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April 11, 2012

Declutter Your Keys

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I went to Michigan last week to visit family. Part of our trip involved picking up a new-to-us car. (Hooray!) This means we have an old car to sell and it also means I have even more excess keys on my key chain.


I’ve been meaning to declutter my key chain for a while. I mean really, I have been lugging around the same keys for years, and some of them I don’t even recognize anymore. I think I have a key to my Mom’s condo…but which key is it? And really, do I need her key with me every single day when she lives 500 miles away? Uh, no. I sure don’t. 


Cluttered key chain-72

But there’s definitely some fear in decluttering keys, isn’t there? When you lose track of what a key is for, you fear the worst. As soon as you pitch a key, you’ll need it (even though you haven’t needed it for the past ten years.) And so…we continue to carry around extra keys everywhere we go. 


Now normally these excess keys aren’t really much of a problem, just random clutter and a bit of extra weight in my purse. But Monday night, all of that changed. These extra keys created a tremendous amount of chaos when I really, really, really needed to get my hands on the new car key quickly. See, my kids and I stopped by a quick mart to run in and get a bag of ice. My son wanted to stay in the car (he is 13, so I’m okay with that) but, of course, I wanted to lock him in and keep him safe. There were a bunch of people outside the quick mart, so I was really focused on making sure he was locked in the car and would be okay for our quick run inside. I was so focused on his safety, in fact, that I locked the car door, got out of the car, and proceeded to slam my thumb in the car door! 


And my thumb got stuck…in the locked car door.


Oh my gosh did this hurt! But somehow I stayed eerily calm on the outside (though inside I was totally freaking out!) All the while, with my thumb stuck in the door, I was fumbling around on my cluttered key chain trying to find the key to my new car! 


And then it got even more complicated. When we got the new car I got two keys—a big silver one (that I used the whole time we were in Michigan) and a factory-issued black key (that just so happens to look like the other two back car keys on my cluttered key chain, especially when my thumb was throbbing and stuck in a car door.) Earlier that morning, (as luck would have it) I gave the recognizable silver key to Jay, leaving me with the black one. With my finger stuck in the door I couldn’t figure out which was the right key. I kept dropping the key ring, picking it up and trying desperately to find the right key so I could free my thumb. I just kept saying to Kailea “Please help me. This really hurts.” 


I never did get my hands on the right key. Instead, Kailea realized that Collin (who was still safely locked inside the car but not understanding what was going on right outside the car window because I was so freakishly calm) could unlock the door for us. Of course, he had to undo his seat-belt and climb up to the front seat, but ultimately he freed me from the car door, thanks to Kailea’s quick thinking. Whew! 


You might say I'm now more motivated than ever to declutter my key chain. But what about those random keys that I know I will need tomorrow—just as soon as I let them go? Well, Jay had a great suggestion:  create a key incubator, a little jar to hold my all those questionable keys for a period of time until I’m sure I don’t need them. Brilliant idea! (Why didn’t I think of that…on say, Sunday?) 




So, if you’re carrying around key clutter, too, take this as a little nudge to lighten your load and declutter your key ring. Put any questionable keys in a little jar with a date to remind you when you established your key incubator. After a few months have passed and you haven’t needed any of the keys inside your incubator, you’ll feel much more comfortable letting them go. 


Keys you know for sure you want to keep, but don't need with you all the time, can go on a separate key ring that you keep at home. My Mom's key has a new home with other spare keys. 



The result is a simplified, decluttered key ring, with that all-important car key in an easy to find spot. 



When was the last time you decluttered your key chain? If it’s been a while, take action today. Create your own key incubator for those questionable keys, and then, let me know what you think. Do you have trouble getting rid of keys that you aren't quite sure about? (Or is it just me?) I'd love to hear from you. :)


Happy decluttering!


P.S. My thumb is doing much better. I have a really "pretty" black finger nail…but all in all it's doing okay. It definitely feels much better than it looks. 


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I decluttered my key ring a couple of years ago. All that is on my key ring is the key for my car, the key fob for my car and my house key (along with a little penguin). I don't even have those store cards on my key ring anymore. I discovered an app for my phone (Android) called Key Ring. I scanned all the barcodes into that and just show my phone when I go places.

