The Modern Mom’s Toolbox: A List of Must-Have Items

I’m not especially crafty, or particularly handy, but over the years I’ve amassed what I consider to be the essentials for any (woman’s) toolbox. I don’t mean an LBD, a signature scent, or a clever joke for any occasion, because in real life (at least in my real life) I don’t have too many occasions to get dressed up, smell especially nice, and chit-chat with socialites. (But some days I’d like to!)

I’m talking about the day-to-day essentials needed to get stuff done. Hang a mirror? Sure. Build a doll house? Check. Put together that home gym with the lift rack and punching bag? I’m working on it…

It can all be done, with the right tools. And YouTube. So here are my list of essentials for any (woman’s) toolbox. Warning: it gets a little graphic. (Who knew tools were so dirty?)


A Hammer

They’re not just for superhero-gods anymore.

You don’t need anything special—most any old hammer will be fine, really. But I prefer a full metal claw hammer with a rubber grip. It might set you back $20-$25 for a new one, but for general jobs, an old one is just fine.

My hammer is a hand-me down. It's well-loved.

My hammer is a hand-me-down. It’s well loved.

If you want a more thorough review of hammers, might I suggest this:

A Good Screwdriver

There are three basic types of screwdrivers:

phillips head
1. Phillp’s Head, named for its inventor.

flat head
2. Flat Head, which date back to the Middle Ages.

hex key
3. Hex Key/Allen Wrench/That twisty thing from Ikea: It’s not a wrench.

You may find you’ll require various sizes because each type of screw has a matching driver, based on its size. The easiest, most economical, and space-saving way to go is to get a handle with interchangeable heads. You just pop in whatever tip you need and you’re good to go without having to have a dozen different full-size tools. You can buy a fairly comprehensive for about $15.


I don’t use it too terribly often, but when I do it’s the only tool that can get the job done. Because you’ll likely use a bit of force/torque, you’ll want something sturdy and appropriately sized. Expect to pay about $10 for the most basic version.

Adjustable Crescent Wrench: These are adjustable to an extent and come in a variety of sizes.

crescent wrench
Open Wrench/Box Wrench Combo: This handy duo can do double duty. Say that five times fast.

combo wrench

Locking Pliers/Vice Grip

These bad boys come into play when something is really stuck in there or you need something held in place and you only have, you know, two hands. An extra pair of hands will run you about $20.

vice grip pliers

Tape Measure

Tape measure

Because using “the width of your thumb to eyeball an inch” is something you do if you have big man-hands that actually come close to an inch wide (like me) or if you don’t need things to line up (hint: you do). It’s worth the $10 to “measure twice and cut once.”


I find a use for these ALL THE TIME: The impenetrable plastic wrap around purchases (especially from Costco), thick floral stalks (think Sunflowers, Gerbera Daisies, Calla Lilies), chicken bones… Wash and dry thoroughly to prevent rusting. My favorite pair is from Pampered Chef; they’re super sharp and come with a protective cover and locking latch. Full disclosure: they did not pay me to say that.



Go ahead and hang that TV on the wall! But get a level first. Keep the bubble in the middle to keep things level.

BTW, there are lots of free apps for that.

 Cordless Drill

cordless drill

This was a bit of a splurge, but to secure ANYTHING to your wall properly it’s a necessary tool. Besides, nothing makes you feel more confident that drilling a hole in a wall…

Stud Finder

…as long as you have one of these first! Follow hanging directions for best results, which usually includes finding the stud.


Not that kind of stud. This kind.

Here are some great instructions to guide you.

Mini Tool Set

This was originally meant for my husband and his computers. Now it’s used for opening up small compartments for batteries and picking up itty-bitty plastic pieces that sneak into the crevices of couches. So basically we use it every day.

mini tool set

So that’s it! That’s my list! I didn’t come by these all at once; it’s been a steady upgrade over the last 10 years.

My First Tool Box (from IKEA), an investment from my college years.

My First Tool Box (from IKEA), an investment from my college years.

I also didn’t always have what I needed, but I’ve learned to keep a few things in my drawer at all times:

Mechanical pencils: You need to mark what you just measured, and who needs to dig through their make-up drawer for the only pencil sharpener they have? Not this gal.
Duct Tape: You don’t need scissors to rip in a straight line; it comes in all kinds of fun colors; and it has more uses that you think!
Hot Glue Gun: Two words: school project.
The number to a good mechanic/plumber/electrician/handy (wo)man. There’s no shame in not knowing what to do. I’ve learned most of what I know by watching others and asking questions. Plus, sometimes it’s better to pay the licensed, bonded, and insured professional than it is to make it it worse.

Aside from hovering over the poor soul sent to my home to fix things, I’ve picked up a bit online and through other websites. Here are a few of my go-tos:

The Master
A great compilation of YouTube channels for DIYers
One of my favorite sites

A lot of folks might find other tools useful, depending on the types of projects they do. I’ve yet to really need a set of hand saws, but it’s staying on my wish list…

Besides it wouldn’t fit in my new tool box anyway.

 My “legit” toolbox that I got from Santa

My “legit” toolbox that I got from Santa

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One Response to The Modern Mom’s Toolbox: A List of Must-Have Items

  1. Rubina Pantoja January 16, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    What a great post – I love the added humor!