Last Updated on June 30, 2022
Your workshop is a busy place with lots of tools, gadgets and other equipment. Keeping it organized can be both a challenge and time-consuming. If only you had the time to organize the space, maybe then your projects would get done faster and those tools wouldn’t go missing. Well, a new year means new possibilities. This can be the year where you take and make your workshop into something more organized and user-friendly. Here’s how you can organize your shop or garage with six easy tricks.
1. Think about your workflows
It’s important to think not only about what’s in the workshop (especially if you haven’t yet set one up), but also what you do in there. What tools do you use the most and where do you use them? If you consider your workflows, organizing your workshop will become a lot easier. You’ll be able to reshape it into something much more conducive to your liking.
For example, if you spend a lot of time in one section of your shop, the tools you use most shouldn’t be on the other side. Otherwise, you end up walking across the floor many times throughout the day. Why do that? Not only will this make you less productive, but you’ll be tempted many times to not put your tools away. You lose time walking back and forth so you end up just laying it somewhere close to you.
Too many tools out of place leads to a mess, and eventually a big mess. This hinders work and decreases productivity. And by not putting tools away immediately, you risk misplacing them or losing them. You won’t be able to find them when you need them.
2. Create a “home” for everything
If everything has a dedicated place of storage, then you will always know what to do with your tools once you are finished using them. You’ll also know where to find them.
This proactive strategy might mean taking a day off from your regular activities, but it will save you minutes each day for as long as you have your workshop. Think about it. If you spend just five minutes each day during a five-day work week trying to locate something that’s out of place, after one year, you would have spent more than 21 hours searching for items in your workshop.
When you store items, not only put tools close to where you use them, but also keep similar tools together. And label everything. This way you don’t have to remember or even think about where something belongs. Organize the shop in such a way that someone who has never been in your shop before could easily navigate their way around it and find any tool simply by reading labels and seeing the layout of the workshop.
Put large tools that you permanently keep out for use, as well as benches and other work areas, and even cabinets on wheels, so you can move them around for easy cleaning or in case your current layout doesn’t work for you in the future.
Pull-out shelves make finding items placed behind other items easier. This works when items are on the same shelf, especially when those shelves are deep. It also allows for items to be individually slotted and easily returned to the same place. You will never again bump over a bottle or canister reaching for something at the rear of the shelf.
To the degree you can create a unique home for tools—start with the most important ones—you will be able to determine if a tool is missing simply by looking at its home.
3. Invest in dynamic drawers
Creating a home can mean more than deciding which drawer you will stick all of your screwdrivers or hammers. Sometimes, it means creating spaces within the drawers to organize what’s inside.
For example, you could further subdivide a drawer by putting containers inside of it. Old Tupperware makes for great small tool and small parts organizers.
Shop Organization Storage
Create a beautiful display of your longer-lasting tools by cutting out their shapes into foam (about 1/2-inch deep) that has been cut into the dimensions of your drawer. Then take another piece of foam, also cut to the dimensions of your drawer (not the tools), and place that at the bottom of the drawer. Next, place the foam with the tool shapes cut out of it on top of the other foam. Then place the tools into their cut out shapes.
This creates a beautiful display of workshop organization. Additionally, tools are kept in place when the drawer gets slammed and it also alerts you when a tool is not put away.
Hang or place drawers on their side instead of letting them stand upright. Then place hooks in each drawer appropriate for hanging some of your larger hand tools. Slide the drawer open and the tool(s) in the drawer become accessible. Since the tools hang, they are fixed in place and won’t bang into one another when the drawer is opened or closed. And, by hanging the tools within drawers instead of on the wall and constantly visible, the workshop will appear tidier.
4. Hang what you can
Drawers can easily become overstuffed, so hang what you can, especially larger tools. Keeping several tools in a drawer or a box means there’s always a tool underneath other tools. And from time to time, the tool underneath all the junk will be what you need. If you need to move tools out of the way to retrieve what you need, you’re wasting time.
Also, when tools bump other tools, there is a risk of damaging them.
Hang clamps, blades, levels, safety glasses, and more, sometimes everyday items designed for other purposes make the best shop organizers. Consider hooks designed for robes, towels, and ties as potential organizational items for your tools.
If you have a cabinet or wall shelving, hang underneath either a metal rod or u-shape hooks for your tools. Align them in clothesline style or bathrobe style. Clamps and safety glasses, for example, work well on a metal rod. Rags and brushes work well on hooks. Anything with a wooden handle can easily have a hole drilled into it so that it can be hung from a hook.
