How to Organize a Tool Chest

How to Organize a Tool Chest to Skyrocket Your Productivity

If you are a handyman (or handywoman), chances are you can’t resist adding new tools to your chest.

Without proper organization, your tool chest can quickly become a jumbled mess of piled-up drawers where you find yourself frantically seeking the right tool in the middle of a project.

Recognize yourself? Do you often struggle to find something you need in your toolbox drawers?

It might be a sign that you need to do some organizational work, as stacking your tools and accessories on the nearest wood shelves might not cut the mustard if you’re attempting to maximize your productivity.

An organized tool chest will make work quicker, more pleasant, and much more effective. Read on for helpful information on tool chest organization.

Why Organize Your Tool Cabinet?

If you have a large and messy tool chest with all of the different types of screwdrivers and whatnot, an A-to-Z drawer organization process can seem overwhelming.

Setting aside a couple of hours for this project might appear like an enormous investment of time and work. However, an organized tool chest will save you time, energy, and even money in the long run.

With a well-organized tool chest, you can:

  • Quickly find what you need in every drawer – and when you need it
  • Avoid delays on a DIY project because you cannot find the right tool
  • More easily keep your tools clean and in optimal order
  • Avoid buying duplicates for tools hiding at the back of a drawer
Why Organize Your Tool Cabinet

How to Start with Tool Box Organization

Organizing tool chests begins with emptying every drawer and compartment of their tools and equipment.

Lay out the tools on a large surface, such as a desk, workstation, or the floor. If your tools are especially dirty or greasy, you might want to line the surface with old newspapers first.

Next, group your tools. One way of doing this could be:

  • Heavy-duty power tools: drill, powered screwdriver, chainsaw, rotary tools.
  • Smaller tools: hammers, pliers, metal files, chisels, hand screwdrivers, hex keys.
  • Accessories: drill bits, screws, cutters, hole saws, and sockets.
  • Supplies: sandpaper, duct tape, copper wire, electrical tape, and cable ties.
  • Measuring tools: measuring tape, calipers, levels, and level finders.

Making an inventory can help you stay organized. Inventorying is an excellent opportunity to identify any broken, ill-repaired, impractical, or duplicate tools.

Discard everything that is beyond repair. If you have tools that are in good condition but just aren’t very practical for you, consider giving them away to free up space. 

Clean Your Tool Chest Drawers

Once you’ve decided which items you want to keep, give your tool chest and equipment a thorough cleaning.

Such a cleaning can be a daunting prospect if you have a long-time buildup of dirt and grease. Heavy-duty cleaning wipes will help you with this task.

Be sure to go over and scrub all your tools and every nook and cranny of your tool chest drawers. It will help you keep all your equipment in good condition and cut down on repairs.

Organization Methods For Tools

Once you’ve got the sorting and cleaning out of the way, it’s time for the main task of optimizing your tool storage.

Tool organizers can be a saving grace, especially so if you’ve got a range of different types of hammers and hand tools to prioritize for. Read on and take note!

Organization Methods For Tools
Image: PFS

Same-Tool Sets

It makes sense to keep each toolset in one place: a screwdriver or drill and all its bits, oscillating tools and all their attachments, and so on.

Compartments with Labels for Small Items

Sort all your screws, nails, nuts, etc., by type and size. Place each one in an individual small container.

It is best to label them for convenience: clear labels make it much easier to locate the right type of screw or nail. A label maker can help you label more effectively.

Top, Center, and Bottom

Effective tool organization strongly depends on individual storage needs. Some people believe that the center drawers should contain the most frequently used items for convenience, while others prefer to sort their tools and equipment strictly by size and weight.

Although various systems can work well for different people, the following top-to-bottom method usually makes sense:

  • Bottom Drawers: Large, heavy tools such as a drill, oscillating saw, powered jigsaw, electric chainsaw, etc. Keeping the heavier tools in the bottom spaces will help make the tool cabinet more stable.
  • Center Drawers: Medium-sized tools and toolsets such as pliers, hammers, hand screwdrivers, and also nail and screw containers.
  • Top Drawers: Lighter equipment such as sandpaper, duct tape, copper coil, sockets, and reusable consumables.
Best Starter Tool Chest
Husky 27" 5-Drawer Roller Cabinet Tool Chest Husky 27" 5-Drawer Roller Cabinet Tool Chest
  • Super convenient 5-draw tool chest equipped with lockable wheels yet can be easily relocated thanks to its portable design features.


  • Perfect for a garage setup or new home workshops as this tool chest can fit snugly into smaller spaces, yet can still hold a capacity of 1,000 lbs.


  • A top-notch tool chest engineered to the highest of standards with an all-welded steel construction showcasing a textured powder paint finish.


  • Fitted with fully extendable deep roll-out drawers that will allow you to access tools in a hurry without having to dig around blindly.

Useful Tool Storage Accessories and Products

There are some great products to help you achieve a better-organized setup for your tools.

Stack Ons

Plastic stack-ons are convenient additions to your toolbox drawers. Stack-ons allow you to divide one wide drawer into smaller, more convenient compartments.

This makes storing large tool kits and different accessory types much easier. You’ll be surprised to discover how much more efficient a toolbox organization can become with a clever stack-on system.

Tool Foam

Foam tool box organizers can revolutionize your tool storage. With a foam liner or foam organizers, you can create individually customized foam organizers to suit your preferences and avoid an unsightly, confusing jumble.

Plan the layout according to your drawer dimensions and tool usage.

Most foam organizer kits use two layers of foam colors: a dark one and a lighter, brighter one. The double two-colored foam layer allows you to create convenient, easily visible nests for all your tools. This way, whenever something isn’t in its place, you’ll notice it at once.

