Early on in his lifelong obsession with electronics, David ran into the problem of storing all of his components.
More recently, I found that the boxes that telephone headsets come in make handy and stackable storage. My employer ran a call center, so we got through a lot of headsets, which was great for me. These are great for larger components such as the bigger electrolytic capacitors, plugs and sockets, small transformers, etc.
Telephones themselves come in larger boxes and I have used a few of these for larger items still: cable ties, circuit boards, tubes of ICs I have bought on special offer, etc. The main thing to bear in mind if you are using boxes like this is to make sure you have quite a few of the same size so they will stack neatly on a shelf. Our call center closed recently, so we have lots of spare headsets, but my supply of new headset boxes dried up. However, we just installed a lot of new Wireless Access Points for our network, so I got a lot of handy-sized boxes from that.
Transparent plastic storage boxes are now available in almost limitless variety. Below we see one type that I have a lot of. Once again, I got them at the $2 shop, but these are great in that they have latches for the lid (the small black sliders at the front). Having dropped a couple of boxes over the years (most notably one with about a thousand small 3mm screws/nuts/washers of about 25 different types), I now will not buy anything that does not have a fairly positive locking device for the lid.
Experience is a good teacher. I used to apply sticky labels to each compartment, but now I print a list of contents, double-sided, laminate it, and stick it to the lid so you can see what's in each compartment with the lid closed or open. As you can imagine, this makes life a lot easier.
I began to collect and use some SMD (surface-mount device) components, and they are so small that even the more finely divided plastic storage boxes are very much overkill, size-wise. I found the following in our $2 shops -- they were originally intended for storing a week's worth of pills to be taken four times a day.
These have very small compartments that are ideal for SMD parts, small transistors, the very small 1/10 watt resistors, and so forth, so I have quite a few of them. Each day's four compartments are removable and easily fall out, so I stick them down to the base with silicone sealer and that makes them more manageable. Each compartment has its own individual lid and -- yes -- they do click shut very positively!
Of course, there are now the commercially produced parts drawers available in all shapes and sizes. These usually come with dividers for the drawers if you need them, and some of the larger ones come with two or three different sizes of drawers. They are usually fairly reasonably priced and I have a few of them. Commercial parts stores could not do without them, and I don't think I could, either!
I'm a big fan of the old adage "A place for everything, and everything in its place." My problem is that I seem to amass stuff quicker than I can find places to put it, so I am never likely to quite achieve this ideal. Along the way, however, I have found ways to find places for most things, and I hope this column may give other folks with similar problems some ideas on how to cope with them. If you have any good ideas for storing stuff, please post them in the comments below.