You have probably seen those super cute teacher toolbox organizers all over Pinterest. I have to admit it took over a year of toolbox envy before I took the plunge and decided to try one for myself. And, guess what? It was so easy that I made three more right away! If you’re intimidated by this DIY project (as I was), I am sharing the step-by-step process I followed to make it simple.
1. Get your toolbox organizer
I found the Stack-On 22-Drawer Plastic Storage Cabinet at my local Lowe’s home improvement store for about $17. If you aren’t near a Lowe’s, you can also order one through Amazon. The 22-drawer cabinet is the most common configuration. You can also find cabinets with more drawers, some with all large drawers and some with all smaller drawers.
I am dismayed to see that the Stack-on brand toolbox is not available online anymore (April 2019)! You may still be able to find one in your local Lowe’s store–if so, grab it before it’s too late. I did find an alternate brand on amazon.com for a few dollars more.
2. Spray paint the toolbox
Most of the plastic toolbox shelves I’ve seen come in either gray or a dull blue color. If you’re going to the trouble of making a beautiful teacher toolbox organizer, you have to paint the casing a pretty color, right? Or you could choose a neutral color like black or white so that you can change your labels out frequently. (I might be guilty of updating with a new design for my toolbox every single month.) I used two coats of a gloss paint from Krylon specially designed for plastic. It dried really quickly; you should be able to prepare your labels while your toolbox dries.
3. Choose what supplies your toolbox organizer will hold
I got rid of my teacher desk a couple of years ago. So my toolbox organizer became the go-to place for storing all those little bits that used to get thrown into my desk drawer. Can I just say how much more organized I am without a desk?!
Think about where your organizer will go and what you will most likely want to keep there? Basic office supplies? Art supplies? Materials reserved only for your use, or things your students will have access to?
The standard 22-drawer toolbox organizer has 8 large drawers (4.5 x 1.5 x 5 in) and 14 small drawers (2 x 1.5 x 5 in). Just a note of warning: I was disappointed to discover that regular #2 pencils and some ink pens are too long for these drawers! Make a list of the items you will put in your organizer.
4. Print your labels
The hardest part of this whole project might be choosing which labels you want to use! (I was serious about that whole changing-every-month thing.) There are tons of designs on TeachersPayTeachers, including some available for free. I have these editable toolbox labels for sale to match each of my classroom decor themes.
Choose a design and insert text for any items you want that are not already included in the set.
I tried printing on cardstock the first time, but found that printing on bright white paper actually works better. First, you can get better color if you use coated paper for inkjet printers. Paper is also easier than cardstock to attach to the plastic toolbox organizer drawers.
5. Tape the labels to your drawers
I tape the labels to the outside of the plastic drawers. There’s a lot less trimming and working in tight spaces that way!
Using clear packing tape, cut a strip about 3 inches longer than the width of the drawer. That would be 7-8 inches for the large drawers. Lay the tape on a flat surface, sticky side up. (Beware of static electricity that can make the tape leap up and stick to everything you don’t want it to.) Place the label face down and centered end to end on the tape. The large labels may be a tiny bit wider than your tape. If this is the case, line up the bottom of the label with the edge of the tape. The top of the label will be tucked up under the drawer handle, so it is not as important.
To apply a large label to the drawer front, just line it up and then press the tape back along the sides of the drawer.
The small labels are a little trickier because you’ll have extra tape. Again, cut a strip of tape 2-3 inches longer than the label, so about 4-5 inches. Lay the tape sticky side up on a flat surface and place the label face down on it–this time you will align the top of the label with the edge of the tape. Use scissors to make two cuts from the bottom edge of the tape up to the bottom corners of the label.
To apply the small label to the drawer front, line it up and then fold the bottom flap of tape under the drawer. Then fold the side flaps back along the sides of the drawer. Fold the extra length of tape under the drawer and press smooth.
Here is everything you’ll need (except the labels) to finish your own teacher toolbox project.
What label do you wish your organizer included? Share your idea or request below.