/ / / Single Mom’s Guide to a Basic Tool Box

Single Mom’s Guide to a Basic Tool Box

Setting up your first DIY tool box and have no idea which tools are the most important? Here are the top 12 tools that get you through all of your basic home improvement projects!

New to home improvement and want to know the best tools you need for a basic tool box?

Here is your guide to the 12 most important DIY tools that will help you tackle just about any home improvement project.

With 20 plus years in the home improvement industry and some time working as a hand tool product manager, I know a thing or two about tools!

It Started with My Red Tool Box

My dad is the best! He loved me like a daughter and son. Never did he shy away from teaching me what a father “normally” would teach his son.

He let me be a little girl, with lip gloss and pink dresses, but he also taught me that I was capable of anything!

That brings me to why I’ve never been scared to tackle home improvement and DIY projects.

He started me out with not only a “life tool box” filled with what is important to be successful in this world, but also a literal tool box.

Ah yes, my coveted red tool box! This is what my dad lovingly filled for me as I moved into my first apartment, after graduating from college.  

I’ve been able to tackle just about any normal home improvement project that I could dream up and some that have blind-sided me.

The acquisition of this tool box is one of my favorite life stories. When I was moving into my apartment, my dad said he had to make a quick run to Home Depot to get something.  

My mom and I stayed behind worrying about furniture placement and home decor.

As my dad was checking out at Home Depot, he was beaming with pride and the person at the register said, “your son is going to love this!” and he smiled back “you mean my daughter?”


He came back and promptly starting SHOWING me how to use each tool.  We tacked down cable wire, hung multiple pictures and put some furniture together.  

Thanks Dad, for making me believe I can tackle anything!

For new home owners young or old, newly divorced people, single mom’s having to take care of houses for the first time, I with the same beaming smile want to share what my dad did with me.

Contains hand selected products, with affiliate marketing links where I may make a small commission if a purchase is made. {full disclosure here}

What You Need for a Basic DIY Tool Box

Here is a run down of all the basic tools you will most likely EVER need!

With a reasonable investment, you will avoid the high expensive of hiring a handy man for simple home improvement projects you can tackle ALL BY YOURSELF!


These basic tools have gotten me through 7 moves and setting up 4 newly constructed homes! 

From an apartment or condo to a single-family home, trust me you will need this variety of tools.  

What to Buy for a Basic Tool Box

  1. Power Drill
  2. Drill Bit Set
  3. Screw Bit Set
  4. Screwdriver Set
  5. Plier Set
  6. Level and Ruler Level
  7. Hammer
  8. Socket Set
  9. Adjustable Wrench
  10. Multi-tool Wire Cutter/Stripper
  11. Utility Knife
  12. Rubber Mallet

Not only will I show you the tool, but also their typical uses as as well!

Power Drill

By FAR my favorite tool is my Porter Cable 20V Power Drill!

I’ve used it to assemble things, drill holes in cabinets, and install a wide variety of home products. 

Think installing cabinet hardware, assembling furniture, hanging curtain rods, installing towel bars, attaching picture hangers, etc.

To make that drill truly effective you need some accessories.

Drill Bit Set

Drill bits attach into the “chuck” of your power drill and are what creates various sized holes.  

When you read installation instructions and you need to drill a hole (drapery hardware bracket) they will reference the size of the drill bit to use.

Buying a full drill bit set will ensure you will have every size you need.

Screw Bit Set

The screw bits also attach into the “chuck” and are the pieces that help you have the right tool for a variety of screws and bolts. 

You must get a set with the hex bits and the basic Philips and flat head driver attachments.  

Hex bits will save your life when you are assembling furniture!

Why the furniture manufacturers send an Allen wrench with the furniture I’ll never know. 

The hex bits will turn furniture assembly into a 15 to 30-minute project and the components will be secure!

Screwdriver Set

You’ll be surprised how often you reach for a screwdriver in a month!

