tool chest, a cart or dolly, or even the back of a truck.

The benefits to an organized toolbox

The main benefit to an organized toolbox is knowing where the tool is that you need when you go looking for it. 

It is also easy to recognize if a tool is lost or missing if it is not in a designated space. At home on the workbench this just means there will be some additional time trying to find where it was left last. On the jobsite, however, the recognition of a lost tool is two fold. If a tool is missing it will be easy to find before leaving for the day. If a tool cannot be found, the alarm can be raised of a thief on the jobsite. This is unfortunate but a real part of every job.

Another benefit to keeping things organized is eliminating duplicate tools. Too many times, the tool you need right now cannot be found and it is just easier to go buy another one than look for it; wasting commuting time and money on duplicate items.

Of course, one item to point out is that if you know where the right tool is for the job, there is no need to use the wrong tool for the job. Using the wrong tool may work in the short term but often using the wrong tool in the wrong way can lead to damage to the tool and a quicker turnaround on replacing that specific tool.

Why you should organize your tools

There are some key benefits to organizing your tools for efficiency that we are going to discuss.

-Saves time

-Saves money

-Saves space

-Improves Mental Health

-Keeps your tools in better shape

How to Organize your toolbox

Diving into a messy tool box is annoying but a real struggle that most construction workers, manufacturing facilities and home hobby shop people deal with regularly. Not only does this make the job harder, it also wastes time, turning a 30 minute project into a couple hours. Keeping tabs on your tools and their whereabouts reduces frustration and the time it takes to complete a project.

Get it all out in the open

To start organizing your tools for efficiency, gather all of the tools that need to be organized and put them in one place. This is not a task for on the jobsite, this is an at home to get ready for the next day project. 

If you have multiple workstations for different project locations consider organizing tools by location. For instance, one could have the majority of the tools for woodworking in the garage. But they do all of their wiring projects in the basement. Or you may have old tools that don’t work like they used to but you can’t get rid of them now on the shelves in the garage and the back of your truck full of the tools you use every day. Perhaps you are a larger outfit and all of the tools are scattered between your truck and your shop. In another case, you may even have tools that you keep in the kitchen. Gather all of the tools that are used at each workstation, get them all in one place. 

Consider the mess that is going to be made. This may be best on the garage floor, or on a tarp or piece of cardboard in the yard or driveway. If you can’t bend over for long periods of time, set up a folding table and put a tarp on it or use your workbench.

Start to Sort and clean

Tools can get dirty, even just sitting on the bench or shelf. Dust them off and clean off any grease or grime on handles. Be careful not to clean grease off of areas where grease is needed. If needed, reapply grease to necessary joints.

Paint thinner or acetone removes unwanted grease.

Be sure to keep the garage door open if using flammable chemicals and always safeguard against igniting flammables. Remember, stay ventilated when working with chemicals and be sure to take a break so you are not exposing yourself to chemical overload.

If you did any cleaning, it is time to sort for similar items. Put the hammers with the hammers and the nuts with the nuts. Organize the nails by nail type and then by size (i.e. framing nails, and finish nails in different piles). Bolts can be organized by diameter and then length. Group similar wrenches and screwdrivers. 

Power tools should be grouped together and then sorted by function (i.e. drills with drills and grinders with grinders). The idea is to maximize the opportunity for efficiency when you put the tools in their final resting place.

Throw out tools that are broken

There is the unwritten rule to “Never throw out a tool.” but we need to rewrite that rule. It should be “Never throw out a functioning tool.” If the tool is broken, it is time to get rid of it. If you cannot manage that, see how much it would be to get it repaired.

This helps you in two ways. If you have a duplicate tool, the broken one cannot be found if you need it in the future, you will have to find the functioning one. We all know how frustrating it is to find the broken tool. Also there will be less clutter in the toolbox. If a tool is rusted beyond repair, it is time to get rid of that one as well.

Minimize duplicates

There are instances when duplicates are needed. We discussed earlier organizing by workstation. There is a good possibility that there are going to be multiples of tools. That is okay. Keep the tools needed for different work stations even if they are duplicated. However, the need for duplicates at one workstation could be far fetched but assess your situation. Remember that multipurpose tools can replace single use tools in some instances. 

Duplicates can be donated to a second hand store in most cases. If the tool is still of value and in good condition, perhaps it could be sold in the online marketplace. 

Remember that worn out tools can be modified for new purposes. Consider grinding the point of your worn out screwdriver into a scribing tool. 

It is really nice to have the random screws, nuts and bolts laying around. If they aren’t rusted or bent, organize them into storage bins for easy access. Too many times these are thrown in the same bin and finding the right fastener for the random project could take a lot of extra time. 

If you are not sure what a tool is, ask the old guy onsite or across the street, they might now. If you are not sure what a tool is for or where it even came from, it might not be a tool. Get rid of it.

Organizing the tools for the project

Having a garage full of tools is a status symbol for some people. Having a garage full of tools that never get used is a good sign there are too many tools or at least a bunch of tools in the wrong spot. 

Organizing your tools for efficiency for the project is the best way to get tools where they belong and decluttering the area they are stored. Consider organizing tools by project. If you build robots at a certain workstation, put all the robot building tools there. If you do woodwork, organize all of the woodwork tools by bench task. For instance, you don’t need sand paper at the table saw. This can be done in a different area.

If you go out to the site every day, there are many days that not all of your tools need to go with you for certain tasks that are dependent on phasing of a project. In the HVAC world, crimpers are needed when installing a round duct but not when installing a rectangle duct. Similarly, banders are only needed when connecting flex ducts and not when doing rough-in of trunk lines. 

