Make your space work for you
While every DIYer wishes for an unlimited workspace, often times we have to start small. Currently, my fiancée and I live in a 1,200 sq-ft apartment; and my workspaces are our 3-by-10-foot storage closet and our 6-by-11-foot patio. Yep, that's less than 100 square feet of space, and it means I've had to get creative with how I store things and what essentials I keep around. Below are a few of my small-space workspace ideas that I've developed over the last few years. Try 'em out!
More often than not, an issue can be boiled down to a quick fix. From wall anchors to masonry screws, I always keep a wide variety of hardware on hand for any occasion. Keeping a small organizer (or two) around the house and in the truck, for me, means that I shouldn't have to run to the hardware store in the middle of a repair. Keeping a wide variety of fasteners on hand also allows you to see how they might look on a project you're working on — especially when using decorative nails.
Sure, there will always be a place for the 20-inch pair of slip joint pliers and the two-foot breaker bar, but often times it’s a small item that is the lynchpin of a project. In order to alleviate this conundrum, I made myself a "Micro Tool Kit." It includes several small tools, some hardware, and has more than earned its keep. This kit was compiled over the course of a few months and contains things like a pair of stumpy pliers, a custom-made micro pry bar, a handful of fasteners and a few adhesives. Everything fits neatly into a cargo pouch and travels with me most anywhere I go.
As you're building your tool collection, you have to have some place to put it all. In the 30 sq. ft, coffin-like storage closet of ours, I've built a series of three-foot deep shelves, installed rubber-coated hooks and even repurposed an over-the-door shoe organizer to keep all of my things ready, accessible and organized. Since it's such a deep closet, the best solution was fashion custom-sized shelves, utilizing a ladder-rung method. These shelves accommodate my rolling job box and still allow me to store everything within arms reach. Additionally, several type of hooks have enabled me to take advantage of the vertical space, hanging everything from 100-foot drop cords to bags of tools, and even lumber. As a self-proclaimed "collector of gloves," I'm particularly fond of the transparent over-the-door shoe caddy that keeps my hand protection paired up and ready for the next job.
Smaller spaces might mean smaller tools, but don't let their size fool you. With battery technology advancing by the day, 12-volt tools deliver nearly the same performance as many of the larger 18- and 20-volt tools on the market. Moreover, 12-volt tools also offer greater portability at less weight. Being cost-effective and, often times, more comfortable for many users, these smaller sets are ideal for all skill levels.
Mobility & Flexibility
When it comes to tool storage, I prefer bags instead of cabinets or boxes. Being in a small space means that my work zone transforms throughout the project; having easily moveable tool storage makes this possible. Hard-bottomed, open-top bags are ideal for moving many tools in a single go and makes them easily transportable should you have to pack up and go elsewhere. In addition to tool bags, I also keep an empty heavy-duty tote bag around for when I need to grab several job-specific tools — that way I can just grab and go.
Some think that small spaces hinder "the maker creativity," but I find that it challenges me that much more to make do with what I have, and the projects turn out just as good as if I could spread out. You can make big things happen in very little footage by remembering to simplify, organize and stay inspired.