Storage and Organization Advice

Gents…I have a problem. I feel like every time I do a house project, I end up dumping all the tools, scraps, etc. in the middle of my shed because I finish late at night and just want to be done. I’ll fully admit that this is partially just laziness, but it’s also an effort to keep the wife happy and the kids out of stuff and trucking loads of tools out to the shed and then spending an hour putting them away isn’t always possible. I guess I’m looking for advice on how you all handle organization and have dealt with similar issues. I have shelves which in theory hold all my tools in their cases/bags, I have a rolling tool chest for hand tools, bins and a lumber shelf, but the problem is that carting all this it all gets mixed up and inevitably I end up with my next project being to restore order to the shed. I don’t know if dropping a bunch of dough on more Tstaks, Tough System/Packout/et al, or similar is an answer, but I’m not inherintely opposed. Just not sure it’s the solution unless I convert everything over I guess. Sorry for the half-venting post, but hopeful y’all have some good thoughts.

(I should probably clarify that most of the projects I have done are rather large and the ones left on the list look something like “replace every door in the house” or “install new baseboard everywhere” or “gut the bathroom and replace everything.” These aren’t small “change out a light fixture” projects…we’re renovating the enitrety of the house while living there - I don’t recommend this. It’s a poor life choice.)

I don’t have this problem, because I don’t have a workspace. I have to use common storage room in the basement of my building. I haul my tools out of my personal storage closet, including a worktable, then I have to clean up and stow everything before the next day.

It’s a PITA, but it also means I have to schedule in clean-up time when I plan out my work. And I do have to plan out my work, because I can’t leave anything out. It will get stolen, or people will complain. A few times I’ve quit early, because I was about to start a big task that had no good stopping points, like painting or glue-up.

So in your case, it might help to pretend your work area belongs to somebody else. Which is kind of true, right? Your workplace is shared space.

Another thing I’ve done is train myself to put tools back in their boxes or bags immediately. It makes cleanup go faster. Also I store bits, sandpaper, sockets, etc. in the same boxes as the tools that use them, so when I pull out the sander, for instance, the sandpaper is always right there.

Also, chefs have something called mise en place, which is arranging cooking implements and ingredients for greatest efficiency. I find it helps to think a few minutes about where to place everything so it’ll be quick to use AND quick to put away.

Hope that helps! If I ever get my own workshop, I’m sure my tidy habits will evaporate.

Haha yeah…maybe it’s me, but I feel like there’s a sort of Parksinon’s Law to be applied to workspaces. The stuff you store/work on magically expands to fill all available space. I went from a 7x7 shed to this 12x16 one I built a few years back, and yet here we are!

Appreciate the suggestions…it really is probably as much training myself with better habits as opposed to anything solvable by tool storage purchases.

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I use this organization scheme for my DIY and work around the house: I bought some stacking tote containers (mine happen to be Craftsman, but any brand works) and I use those to store application-specific tools and supplies. I’ve labeled them: paint, plumbing, electrical, and hardware. I keep all my basic consumables and supplies in those. I.e. the paint one contains paintbrushes, roller frame and covers, mud tub & knives for drywall, masking tape & plastic drop cloths, caulk gun and caulk, adhesives, etc. The plumbing one contains plumbing-specific tools like my basin wrench, snake, misc fittings and small pieces of pipe, joint tape, pipe dope, faucet & toilet parts, vinyl tubing in various sizes, hose clamps, etc. “Hardware” has nuts-n-bolts, screws, nails, staples, staplegun, shelf brackets, etc. When I’m starting a project it’s really easy to pull out the relevant bin and go to work. When I’m done I put whatever extras I have back…say I just put up a new ceiling fan and I’ve got some extra wire nuts and some wire cutoffs which are long enough to be useful…they go in the electrical bin. It’s such a simple system that it takes very little work to clean up. I don’t worry about keeping any one tote hyper-organized inside because they’re small enough it never takes too long to find anything. The totes easily stack in a closet, shed, corner of the garage, wherever.

As for my work, I follow what Koko wrote above: I always clean up right after the job and I even budget the cleanup time in when I’m estimating labor hours or planning my day. Back when I had my machining business my policy was that at 4:30 PM on Friday afternoon every employee, myself included, had to stop whatever we were doing and we just did basic cleanup. Sweeping floors, putting away tools, cleaning machines, hauling out trash to the dumpster, etc. Only exception was if anything was super critically behind schedule.


I have the same issue as @KokoTheTalkingApe where I don’t have a designated workspace, but those stacking tote containers seem to be a viable option for me. Right now, I’m really just getting started with DIY projects, but I’m keeping track of things that I’ll probably use more commonly and think about organizing/labeling them for later on.

