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 tool box 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 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 getting stuck in the middle of a project because you cannot find the right tool

  • More easily keep your tools clean and in optimal repair

  • Avoid buying duplicates since the tool or equipment you need might be hiding at the back of a drawer

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 and sockets

  • Supplies: sandpaper, duct tape, copper wire

  • Measuring tools: measuring tape, levels, calipers

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!

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 at the bottom spaces will help make the tool cabinet more stable.

  • Center Drawers: Medium-sized tools and toolsets such as pliers, hammers, and hand screwdrivers, and also nail and screw containers.

  • Top Drawers: Lighter equipment such as sandpaper, copper coil, sockets, and so on.
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 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

Photo Credit: Tool Raptors

How to Work with Tool Foam

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, it makes more sense to cut a strip across a toolset rather than one hole at a time.

  • Alternate handle directions to make the most of available space. This works well with screwdrivers, pliers, and other tools that have a wider and narrower end.

  • 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.


If your tool chest is large enough, you could benefit from using pegs. You can organize a pegboard inside the tool chest or affix it to the exterior of the chest. Pegs are great for storing lightweight tools, cords, and some accessories.

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

Be sure to secure the pegs 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.

Magnetic Boards

Magnetic tool boards are useful for securing metal tools and accessories such as hammers, scissors, screwdrivers, and more.

If you have a metal tool chest, a magnetic tool board organizer can easily attach to the bottom of a drawer.

Magnetic toolbox organizers are usually customizable, so you can space out your screwdrivers, wrench sets, or other tools as you choose.

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.

The best tool organizer sets of this type are made of aluminum and durable plastic.

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 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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