I tossed the keys I no longer needed. The key for my Mom's house stays in the car in a little drawer as we are always in the car when we need it.


Oh, I know your pain: I once got a finger caught in the crease of a garage door as I was lifting it up - the door was manually operated. Thank goodness I had enough sense of mind to let the door down and free my finger. Glad your finger is better.
Great idea for corralling unused keys and Renoda's key app comment sounds worth a look-see.
I once had a secretary to whom I gave a wayward key and asked her to "file it." One day I found the key under "lost keyholes." I often chuckle when I think about her wit.


Oh, Honore, that is so funny about the lost keyholes. So glad your finger is okay, too!



Love the ap idea, Renonda! Thanks for sharing it!


Yowch! That sounds mighty painful.
I'm one of those rare people who actually don't have any keys on me. Our house is opened by code pad and my hubby has the car keys. I do keep all those random keys in our house toolbox just in case the mystery of what they are for is resolved.


Ouch, Aby! So glad to hear that your finger is getting better :)

Susan DR

Oh Aby - I got chills reading about your finger being stuck! Glad to know that you are getting better, but how awful. I recently took all my store cards and put them on a separate key chain that I keep in my purse because I got so tired of the huge mess hanging from my car ignition. This is working really well for me and maybe someday soon I will got through all those cards and get rid of the ones I no longer use. I also recently added clutter to my key chain. We never, ever use a key to our house. In fact, until recently, we never even locked our doors. Now we do lock them, but always use the garage door openers to get in. We learned the hard way that when the power is out that having a house key is a good idea, even though I will most likely never need to use it again.


First glad your finger is on the mend. This idea is pricelss but I will need a gallon jug to hold our keys. Now to get my hubby to throw them after a year!
Thans so much!!!


Thanks Susan and Karen for your comments! Love the idea of a separate ring for store cards. I think I'll give that a try. :) Too funny about the gallon jug Karen. :)
~ Aby


Oh ouch! Glad your finger is doing better! The only clutter on my key ring is all the store cards. I don't have a smart phone so I have to keep them on there. I think there is a total of 4 keys on my ring. Now my husband's key ring is well, cluttered. LOL He has the key pitching fear and never throws any away! Including old car keys to cars we don't even have any more! Oh well, glad they aren't mine! On a side note, I've read somewhere that you shouldn't have too much on your keyring anyway because it puts too much weight on the ignition and could cause the ignition key to break. I think that's why I don't carry that many keys on my ring. :)

Kelly S

My Dad is a mechanic and yelled at me years ago for having a heavy keychain. It can cause damage to your ignition switch. I haven't done this since. (too bad he never trained me on the hazards of "other" clutter ;)

Glad your finger is ok!


It hurt just reading your post!! Ouch!

I've come full circle and now have a complete minimalist key ring. I only carry my car key. That's it! We only use the garage doors to enter the house, so there's no need to carry the house key. (We do have an emergency house key stashed at a neighbor's, just in case.) I keep my husband's car key on a separate ring, since I never use it. All store cards are kept on my smartphone now, using KeyRing, although having the store look up my account was my strategy before smartphones. I label all other keys as soon as I get them so I won't end up with the "tomb of unknown keys" ever again.


Great tips, ladies. And Jay was telling me the same thing about too much weight not being good for the ignition. I never new that! Such a great idea to label new keys as they come in - thanks Marlene!
~ Aby


I have a Saturn and this one (an Ion) and the one I had before (LS series) had sensitive ignitions and I was told to not put anything but my car key on the key ring. As a result I have a separate key ring for my post office box key and my office key - both of which I keep in a cubby in the car. After all, I have to drive to both places, so I'll always have them when I get there. (And i don't use a house key since I have a garage door opener on my sun visor.) I love when necessity causes a lack of clutter!


I should have explained the reason for no additional keys is that the weight of other keys weighs down the angle of the car key and, over time, affects the ignition switch adversely.


Loved this comment Jennie: I love when necessity causes a lack of clutter! So true. :)


Just downloaded (and pinned) the key ring app. LOVE IT! It even took my library card!

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