My Tool Chest

Looming in the back of my shed is a large metal box about the size of a refrigerator that contains more drawers than our kitchen and bedroom combined.

It is my tool chest, a miracle of organization, yet whenever I go there, I can never find what I am looking for.

Like this morning…

I had returned to a simple task that I started yesterday, cleaning the grass guards on my lawn tractor.  The guards protect the belts that turn the blades and cleaning them is routine maintenance.

The job requires a socket wrench and a ½” socket and I was certain I returned the wrench to its assigned drawer last evening – but when I reached for the socket this morning, I was greeted by an empty slot.

This did not surprise me because losing things is what we do around here.

So I checked on top of the tool chest.  This is a place that serves the same purpose as the kitchen junk drawer.  It is where I put things to lose them.

It is there that I found the thin bladed screwdriver whose absence was the object of much swearing a week ago. I also managed to find the tape measure that I had accused my wife of losing and the drill bit I suspected one of the cats had batted into the grease pit.

It pleased me to find things I was not looking for – because that is the only joy I get from searching for the things I am looking for.

I have been told that you don’t lose things when you are organized – but I don’t believe that for a minute. I know it may sound odd, but tool organization only works for the things you never use and never for the things you always use.

For example, my ½” socket.

I rarely use any of the other sockets, so they remain safely snug within the little slots in the wrench case – but I frequently use the ½” socket,  forcing it to wander the world where it is exposed to the vagaries of wives, cats, dogs and being whacked around as I go thrashing about my business.

If I were to put it away when I was done with it, I would be forced to repeatedly fetch it whenever I needed it and every time I did, I would have to strain my eyes squinting at the little markings that signify what size it is and invariably discover that I retrieved the wrong socket.

Multiple this ordeal by the number of tools in my tool chest and you will begin to appreciate the evils of trying to remain organized.

So instead I simply slip the things I need where I can readily get at them – into my pocket and…


The whereabouts of the socket was suddenly revealed.

I had tossed the jeans I wore yesterday into the wash – and as I headed into the house, I heard my 1/2″ socket calling to me from the washing machine…





Author: Almost Iowa

44 thoughts on “My Tool Chest”

  1. This is great! And I completely agree with you that organization only works for things that we don’t use. Good story. My pet peeve is the little L shaped wrenches (I think they are some kind of wrench). Allan wrench! Or something like them. When you need one, you REALLY need one. They are all tiny, but usually not the exact size of tiny that I need. *sigh*

  2. RFID tags on all your tools, then a phone app to alert you to their locations. Out of the question, unfortunately, since that would prevent you from blaming the wife, kids, neighbors, dogs, wind, or mysterious bands of roving Vikings from stealing a tool.

  3. Ah, the trials and tribulations of organization! After spending far too many hours hopelessly looking through my husband’s tool chest to find a simple screwdriver or hammer, I finally claimed one of the drawers as my own and keep the few tools I need for my daily life in there, where I can always find them.
    I was feeling very smug about that, too, until I realized that I rarely actually use tools. But I do use my leashes, treat bags, dog bed holders, poop bags, kennel card markers, etc. on a regular basis through volunteering at the shelter. And each time I am ready to leave the shelter, I spend at least fifteen minutes wandering around, trying to remember where I put all my stuff. At least I haven’t misplaced a dog…..yet.

    1. That is so true – but I would guess that trekking about the global would keep one’s possessions to a minimum, that would help. 🙂

  4. Ha ha. It’s so funny how sometimes we can convince ourselves we are absolutely positive we put something back where it belongs… only to remember later after tons of frustration that it is nowhere near there. Like at all. 🙂 Great post. I always look forward to the lessons in your writing. Lessons + humor= great reading.

  5. You can have my 1/2″ – I regularly lose its neighbors 7/16″ and 9/16″

    My other favorite trick is to have the right socket, but the wrong ratchet. I should have never bought that 1/2″ drive set I was drooling over.

    1. Right socket, wrong ratchet, no problem – but where in the heck is that adapter?

      Or right socket, right ratchet – but where is that extender, can’t quite get the socket down there.

      1. Perhaps history is wrong. I thing open-end wrenches were invented after some guy lost all his sockets, adapters and extensions.

  6. I was going to suggest the washing machine right from paragraph two! That’s where my husband keeps all his drill bits, washers, screws, nuts and bolts, and loose change. Ha ha. 🙂

  7. I compensate for my lack of organizational skills by being a “problem solver.” The hunt for my favorite pen will take longer than it will beg my wife to pick up a new one on her way home.
    Now I get to use the extra time I saved to catch up on essential Netflixing or napping or daydreaming.

    It’s win-win (until the collection of “favorite pens” and ink-stained pants requires a trip to the trash)

  8. I also managed to find the tape measure that I had accused my wife of losing –

    HA! We had this very same thing in our house hold (except reversed!) – Your dad knows I’m trying to sell things and need the measuring tape for the cabinet! Where did he put it? Only to discover, the last person using it (me) put it on the floor – but behind the tool bag and an empty box. (hey! Oh, I put that there)

    …and this happens on other things too. And I’m incredibly organized – so organized I put things in safe spots for keeping..a place for everything and everything in its place…now what place was that?

    1. everything in its place…now what place was that?

      We have a running argument in our household where the place for everything is. We have one opinion, our stuff has another.

  9. I hve a tool bag rather than a tool chest, but believe me: I understand the dynamic. I recognize that “thunk,” too. One of the things I’ve learned is that credit cards make no sound while being washed. Flip phones, however, make a very satisfying “thunk.”

    1. Credit cards suffer nothing for having gone through the wash. The companies who issue them depend on that. However, cell phones cannot survive the wash and the companies who make them depend on that also.

        1. Dave, [a side note] have you written a blog post on “books by our favorite authors that we put down”? I am ready to abandon Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. At least in my opinion, Lehane is one of the nation’s best writers. Mystic River is outstanding. The Given Day will take your breath away. Most people will probably know him from the film treatments of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island. He also wrote for the HBO Series, The Wire…. but this book, not so good.

          Note to readers: if you love literature, check out Dave’s blog.

          1. Almost Iowa, the closest I came to writing such a post was this one before I started my own literature blog:


            (In that post, I included George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”; I reread it after that and loved it. I guess trying to read it for the first time as a teen wasn’t a good idea. 🙂 )

            Yes, some novels by great authors are clunkers — certainly the case with John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, and others. Often it’s a rookie effort, or a last book when the author is sick or has used up every good idea in their head. But sometimes its a mid-career effort.

            And thanks for the kind words about my blog!

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