No matter what type of trade or home services business you’re in, you're going to need a tool storage solution that’s efficient and effective while you’re traveling from job to job. From rolling tool boxes to belts, bags to totes, liners, pouches, backpacks and more, there’s so many different ways to store your tools based on your individual preferences and needs. Keep reading to see a list of our tool organizing methods and tool storage recommendations.
There’s no one method that you have to stick to when organizing your tools, it’s about creating a functional system you can keep up, not something that just looks pretty. Give everything a “home” where you know it needs to go.
Remember that if it’s a hassle to clean the first time, you’re unlikely to keep it clean long term. For example, if you know you’re not going to meticulously put something back in a certain way in your drawers every time, it’s better to have a designated area - like a bucket- where that tool and its accessories can be quickly dropped and grabbed later. Having a small messy space is far better than dealing with an entire drawer of unorganized tools every time you need to find a drill.
If you own or operate a large trade service business with a fleet of work vehicles, we’d recommend that you use the same organization system across the board. No matter which vehicle your techs are driving on any given day, the tools that they need should always be in the same spot to save time, space, and headaches.
For example, you could store your tools in alphabetical order in stackable storage bins, complete with a checklist of what’s inside. For bonus points, you can even record how many of each item you have on hand, or color code the storage bins for easy access. No matter which method you use to keep your items organized, make sure it’s uniform throughout your entire fleet.
Do your best to leave some space open, rather than cramming every fancy organizer you can find into your truck. For bonus points, try to keep some counter space free as well.
Buy your storage last - there’s no reason that you shouldn’t reuse old bins and racks before buying brand new organizational materials. The same is true with your old tool box, unless it’s falling apart. You’ll save money in the long run, even if the inside of your van isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. As long as your system is functional, it doesn’t matter whether or not everything is shiny and new.
Lastly, if you don’t need it, sell it. There’s no point in stuffing your tool box to the brim with extra items when their only role is to take up space. A big part of organizing is decluttering, so be prepared to part with some of your gear.
When it comes to organizing your tools in a small space, decluttering your space and stocking up on multi-use items is going to be your best friend. To store items as effectively as possible, here’s a few tips:
Keep your most used tools and items in the most easily accessible area of your space. Group those items either by function, size, name, whatever method is most convenient and intuitive for keeping your tools organized. Keep your less-used or extra items such as spare screws, nails, and bolts out of the way so as not to clutter your space.
Your tools’ original boxes and containers often take up a lot of space, and aren’t always helpful from either a functional or an organizational standpoint. So after you’ve brought your new tool home, unbox it immediately and place it in your storage container.
Additionally, tool boxes usually open up from the top. So, if you haven’t had a chance to unbox, turn boxes sideways when you store them so you can take out tools without disrupting the entire system. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a mess of boxes rolling over your garage. Which brings us to another point...
When mapping out a system for storing your tools, always think of how you can take advantage of vertical space, like walls or the top of cabinets’ shelves, where nothing quite reaches the top. Instead of devoting a whole row of space to small parts and accessories in a tool cabinet, consider storing items in tall pull out drawers. If you search stores like The Container Store, there are even containers you can hook to the bottom of a table and shelves inside tool cabinets to take advantage of this area.
A few things you can do to take advantage of tall, narrow areas are rolling carts and DIY projects like a pegboard on a custom-cut piece of wood with a good handle to pull it in and out of where you store it. Get a narrow rolling cart for small, narrow spots like the side of a table or next to tool cabinets to store small parts and other hardware.
Most importantly, consider adding tool cabinets or open storage space on the wall above your garage’s workbench. Setting up a system on your garage wall doesn’t have to be a difficult project. Websites like Instructables and the DIY Reddit can walk you through a home improvement project with what hardware you’ll need to add wall hooks and cabinetry and how to protect your wall from damage. A few of our favorite DIY Projects to store tools vertically include:
When you organize power tools, it will inevitably take up more space than your hand tools. So, it’s important that you take inventory of what power tools you actually need to keep with you on a daily basis, versus those that you can bring occasionally for more specialized work. A good way to avoid having too many tools in your tool box is to purchase power tools that have multiple functions, rather than one specialization.
Additionally, you’ll want to avoid tossing power tools into one large tool box or tool cabinet. Group cordless tools with their batteries, saw blades with saws, and paint rollers in a box underneath their handles hanging from wall hooks or other storage and organization solutions.
It’s tempting to throw hand tools into a tool box, drawer, or tool bag where they inevitably get mixed in with drill bits and other odds and ends. However, in the long run you’ll end up wasting valuable time searching for that wrench that’s the perfect size. Or worse, you’ll assume you’ve lost it and end up replacing it.
Even drawer organizers don’t always help - you’ll still find yourself rooting around for tools you primarily work with, moving items aside and throwing off your whole system looking for just one hand tool. A better idea is to gravitate towards storing hand tools where you can easily see which are available.
For example, you might hang tools on wall hooks, peg board, magnetic strips drilled into your wall, or keep them in cups on stacked lazy susans on your workbench. Each is a great solution that allows you to take advantage of vertical space and see different sizes.
As you collect tools, you’ll often find instruction manuals and equipment guides piling up along the way. There are a number of methods for the storage and organization of manuals that will work fine. For example, wire racks, shelves, and stacks inside desks and cabinets are all great solutions.
However, the easiest way to save space when it comes to manuals is to simply get rid of them. You’ll be able to easily find manuals online using directories like Manual Directory or on the manufacturer’ website. Then, for quick access, you can list out the make and model of your most commonly used tools and equipment and keep it on your phone or taped to cabinet doors.
