My apartment is tiny. The space for my work bench is even tinier. Still, as a maker of stuff, I must have space for my stuff making tools. My setup is temporary while other parts of my life slowly get sorted- but the important thing is that I can get work done.
I don't have any large tools like drill presses, hydraulic presses, rolling mills, heavy duty shears, band saws, grinders etc, which are all very nice things to have, just not right now. But in the meantime, I try to work with as few tools as possible- which is still a lot of tools.
Step 1: Hook 'em All!
The surface of my work bench is made of two, (very) heavy hardwood planks placed on my dad's old Black and Decker wood-working bench that had been unused for years until I moved in.
You may laugh at my "joint" of the two planks, but it works and I can easily dismantle it in the near future when I need to. On the desk is one shelf made from two old desk drawers and another hardwood plank across. I'm a huge fan of hooks, and use them extensively.
On the shelf I made a simple rack with some screw hooks and some recycled copper tubing I had lying around. All my pliers are within arms distance when I work, and it's easy to put them away. Also, I've attached hooks to some of my other tools (hammer, burnisher, bench pin wire brush, saws etc) to the hang up.
My friends were also happy to give me some old cigar tubes, where I store my needle files and saw blades. I have attached hooks on them too, so my files and blades are easily accessible, and easy to put away too.
I hope some of these little tips come in handy for you.
P.S if you're the sort that uses your full body weight to re-blade your saw with your solar plexus, I recommend that you don't attach a hook screw to your saw frame.