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Buying a pre-packaged tool set can lead to wasted money and unneeded tools. Instead, follow our writer's lead as she breaks down her first tool kit.

first tool kitThe tool kit, in all its glory. What's inside? Read on... Photo: Amanda Waas.

Some of you already have tool kits that could put Bob Vila to shame. Friends, this article does not apply to you -- but we do recommend you email it to any college students/new apartment dwellers/friends who aren't as naturally handy as you are. This is for those who keep their tool kits in the depths of the closet or in the Narnia known as underneath the kitchen sink. Even if it's not used every day, it should still contain everything you need! Here's a list of the essentials everyone should have in their arsenal, and why it matters.

first tool kit

Your first tool kit should have... a measuring tape.
So you ordered a new piece of furniture, but you didn't measure the space you were planning to put it in. Now it doesn't fit, and you have the awesome pleasure of bumping into it every morning on your way to the bathroom. This is a fate that could have been avoided had you overcome your laziness and pulled out the old tape measure before you bought the furniture. Lesson learned.

Your first tool kit should have... needle-nosed pliers: Electricians use these for cutting wires that are shoved in tight spaces. You can use them on teeny wires poking out of a lampshade or non-electrical accessories. And yes, to fix the broken clasp on the cheap necklaces you bought.

Your first tool kit should have... a box cutter: Put down the butterknife -- you need to stop dulling out your kitchen knives by opening your mail with them. The boxcutter is a great tool to keep handy. We promise: Your stress level will go down when you easily cut into your next package, instead of hacking at the mailing tape.

first tool kit

Your first tool kit should have... screwdrivers: You probably already know there are two types of screwdrivers: Phillips head and flat head. You should have both on-hand because you never know what type of screw you'll encounter. Whether you're going to tighten a loose door knob or attempt to put together a bookshelf, the screwdriver is probably going to be the item in your tool kit you'll get the most use out of.

first tool kit

Your first tool kit should have... a hammer and nails: You're probably not going to be doing much carpentry work, so the main use of the hammer and nails is going to come when you decide to buy something new to hang on your walls. Framed movie poster? Come on now. There are plenty of better options for wall art.

first tool kit

Your first tool kit should have... a level: Remember that time you hung up a painting and you got into a fight with your roommate/spouse about whether it was straight or not? You're perched on a second-rate step ladder and they're telling you things like, "A little higher on the left," and then, "Maybe a little higher on the right," followed by, "Um, maybe you should move it down?" The painting is either crooked or they are blind. You can avoid these Sunday afternoon arguments by picking up a level. It'll tell you how low or high the painting is and the bonus is that you don't have to have a conversation with your loved ones at all.

first tool kit

Your first tool kit should have... wire cutters: Since you can barely set the sleep timer on your TV, you're probably not going to be taking on any rewiring projects any time soon. But you should pick them up anyway. Why? Because you should approach your tool kit like you approach your love life: It's good to keep your options open.

Your first tool kit should have... a wrench: We promise, the first time you notice a loose nut and tweak it into place with your wrench, you'll feel infinitely proud -- and yes, embolded to take out that tool kit more often.

Now that you've assembled the perfect tool kit, you shouldn't have to pawn off all of your projects on assorted friends and loved ones. And if you're feeling ambitious, check out the must-have tools for 2011.

  • j

    that's not a wrench, it's a pair of slip joing pliers.
    I would add a pair of channel locks for doing plumbing repairs.

  • Melissa

    Don't forget the Duct Tape =)

  • Handy Housewife

    I must admit that I fall into the category of someone with an extensive tool kit, but my experience has helped me put together starter kits for both of my daughters when they went off to college. Here are some observations and suggestions to go along with this article.

    The "wrench" in the picture is actually slip-joint pliers, and yes, they're good for tightening loose nuts, but a small adjustable wrench is probably better for that job. (It's less likely to damage the nut.) Slip-joint pliers are handy, too, since they're good for lots of odd jobs, including loosening small-capped containers.

    You should have several sizes of both major types of screwdrivers: a very large Phillips head, a medium Phillips and a medium straight, and a small one of each. Also very good to get is an assorted set of very small screwdrivers for those tiny screws that seem to be everywhere these days.

    Hammers are available in several different sizes and types. The most often used type is the claw hammer. Get a hammer of the appropriate weight for the user. Adult males don't usually have any trouble with a 16oz. hammer, but that size is frequently too heavy for a young woman.

    And yes, mostly certainly, DON'T FORGET THE DUCT TAPE! I couldn't live without it!

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