Tools: An Ode to the Well-Stocked Toolbox

There’s nothing more empowering than being able to fix things yourself, no matter who you are, or how old you are.

And for every job there’s a tool best designed for the job. To get it done right, use the right tool.

My friend once had a roommate who used her high-heels to hang pictures, hammering in nails one heel at a time. Even in my youthful 20s, this mortified me. I owned a hammer by the time I was 21. With parents who did construction, buying a hammer was a right of passage.

The thing about tools in life is, it’s not if you’ll need them, it’s when. Everyone has odd jobs that can be solved with a screwdriver here or a hammer there.

tools in a workshop

Of course, you can borrow tools, but that gets old fast, and the wise among us know better than to loan out our tools. Fact is, having a toolkit with all manner of tools is a lifesaver for anyone maintaining a home.

Expanding your scope with the right tools

I’ve grown my toolkit with my move to my new apartment. I’m very enamored with my new clenching pliers set. Now, as I admired the pliers, I’m all “What took me so long? I can fix that!”

Next on the list is my branching out into saws, since I now have pliers, wrenches, and screwdrivers covered. A socket-wrench set’s on the wishlist too. (Make note, friends. Christmas is coming.)

In the last week, I’ve fixed loose kitchen cupboard doors as well as the towel rack that was so loose it threatened to fall off. I’ve lubed all the locks in the home, since they were all rather impossible for turning keys in. I’ve adjusted my bike. I’ve repaired an antique dresser drawer, installed shelves, hung pictures, and made a built-in desk, all with a little red toolbox filled only with what can be considered the essentials.

Just starting out

For about $100, you should be able to get a good starter assortment of quality tools from large home supply stores. A basic screwdriver set — and I now only go for individual screwdrivers since every multi-tool version I’ve had has broken after a while — can likely be had for under $20. A clenching-pliers set including a monkey wrench and more can be found on sale for $15. Same with good quality hammers and measuring tapes.

Start with quality manual tools before branching out to anything electrical. Have a toolbox for your tools right away. Losing them is expensive, and caring for them means keeping them dry and well-cared for, and a toolbox makes that happen.

Accessories, sets, and specialty objects to have handy

Along with the basic tools, every toolkit can use things like wood glue, mechanical lube like WD-40, hooks, fasteners, plumber’s and electrical tape, double-sided tape, duct tape, rags, pencils, measuring tape, a level, and more.

As you build your set, you can look for unique power tools and other specialty objects in pawn shops and thrift stores. It’s stunning what kind of stuff can turn up — like band saws, wood planers, antique wood-carving kits, and more. Sometimes, just finding a neat set of tools will inspire you to do things you haven’t done before. I have a nice carved walking stick for that very reason, after finding a wood-carving set years ago and whiling away my summer afternoons on the balcony, carving.

They’re not just “tools”

It might seem pricey as you start buying tools. At first, they may seem like a necessary household-running evil, but as time goes on and you learn more of what to do and how to do it, you find yourself coveting tools. Each new tool you bring home is more than just a new skill-set — it’s something you won’t ever need to borrow a person or a tool to do again. It’s an empowering experience.

That’s not just an expandable crescent wrench, it’s the ability to buy and install a new showerhead that you can enjoy every single day of your life.

That’s not just a stud-finder, it’s the peace of mind of knowing you’re doing a proper installation of that new wall-mounted television it took you 1, 2, or 3 weeks of wages to pay for, and that won’t fall down once you’ve bracketed it firmly into studs.

That’s not just a level, it’s the smug knowledge your shelf is absolutely perfectly installed and your pictures are straight.

With the proper tools, some research, and caring attention to detail, there’s no reason you can’t become your best solution to all your domestic problems.

“I can fix that”

When it comes to running a household and enjoying quality of life day-to-day, it’s surprising how much is added to your life when your front door’s lock turns smoothly, you have a new massaging-spray showerhead properly installed, your kitchen cupboard doors aren’t falling off, and your towel rack doesn’t rattle loosely every time it’s touched.

Instead of being miffed at things being less than perfect, you can instead turn to your trusted, well-supplied toolbox and pronounce those all-powerful words that never, ever get old:

“I can fix that.”

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