When it comes to organizing tool accessories like cords, batteries, drill bits, blades, hooks, and other small parts, we’d recommend that you place all your tool accessories in one bin and use small dividers to keep them organized. You can also label the top of your bin with the names of the accessories it contains, as well as the quantity.
Keep in mind that if you don’t have a large bin with dividers available, other containers such as baskets, mason jars, and pull-out tie racks are also an option. Whichever method you choose, try your best to keep all your accessories in one place rather than spread out between multiple storage containers.
Before landing on one tool storage method, there’s a few factors you’ll need to consider:
The Purpose: Try to think about what specific problem you’re trying to solve. Are you looking for a storage system for your entire tool collection? Or are you looking for a more portable storage solution that you can either keep in your work van or carry on your person, like a tool box? Defining the situation you’re needing to organize tools in will dramatically change what type of tool storage solution will be best for you.
If you’re looking to save space in your work vehicle, you’ll probably want to look into tool racks and shelving options, as well as stackable boxes for larger tools. Try to make space for at least three rows of shelving on the inside walls of your vehicle. You may also want to look into removable storage bins, so you’ll be able to easily mix and match your tool storage solutions for easy access.
For more information on how to save space while keeping your tools easily accessible and organized, check out our electrician van setup guide.
The Inventory: When you organize, it’s a good idea to start with a clean slate. Take everything out of your cabinets so you can see it all together. Use this opportunity to take stock of your entire collection, as well as make a separate list of your most used tools. Then, you’ll want to start sub-categorizing your tools into groups to create zones for everything. This will help you decide what you should let go of or how much room you’ll need to store hardware.
The Evaluation: By clearing out your space, you’ll also be able to re-evaluate it and let go of preconceived notions about where specific items should be stored. The biggest issue usually isn’t having enough room to store tools; it’s using that space effectively. Don’t keep storing specific items in cabinets or on your workbench because it’s always been there.
The Price: It’s important that you set a budget for your organization systems before you start buying. It’s easy to get distracted like a kid in a candy shop and spend far more on tool storage than you originally intended.
Moving from job to job, you want a reliable tool belt that’s versatile and easy to take with you. It's also important that your belt is comfortable if it’s going to spend most of the day on your body.
The traditional tool belt goes around your waist, and you can adjust them to just about any size needed. If you’re carrying around heavy tools, you may want to opt for a belt that also has an over-the-shoulder harness to help distribute the weight.
There are endless belt options available, so you’ll need to decide if you’re looking for a more budget friendly option, or a long term investment. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a winning combination of durability, organization, and style, you’ll need to make peace with spending a little extra.
Here are a few of our favorite options on both ends of the price spectrum:
When it comes to storing tools, every contractor or field service worker has an opinion on what tool storage solution works best. As you start to look into tool storage solutions, you’ll see that there’s no cookie-cutter way to keep your tools organized. it all comes down to personal preference, how much space you have to store tools, what you'll need to carry, and the size of your tools.
For rolling tool boxes, we recommend the Milwaukee Packout rolling toolbox and the DeWalt Toughsystem 2.0 rolling toolbox. If you’re looking for stackable tool storage to organize tools, consider the Stalwart 3-in-1 rolling toolbox with foldable handles.
While you may want to have every tool you need close by, you may not necessarily need every single tool on every job. Rather than loading up your tool belt, you need an efficient tool organization system for easy access, and to avoid straining your back.
If your work vehicle is a truck complete with a bed, here are some of our favorites for organizing tools:
Inside the cab or a van, you’ll have plenty of tool storage options, ranging from plastic storage bins to canvas totes, metal shelving, racks, and more. Consider opting for removable tool storage so that if you end up needing to rethink your tool storage system, you’ll be able to easily make adjustments.
Tool backpacks have become more popular recently in the tool storage space because of their versatility and ease of carrying. With plenty of pockets, zippers and pouches, organization is a breeze. However, remember that your tool bag can get quite heavy, especially if you’re trying to cram every tool you could possibly need into it.
A few backpacks worth your consideration include:
Just because you’ve got tool storage equipment, it doesn’t mean your larger tools will stay organized throughout the day. When your day is stacked full of jobs, it can be difficult to make sure that your tools are always in their proper place. One way to help you keep on top of your tool storage is organizer inserts that can be placed in your tool bags and boxes so you can find what you need quickly.
Some tradesmen prefer to take advantage of DIY projects by cutting foam inserts for organizing tools. This allows you to customize your tool boxes and kits by cutting out shapes and ensuring everything stays firmly in place. Another option is to use a professional tool boxes liner to store tools, and keep them from sliding around in transit.
Technology has come a long way when it comes to tool storage! Many tool bags and tool boxes are now equipped with power tool batteries and cell phone chargers, speakers and even mini-refrigerators. The DeWalt DGL523 lighted tool backpack bag is a particularly handy piece of equipment. Charge it up before you leave for work, and when you open it up the inside lights up to make it easy to find the tool you need, even if you’re stuck in a dark place.
Of course, the one tool every trade service professional and home service business needs is FieldPulse.
The FieldPulse business management app helps you keep client information organized, schedule jobs, create invoices, and collect payments. It reduces paperwork and creates a seamless workflow so you can seamlessly conduct business on the go.
Schedule a free demo today and see how FieldPulse can simplify your workflow while saving you time and money.