When it comes to picking out the right toolbox or tool organization system, there are several factors to consider, say professional organizers Ann Lightfoot and Kate Pawlowski, the co-founders of Done & Done Home and authors of the forthcoming book, “Love Your Home Again.”
“Tool organization is highly dependent on how much space is available and how frequently time is spent working on the home,” they say. “There are many different types of systems that work well for tools, but finding the correct one is key for functionality and efficiency.”
Tool organization systems fall into three main categories: wall systems, standing tool chests and smaller transportable options like tool boxes, tool belts and tool vests. With help from Lightfoot, Pawlowski and other experts, we’ve rounded up the best option for every type of tool user.
“For the serious DIYer who spends a ton of time working on home projects and who has a garage, basement or shed, a wall system is a great option,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “Larger tools such as drills and saws can be hung up and remain visible and accessible.”
“In our opinion,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say, “the ultimate in organizing systems is the Elfa Utility Garage system with a workstation from The Container Store. It not only has a pegboard system, it also comes with drawers, shelves and racks to hold tools, sports equipment and items for the yard. It’s the gold standard for getting a garage or workshop organized!”
Those looking for a more budget-friendly alternative to wall-mounted tool storage should consider the trusty pegboard, which offers a lot of flexibility for a reasonable price. “We love pegboard systems because they can accommodate a variety of tools and accessories and are highly customizable,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “Hooks and pegs can be added when needed to keep up with a changing collection.”
“If wall space is limited but there’s a need for a system, a standing tool chest works best,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “Multiple drawers hold everything from hammers and screwdrivers to nails and drill bits. They don’t take up a ton of space but keep random items contained and categorized.”
Lightfoot and Pawlowski recommend the Besfur tool chest for those who want to keep visual clutter to a minimum. “A storage cabinet with doors is the ideal solution,” they say. “It’s customizable with adjustable shelves and an interior pegboard so an assortment of tools, big and small, can be contained.”
Another option Lightfoot and Pawlowski like are rolling tool boxes, which they call “the best alternative for people who have a garage, basement or workshop, but not a lot of wall space.” They like this style because it has multiple drawers for creating categories and keeping things separate while the wheels make them semi-transportable.
“When people don’t have a need for an entire system but have a few tools for small projects, a standard tool box will do the job,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “It can be tucked away into a closet and will keep common items such as screwdrivers or hammers accessible but out of the way.”
“The Packout is my top pick,” Jacob Garrett, an organization specialist who reviews tools and tool organization systems on his YouTube channel, JakeOfALL, says. “The durability and water-resistant rating make it perfect for harsh or humid conditions — whether in a truck bed or a humid climate, you will know your tools will be dry and dust-free. The reinforced system ensures that the box can be lugged around and that heavy tools will not damage the box.” He also says the Packout offers the most versatility and options on the market, and “it also has a massive amount of accessories available.”
Garrett’s second choice is a lower-priced option that is similar to the Packout. “The ToughSystem has a great durability and weather resistant rating,” he says, adding, “and it’s probably the closest rival interlocking system to the Packout system.” Garrett praises the options for this system, which he says, “includes drawers and a few different size toolboxes, radio and power station, and even a vacuum and a few organizers for parts.”
Garrett also recommends the Festool Systainer tool box. “The Systainer was made popular by Festool, a German high-end tool manufacturer that offers all of its tools in interlocking boxes that were made for each tool,” he says, but notes that “the big downsides of the Systainer system are price and durability.”
Jack Mulder, a hobbyist and homeowner who catalogues his extensive tool collection on the instagram account, Jack Has Tools, says, “When I was on the hunt for a toolbox I made a layout with the tools I had to determine the size of toolbox I needed.” He also considered material type when making his purchases, “Steel is strong but also heavy, plastic is lightweight but can break easily.” He landed on the Parat Classic, saying, “It’s a sturdy case, easy to carry and it comes with built in organization. When opened I have a good overview and access to my tools.”
“The steel cantilever toolbox is the most common one, in my opinion,” Mulder says, “and is a good budget-friendly all-rounder — not only for storage, but it can be taken with you on jobs as well.” He notes that steel tool boxes can be heavy and cumbersome to lug around, and recommends tool belts as a lightweight alternative that provides built-in organization solutions. Mulder has a German made Stahlwille cantilever-style tool box that he recommends to those looking for that style.
“Not everyone has the time, inclination or skill to do their own home repairs,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “But for people who are renters, just starting out or only need a few tools to do very minor repairs, a fully loaded general household tool kit is an affordable solution or a great gift! It comes with standard utility tools and a handy case so everything stays together and can be transported with ease.”
Lucy Durtnall, founder of TF Tools, says “Tool organization and carry systems have evolved hugely over the past two decades. We want to work smarter, look after our bodies and not feel ruined by the end of a day on site.” She urges people to consider tool belts when looking for a tool organization system, because she says, “tool belts that offer back support are both efficient and comfortable. Having your kit on your body with the toolbelt system means it’s accessible and therefore time-saving.”
Durtnall recommends the Badger carpenter tool belt with suspenders, because of its combination of design and style. “It offers comfort and trade-specific tool organization with a smart aesthetic.”
As an alternative to a traditional tool belt, Durtnall recommends the DiamondBack vest-style system, which she praises for its “on-body organization, breathable, durable and customizable vest attachments, that is compatible with the entire DiamondBack tool pouch range.”
Tool belts come in different fabrications, most commonly nylon and leather. When choosing which is right for you, Durtnall says, “It comes down to personal preference on aesthetic as each brand has quite a unique style with it.” If a leather tool belt is right for you, she says that “Occidental Leather’s bestseller is the 5089 Seven Framer Rig teamed with 5055 suspenders for added comfort and support that offers large-capacity carry and excellent tool organization.”
There are also tote-style options that fall somewhere in between a tool box and a tool belt. “If you prefer a carry system,” Durtnall says, “Beare Tote is an open tool bag with interchangeable panels” that allows the user to configure the bag to fit their collection.