Using PVC Pipe
Find PVC pipe that has a diameter similar in diameter to your electric hand drills and other similar tools. Cut the pipe to the approximate length of the tool housing. Then cut along the pipe from one opening to the other. Make a second cut from opening to opening parallel, to the first cut and about 1/2-inch (tool handle width) from the first cut. Insert your tool into the pipe with the handle poking through the cut out portion.
If it snugly fits, glue the pipe to the bottom of a wall shelf or hanging cabinet with the cut side down. Make sure the pipe is far enough away from the wall that you can insert your tool inside and the tip of the tool almost reaches the wall. The tool hangs cradled in the pipe and removing it and putting it away is a snap. There is nothing to pull open or unzip. Just pull it out and push it in.
Finally, peg boards are a popular and cost-effective manner for hanging medium-sized electric-powered hand tools. Examples are electric saws, sanders, and nail guns. An assortment of hooks will accommodate the various shapes of your tools. You can even buy peg board baskets for organizing small parts, such as the accessories to the tools being hung on the peg board. And, if a tool is missing, you will know right away, because its spot will be empty.
Although setting tools on display like a showroom will keep your tools organized and looking good, it does take up a lot of room.
5. Create a customizable bench
Your bench is where a lot of work gets done. Having tools such as vices or grinders permanently in place is handy when you need them, but they get in the way when you don’t. Not all of your work is the same and not all of it requires the same tools.
If you have the space, you can have a lot of benches with dedicated tools at each one. However, having several 8, 10, or 12-foot benches isn’t possible. Consider how you can customize your benches in a way that minimizes tool movement.
For example, tools such as grinders can be flipped onto and off the bench. To accomplish this, fasten the tool to a metal plate, which is fastened to a hinge at a 90-degree angle. Fasten the hinge to the side of the bench. This allows the top of the bench to remain flat and smooth. If done correctly, when flipped up, the metal plate the tool is fastened to should make perfect contact with the bench. When flipped down, the tool is underneath the bench. Use a strap to keep the tool in place. This prevents people from bumping the tool and prevents the tool from swinging.
Swinging the tool below is easier than lifting it and placing it on a shelf below the bench. It also will make your space under the bench shelf easier to organize. Since the tool is now semi-fixed into place, this allows for the tool’s wires to be plugged in continuously from underneath the bench. This is preferable instead of plugging and unplugging the tool each time you use it.
Vices can be easily removed or swapped out by fastening them to a bolt-on Reese trailer hitch and fastening the other part of the hitch to the bottom side of the bench top. The trailer hitch is strong enough to hold the weight of the vice plus the material being gripped by the vice. And this still allows for the vice to be removed with a few turns of the trailer release mechanism. With the vices removed, the bench can accommodate items that have greater dimensions than the bench itself.
Use a brown paper roll for keeping benches clean. Attach a role holder at the end of the bench, so you just need to pull the paper over the work area. Once your project is complete, rip off the used paper and dispose of it. The rest of the role remains in place for the next time you need it.
6. Clean every square inch
A functional workshop is not only organized but clean.
When messes get treated right away, the whole workshop stays cleaner. Then cleaning isn’t the monstrous activity when you leave everything until the end of the day.
Keep brushes (and a little sweep pan) near workstations that produce debris, such as wood or metal shavings. If your tool has a compartment for gathering debris, use it right away instead of allowing the debris to become airborne or collect on clothing and other objects. These will just be dropped somewhere else in your workshop.
A ShopVac is big. It’s always in the way, the wire gets caught under the wheels, and it’s a tripping hazard.
Move air suction to the ceiling by hanging a vacuum located at or near the center of the shop. This eliminates a lot of floor space and floor traffic. Find a hose that reaches every corner of the shop. Some people have found success with a pool hose. Now you can vacuum your entire workshop.
For greater convenience, attach a remote control to the nozzle or end of the hose. With it you can turn the vacuum off from anywhere in the room. This saves you from running the vacuum when walking from its base to the dirty area and back again, thereby saving a few seconds of electricity and noise each trip.
Sweep messes on the floor right away, otherwise you end up picking up debris with your shoes and spreading it everywhere you walk. Keep your broom(s) in the same spot, so you don’t waste time looking for it.
And remember, your workshop organization doesn’t have to be built completely with new items. Repurpose what you have. Build what you can.
Shop Organization Redefined
Now that you’ve learned some new tips and tricks to keep your workshop in tiptop shape, you just need to acquire the right tools. Then you’ll be all set! No more messes, confusion, or running around wasting time. In this new year, take your workshop organization to a whole new level. Spend less time searching for tools and more time building. What are some favorite organization tips for your shop or garage?
Check out this workshop video for some inspiration. We love their tips!