Tiny Toolboxes

When I left for college, I inherited several tools from my parents. I felt sentimental about the pieces that they generously gave me, and I used those hand-me-down supplies to assemble furniture and make minor repairs in nine of the ten places I’ve lived since leaving home at 18. The last major project in which I used the tools was West’s nursery nook. 

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Over the years, the tool collection evolved and grew. I added more and more little things to it— particularly when I was set styling over recent years. Eventually I found myself with a multi-level, wheeled cart that I dragged around our cottage with me, despite the fact that I usually only used a handful of items within it when at home.

As we began working on the front tiny cottage, I realized— I only need a small, specific grouping of tools and hardware. Everything else is always brought and handled by the professionals with whom we work. So why was I struggling to store a 3’-tall toolbox in our tiny house when I didn’t have to? True small space dwellers know— there is absolutely no room for something like that in a compact home. The poor thing was was a mess inside, and it was routinely left outside for days on end, crammed onto one stoop or the other, and shoved into the back of our 2’ shed. (It was so oversized that West would even climb into the bottom 1/3 of it so we could roll him around the house. It was adorable, but ridiculous.)

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I got to thinking about the individual items within my collection. The ones I used regularly could be condensed into a multi-tool, and most of the other products I could do without entirely. (And, surprisingly, I was missing a tool or two that would’ve been extremely helpful to have here on a regular basis.) 

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I realized that a toolbox makeover was in order. I had to separate the sentiment behind select items and part ways with them. Plus, I needed to come up with out-of-the-ordinary ways to store the necessities.  I played around with a few ideas, testing out what ACTUALLY worked (not just for photos), and what was easily accessible, without standing out in our tiny house or consuming space needed for other uses. I combined few methods of storage, and thus far, this mix has been practical and hassle-free:

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1. Small Tool Roll (Rather than Box)

A tool roll has proven much easier to store than a box of any size. It’s portable, it can easily be kept out of West’s reach, and it’s neat and organized even when left out in the open. I use these waxed canvas pockets to store the handle of our new Husky 16-in-1 interchangeable screwdriver set from The Home Depot, our new Husky pick + probe set, our hammer, touch-up paintbrushes, and a miscellaneous multi-tool that I use on our bikes. (The Pick & Probe set was one of the items I realized I needed but was missing. Our cottages are from the 1920s and have a lot of imperfections, and West somehow finds them all, and then gets all sorts of stuff trapped in the smallest slivers of space. The picks help Adam and me reach and clear those spots.) 

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2. Hardware Notebook

It’s easier to make room on our bookshelf than anywhere else in our home, because books can live countless lives by being re-gifted onward to friends and family for their enjoyment. I couldn’t find a hardware organizer that worked well on our built-in bookshelf, so I upcycled a 3-ring binder for the job. I used a combination of basic plastic bags and binder pouches to hold a mix of hardware, along with the various heads for our screwdriver and drill.

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3. Large Tool Hanging Bag

After giving away anything I no longer needed, then outfitting the tool roll and notebook, I was left with a few compact yet larger items that were scattered around the house: a 30’ tape measure our Ryobi multi-tool base (which I use to build our suspended shelves and to cut/sand wood), our Hex Key sets, and extra water-resistant gloves. It got obnoxious to have all these items separated, so I gathered them together and dropped them into a washable garden bag that I can hang on the wall. Not only is the bag easy to tote around, but it hangs mere inches away from the notebook, and can also contain the tool roll. 

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No longer having to track down and lug our nomadic, oversized toolbox has saved time me and frustration. I now have everything organized side-by-side in a way that really works for our funny little space. As we finally wrap up months of repairs to the front cottage this week, I realize that I now have delightful new memories associated with our updated tools. 

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My advice to anyone in a small space who's looking to get a fresh start on their tool/hardware/craft collection is to carefully select multi-tools, and to think beyond the usual toolbox when it comes to how to store them. Find means of organization that work well for the spaces you have available, keeping size, shape, accessibility, and aesthetic in mind.

Select tools from this post were gifted to me by The Home Depot. All words/opinions are my own.