Tool Foam
Image: Tool Raptors

How to Make Tool Box Foam Inserts From Scratch

Trace each tool with a pencil and cut it to shape. Usually, a simple utility blade will cut the foam easily enough.

A specialized foam hot knife will give more precise results with thick foam, which you might want to use for larger, heavier tools.

Here are some handy tips for working with tool foam:

  • Cut finger holes to make tool pick-up easier. In some cases
  • Cut a strip across a toolset rather than one hole at a time
  • Alternate handle directions to make the most of available space
  • Store screwdrivers, pliers, and other hand tools in the top draw
  • Measure rolled-up cords and cut out designated holes for them

Foam is highly versatile. After you cut up the large sheets, you can use foam scraps as dividers in a toolbox. Another great idea is to cut slits in a foam strip and use it as an upright organizer.

Pegboards

If your tool chest is large enough, you could benefit from using a pegboard that attaches to your wall. You can organize a pegboard to maximize your productivity, plus your workshop or garage will look the part.

Pegboards are great for storing lightweight tools, cords, and some random accessories.

You can use a commercial pegboard from the hardware store or make your own with affordable plywood backing.

Be sure to secure the pegboard well and space them out enough so that the stored items don’t bump into each other and are easy to remove and replace.

Pegboards can also give you extra storage space when affixed to a garage wall.

Best Pegboard Tool Organizer
Pegboard Tool Organizer & Storage Kit Pegboard Tool Organizer & Storage Kit
  • All metal construction pegboard is both practical and durable as it is 10 times stronger than a conventional pegboard.


  • This pegboard allows you to store an array of tools and equipment as it accepts conventional 1/4-inch pegboard pegs and accessories.


  • Simple installation and setup by fixing the pegboard directly into studs or sheetrock with no framework being required.


  • A brilliant addition to any workshop that will declutter your workspace and will look super cool on your wall with its black powder-coated finish.

Heavy-Duty Tool Rack

A heavy-duty tool rack is useful for securing metal tools and accessories such as shovels, garden rakes, and even step ladders. Typically, they are ideal for storing larger tools that you frequently use but don’t need protection from environmental factors.

If you have a metal tool chest, a tool rack can free up a lot of space for whatever needs a permanent home. This will allow you can store your more expensive items in a secure lockable toolbox.

A tool rack is super easy to install and inexpensive. You can space out your screwdrivers, wrench sets, and sockets in your tool chest and keep less expensive items such as garden tools on a rack like this.

Best Heavy-Duty Tool Rack
StoreYourBoard Tool Storage Rack StoreYourBoard Tool Storage Rack
  • Perfect for storing bulky garden tools as this rack can hold up to 300 lbs of weight with up to 6 storage attachments, both 11" long and 2" wide.


  • Utilizes an adjustable wall track system up to 46" long and can be customized to hold various tools or even larger items like step ladders.


  • Makes use of a locking pin system to safely store heavy tools safely and securely, potentially preventing tripping hazards.


  • Quality heavy-duty garden tool rack made from alloy steel with a powder coated finish yet a great cost-effective space-saving option.

Socket Organizers

A socket organizer can help you efficiently organize sockets in your toolbox. Convenient snap-on socket holders come in various sizes and capacities.

Most full sets can hold between 60 and 80 sockets, although depending on the industry you’re in, you’ll likely have to collect larger sockets outside of what comes with a typical socket set.

The best tool organizer sets of this type are made of aluminum and durable plastic, or you can even get a specialist set molded from a 3D printer.

Best Socket Organizer Set
ARES Metric 3-Piece Magnetic Socket Organizer Set ARES Metric 3-Piece Magnetic Socket Organizer Set
  • Never lose track of another socket and vastly increase your productivity by grabbing sockets from one highly organizer tool chest.


  • Give all of your expensive sockets a permanent home, housing sockets from 4mm all the way up to 27mm in a magnetic socket holder.


  • These portable socket holders are made from heavy-duty, high-impact plastic and feature powerful magnets to hold your sockets in place.


  • You can stick these magnetized socket holders to the side of your toolbox or any other ferrous metal surface in your workshop.

Upkeep and Maintenance

Have you put your tool chest in proper order? Great! Now you just need to keep it up. When you finish working on any DIY project, make sure to wipe the tools clean and replace them promptly.

Don’t leave tools lying around or stick them in a drawer randomly, saying you’ll get to it “later.” Before you notice, tools and equipment will pile up, and the almighty mess will reign.

When you buy new tools or equipment, plan ahead and make drawer space for them in your tool chest. Avoid piling one item on top of another.

Every once in a while, go over your toolbox drawers and make sure that everything is in place and easily available. This way, you’ll avoid slipping back into messy, ineffective storage.

Finally, question whether your chest actually has enough space for your entire collection of tools.

Sometimes, no matter how efficiently you use toolbox space, there simply isn’t enough of it for the whole range of your equipment and supplies. In that case, look into other options to answer your storage needs, such as wall storage or an additional toolbox.

Tool Upkeep and Maintenance

In Conclusion

Everyone benefits from better-organized tool chests. Safely storing the tools you’ll acquire on your journey as a craftsman, whether it be the different types of saws or drills, will no doubt fast-track your overall success. 

An optimized tool layout will boost your efficiency by helping you work more quickly and effectively.

Hopefully, this detailed guide for increasing your productivity will reduce the amount of time your spend looking for an indispensable tool, fitting, or accessory during a project!

Once you have everything in its proper place, all you need is regular toolbox upkeep and maintenance.

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