Anticipate and organize tools by the task for your project. Keep similar tools for similar tasks grouped together and organize your toolboxes (permission to buy another) in a way that allows for all the right tools to be where you need them, when you need them.

How Organization Improves Mental Health

It may seem a little outlandish but the facts are that disorganization doesn’t help us. Disorganization can cause stress and can impact our relationships. It can impact us physically too, from fire hazards to poor eating habits, tidying up can help us improve our mental state. Take comfort in some of the benefits of getting organized:

-Better Sleep

-Better relationships

-An ability to shift focus on more important things

-Make better food choices

-Increase productivity

-Less Stress

Taking some time to organize your tools for efficiency will help you get things in the right spot in your mind. We encourage everyone to take some time to clean up and put things away, for your health.

Tools in the right Toolbox

A tool belt is probably the most widely used storage device on any jobsite. The most commonly used tools are placed in it and organized in a way for any tradesman to grab the item they need at their convenience. But it doesn’t all fit in the bag. A Bucket is a great alternative for carrying the other items that will be needed but do not fit in the bag. 

If the project you are working on is very large, consider a cart to move tools and material from the vehicle to the work station. A well laid out cart can be used as a workbench. If most of your work is at a workstation, consider using shelves, magnets and peg boards to keep tools accessible but out of the way of the work. 

Ask yourself these four questions when considering what tool to put in the toolbox:

-Are they needed for the project?

-Is it overlapping another tool?

-Are the most frequently used items in front or the easiest location to access?

-Do you need them for the project?

The first and last question are very similar. This is reiterated because too many times, we grab a tool that we hardly use. Perhaps it can go on the cart or in the bucket but does it need to be in the tool bag?

Another way to consider storing tools is on a magnet rail. These can be purchased relatively cheaply and magnet attracting metal tools can just stick to them for easy access and storage.

Tools in the right location

Keep a central location for tools and then bring what you need from there. This may be the garage or shed, the back of the truck or trunk, maybe even a dolly cart with bins. Keeping tools central and organized reduces a lot of time wasted on chasing tools. 

Having worked on many different projects, our team at TinnersToolBox.com has seen a lot of different set ups for an on the site work station. From bringing in a dolly box to carrying a bag and rope to get tools to the roof, there is no shortage of how we move tools. Tools are going to be needed. Sometimes the easiest projects just need a pair of jeans with some back pockets to put the most important tools in for a small task. 

Also consider putting the most frequently used tools together in the same location. This allows for a quick grab in a pinch.

Remember these four tips when organizing your tool box

-Season the work is in

-Work area available to maneuver

-Phase of project

-Distance from the truck

The importance of labels

In our current society, labels are discouraged. In our workshops, labels are encouraged. We discussed earlier organizing nuts and bolts and nails by type and size. What good is putting them in organized bins if the bins are not labeled. If you have drawers, put a label on the outside of what is inside. If you keep  your things in bins, put a label on it. 

In a work truck that one of our team members used, there were truck bins for use. Everything was neatly labeled. The problem with labeling things is that things don’t make it back where they belong. Be sure to put it back where you found it or this exercise is useless.

On a peg board, hang all the tools needed in that area and outline them with a permanent marker. Marking the shape is another way of labeling and you get to write on the walls. 

If you don’t have bins or drawers in your garage, get creative with some old bottles or milk jugs. Cut a hole and put similar items in them in a labeled place like a shelf or bench.

Maintaining Your Toolbox Organization

Keeping your Arrangement

You just spent all of that time organizing your tools for efficiency. Are they going to be back to a disarrayed mess next week? Will you remember where you put them? If you labeled the tools, it will be easier to remember where you put them!

We discussed earlier outlining tools on a peg board. A similar method can be used in drawers with some foam. Trace and cut out the shape of your tools in the foam. Cut the foam to the size of the tool box. Now only that tool will fit in the drawer. This is one way to ensure you put them back where they go, they won’t fit in the drawer if you don’t.

Keeping Your Tools Clean

Your tools will inevitably get dirty again. From car exhaust to dust and sawdust created from the projects you do, particles are going to build up and your tools will need to be cleaned again. Have some tool cleaning solution on hand, like Acetone, for when your tools start binding up from the dirt and grime from being stored or used.

Keep a stock of grease to reapply to critical tool joints. 

Another great way to keep tools clean is to keep the area around them clean. Clean your bench every time you use it. If you work onsite, keep your tools off the floor. Putting tools back in their storage place when not used is the best way to keep them from getting ruined with dirt, grime, water and dust.

It is also important to clean out your toolbox every now and again to get rid of any built up dust over time. Every six months or so, take inventory, clean up your storage areas and help your tools stay healthy.


These are your tools and your projects. How you organize your tools is up to you. Remember that optimization of storage beats the clutter any day. Keep your tools accessible.

Remember that organizing starts with gathering all of your tools, sorting by workstation and tools needed for specific projects, getting rid of broken or damaged tools and cleaning before storing. Remember, tools that are well taken care of last longer.

Once tools are sorted, sort by workstation and location. And don’t forget the four tips when organizing your tools: Season, Work Area, Phase of Project, Distance from the Truck. 

Some projects are going to require more tools than others. Be sure to have the right toolbox for the right project. If you need a cart for that long walk to your work area, make it happen. If you only need a tool bag, be sure that you are not being overloaded in the belt. Fighting your tools to get the right one out is frustrating. Consider a bigger toolbox than what is needed for ease in access to the tool you need.

Once you have the right toolbox for your project, visualize how you will organize your tools in it. Remember optimized beats clutter any day. Once these tips are applied, not only will you have a better looking tool box with tools that are more accessible, you can save time on the jobsite or in the garage. And if you keep it maintained your work will be faster and you won’t be as stressed out trying to crunch tasks after spending time looking for missing tools.