Design & DIY

Pro tips for organizing your toolshed

A place for everything, and everything in its place—it’s not a bad way to approach ordering that toolshed that’s gotten away from you. The trick is to group articles by their common nature and create logical places for each, such that it becomes intuitive to return them to the spot you retrieved them from.

Take inventory and categorize

This will also be a good time to recycle things that are no longer in use, including taking old finishes to a hazardous-waste recycling facility. Discarded items should be recycled too, by disassembling them into constituent materials. By doing so, you’ll be able to take the metal components to the scrapyard for cash and divert stuff from the landfill. Plan for several small bins in the toolshed so you can fill them with scrap iron, aluminum, old wiring, etc., and be certain to have one for old batteries and electronics too.

Lay everything out in plain view, placing like with like. Take some time to put hardware into bags or containers, and label them. You’d be amazed how quickly you’ll forget what’s in unmarked packages! As you sort chisels from snowblower-repair parts, think about which items should be with others, and whether you’ll think to look there in the future. Perhaps you have a lot of small power tools that should all go into a cabinet, or a serious collection of extension cords that beg for some type of creative hanger. Try to imagine coming into the toolshed, and how you’ll want to have things displayed for easy retrieval. Peruse the storage-solutions aisle at the hardware store for ideas; you’ll be surprised how many options are available. A note: if your shed isn’t heated, don’t store water-based finishes and caulking there; they don’t do well after freezing.

Devise the storage plan

Keep in mind how you’d like to store items. Will you use lots of drawers, open bins, hooks on pegboard, large coffee cans, a cool wall hook from the hardware store? It’s likely that you’ll need many systems to suit so many types of goods, but we often learn to make use of what we have on hand. I once got a screaming deal on a bunch of 20-litre pails with lids. For years, everything got stored in pails; I even put hooks on the walls to hang them by their handles and get them off the floor.

A trick to getting the most out of small rooms is to think of the cubic space and not just the floor plan. It’s amazing what you can store overhead and on walls if you imagine the whole volume. Start planning the storage layout by configuring the largest floor items, along with how you’ll need access to them and how items will be situated around them. You can group a bunch that are close in height, and create a shelf above them that can serve as a counter for easy access to smaller bits. If it’s any consolation, you’re unlikely to get it right the first time. Storage is like any other system—it evolves over time.

Put everything in its place

Just start; it’s the toughest part of any project! Begin placing the large items where you’d like them, but don’t be afraid to change your plan as you go. For those odd items you use only on rare occasions, stash them overhead and out of the way. Have someone help by holding a potential shelf or storage device in place, and see if it’s going to work before committing to placing it. If you’re going to be storing anything like cans of roof tar, or solvent-based liquids, consider getting a metal fireproof cabinet. It’s also not a good idea to store propane tanks inside sheds; a slow leak can cause a dangerous build-up of gas.

Use removable tape or labels to identify what goes where in the beginning, this way you can rearrange the toolshed as the storage evolves. When taking stuff from the shed, note where it came from, and be sure to get it back to its place when you’re finished the task. The time invested in getting organized will pay for itself in time saved looking for what you need.

Planning a DIY project this summer? Head to your nearest TIMBER MART for everything you need.