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How big are your totes? I have a good number of Commander ones (I think 5 gal?) set up with parts (like wire nuts, spools, tri-wire, etc) but hadn’t thought of doing similar/same with tools. I can this working especially well for plumbing, electrical, etc.

I love tool storage about as much as I like buying tools. My garage is a bit of a mess like your shed at the moment though. A lot of seasonal things to store and not a lot of time to spend after my toddler and baby. Good luck with your projects. We did a complete remodel on our bathroom while my wife was pregnant with our first daughter. It was a harrowing experience.
Everybody else has had some really good input. All I can really do is second some of what they said. I have a tool bucket with my most used items. And I try to keep accessories with their respective tools e.g. my finish nailer has brads and oil in the case with it. At my last job we kept storage totes with parts for each respective brand or model. Which was very handy. The one thing I have done that has worked really well at home is my drill bag. I have a drill, impact driver, pencils, stud finder, measuring tape, bullet levels, and angle adapters, anchors, utility knife, and a handful of wood screws all in one spot. It is easy to grab and has everything I need for a full project, or at least things that compliment each other.

Mine are 20gal. The paint one is full to the top (things like roller covers take a lot of space), Electrical and plumbing are mostly full. The “hardware” one is maybe 1/4 full so in hindsight a smaller one would have worked better for that. Even if I had more things to put in there it would be pretty darn heavy to move around.
I’d have another one for auto work but I work on cars and such so often that my auto-specific tools have a dedicated drawer in my main tool box.

I do agree about the general-purpose tool bag. I use one of my Dewalt fabric bags, in that I’ve got my OMT, drill/driver, impact driver, a few basic hand tools (hammer, wonderbar, torpedo level, pliers, knipex cobras, x-in-one screwdriver, etc.), a worklight, and a Dewalt toughcase with an assortment of impact bits, drill bits, 1/4 hex extension, etc. I grab that if I’m doing some basic job around the house, plus whatever of the larger totes may be relevant. In the past I used a 5 gal bucket, it did the same job.

I use a lot of my accessories with multiple different tools so I don’t always keep those accessories with the tool, but in some cases I do. My recip saw blades are in the bag with the recip saw. All my SDS bits and chisels live in the bag with my rotary hammer, etc. But for things like circular saw blades or tooling for angle grinders, etc, I have many of those so I just keep those in the workshop and grab what I need when I need it.

It is hard to see that all of them facing the same mess issue with the garage storage. In my garage, I plan some useful tips to organize the tools inside the garage. I grouped together all of the similar tools and placed them inside the cardboard boxes on the shelf. I’ve labelled all the liquid items stored inside the can and stacked them on top of the shelves. The plumbing and electrical work tools are stored in an area where we can readily locate them, as these items must be quickly retrieved in the event of an emergency. To avoid a cluttered garage, certain less often used things are put in a temporary storage location.

I have a similar problem, same reasons. I now have Packout pieces and that helps, but I am going to do a complete re-do of the garage with overhead storage to get a bunch of stuff up off the ground and I’m fortunate to be able to do so…

I also and I’m sure you do always have leftover wood on these projects that I just can’t throw away. So, I’ve taken a deep breath and I"m going to get rid of it, just clear it out and start over. That is the hardest… You know a few complete 2X4’s and 6’s, dog etc… Just do it. I went and got the wall mount pieces for the Packout and once I get things up on the ceiling storage, I’ll get stuff on that. So, another project… And it’s winter…and I’m wondering if I can heat the garage so I can work out there… It’s technically “heated” but still always hovers around 35 degrees…and so my mind wanders and prepares, do I need to buy something, anything to get this project done, what kinds of deals are out there on the things I might NEED to buy… It never stops.

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I hear ya…throwing away wood scraps is the hardest. I wish I had built a lean-to on the back side of the shed for that stuff, honestly. Takes up so much room and has a bad habit of falling down when I pile it to high. I did buy a Bora rack last time they were on deal, but haven’t had the time or room to mount it.

Was just looking at some Packout at HD last night…I’m tempted. There’s some really nice organization there…Maybe at least move my plumbing and electrical tools into Packouts or Tstaks and free up some space in my tool chest. Packout would offer the freedom to keep more accessories in the box (wire nuts, pigtail scraps, pex clamps, etc.), but I already have a few T-staks, so still not sure I want to start a second system.

It sounds like you are in a similar spot as me. You want the pack out but aren’t sure if you can justify it. With your large projects you probably could. Whereas my projects are smaller and I already went a little far with my tool budget this year. You could do something like have plumbing supplies in tstak and use packout for tools and accessories. I have also seen guys use bucket boss style tray organizers in for parts. they are a good size for plumbing fittings or electrical supplies. They can be a pain to unpack though. Disclaimer: Take my advice with a grain of salt. I am a tool enabler.

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