Getting a screwdriver set that has large and small sizes will come in handy.

Some days you need to open the battery compartment of the remote control or slightly tighten a knob. 

Or sometimes in small spaces a power drill is impossible. 

Other times a power drill would be overkill, so it’s important to have a basic screwdriver set.

Plier Set

I LOVE all of my pliers because I hang pictures so much. 

These I use the most when I am hanging pictures or re-covering furniture. 

The needle nose pliers is great to pull out staples, the wire cutter is perfect for picture hanging wire or cutting faux flower stems, and the slip joint adjustable pliers is good for pulling and twisting anything.

Level and Ruler with a Level

Use a small level or a fancier version like this on with a ruler for hanging pictures and keeping them straight!

I like a ruler with a level for when you have a larger picture and need to draw between two lines. 

Especially when you are attaching two wall hangers for a heavier piece like a mirror.


What a hammer is used for is pretty obvious!

I’ve used a hammer to pound nails back into boards on my fence and pound wire nails into the wall for picture hangers.

Plus the claw end is great for removing nails too. 

When give a choice in size, 16oz hammer is a great all purpose hammer. 

Socket Set

Simply said sockets are used with nuts and bolts. The more socket sizes you have the better.

Rarely do I use mine, but it is one of those tool sets that wows men!

I’ve used this for putting together my son’s bikes and for taking the legs off of furniture.

The other main use is to attached bolts to a bed frame. 

See – you didn’t know you need this, but everyone has a bed!

Adjustable Wrench

An adjustable wrench is like a mini-version of the socket set and used on nuts and bolts or things with 90° angles. 

Also good if you need to tighten plumbing fixtures or tighten a bike seat.

You will need one of these to change out a shower head, which is a huge expense savings if you can DIY this project. 

Multi-Tool Wire Cutter/Stripper

A tool you likely didn’t know existed or one you needed, but my dad set me up with a wire cutter/stripper and it’s been a great tool. 

Use one for for installing speaker wires, light and dimmer switches, and thermostat wires. 

Yes, I have done all of the above.

It has a guide so you can insert the covered wire and stripe it to expose the wire and a cutter to trim the wire or covered wire.  Very cool!

Utility Knife

If you are an Amazon Prime junkie like me, then you know why you need a utility knife to open boxes and cut them down for recycling!

I’ve used this to cut tubing, boxes, and the back cover of a framed picture. 

Another decorating project you may want this for is cutting contact paper or wall paper.

Rubber Mallet

If you open a paint can, you must have a rubber mallet!

Use a paper towel, cover the paint can lid, and pound around the edges. 

I’ve used this when I need a soft flat surface to pound in something and a hammer would damage the surface.

Single Mom’s Guide to a Basic Tool Box

My dad did a great job setting me up, right?  

Whatever your level of experience, this set of tools is great for anyone who needs to do home repair and decorating.  

Also, it’s a pretty fantastic gift for a first-time homeowner, newly divorced friend, or child living in their first apartment.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy your tool box as much as I do!

Now you can tackle one of my many DIY projects, with a big smile and lots of confidence.

As my free gift to you, download all of my paint colors by signing up for my weekly email newsletter.

Just click the picture to sign-up and get the instant download! 

free download of porch daydreamer paint colors

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Until next time…



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  1. Love this Tracey…..Next on my list for my oldest daughter is teaching her to change a tire on her “new to her” car. I’ve been involved in Home Improvement for 23 years, and some of the biggest bada$$es in the industry were women. No reason a woman can’t take care of her own business. The lady that adopted my dog when I couldn’t keep him is not only a K-9 Officer, but the first and only in the county. She maintains her place with 4 (previously 5) dogs……And mine is an absolute nut job. She completely redid her house, including a new facade on her fireplace and a complete garage renovation. Ain’t nothing a lady can’t do. The two things I would add would be for the car. A safety kit including jumper cables and a cooler with bottled water in case you get stranded with the weather we have been having….

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