Do You Have Mystery Keys?

I recently wrote about mystery cables, which most of my clients have boxes of. But there’s another mystery item that seems to afflict most people, and that’s keys. Mystery keys collect in desk drawers, kitchen drawers, and receptacles of random stuff.

There are a lot of possibilities as to what those mystery keys might open:

  • Your old apartment or your old car.
  • Your mom or dad’s home — but they are no longer living.
  • Your best friend’s keys — but do they still live in that apartment?
  • Your work keys from your last job – or was it the job before that?

So many keys look alike. When we place a set of keys in a drawer, we think we will remember what they are. But time passes and we forget, especially if we end up throwing some other sets of keys into the same place.

One way to keep track of keys is to put them in a clearly-labeled envelope or add an identifier to the key ring. You can buy those inexpensively at a locksmith, or on Amazon (search for “key tags”). You know those fun key rings they sell in tourist shops with names on them? My spare keys have a little Texas license plate on them with the name “Sharon”, which is so helpful when I temporarily give them to people. Right now my contractor (of my still-ongoing renovation) has custody of those.

Despite all of my good habits, I recently found myself in possession of a set of mystery keys. Inside my entryway closet, I had four CommandTM hooks with keys on them. Above each hook was a label identifying the keys on it. (The ones with the “Sharon” license plate were labeled “Spare”). One of the hooks was labeled with my daughter’s name, but she never did get into the habit of hanging her house keys there, even when she lived here, so she put other keys on that hook.

I had to take those labels and hooks down a few weeks ago so that my contractor could paint the closet. The next time my daughter came over, I asked her about the two sets of keys on that hook. One set belonged to a neighbor whose pet she used to take care of. (We went down to the neighbor’s home and returned those keys.) But she had trouble identifying the second set. She thought they might be from the physical therapy job she had before she started graduate school. She left that job in late 2021 so she couldn’t be sure.

I happen to be under care at that same physical therapy location right now for lower back pain. The next time I went there, I brought those keys and asked my PT if they could possibly be from there. She wasn’t sure, but she tried one of them on a staff door and it worked, so that clinched that. I was glad that we could return those keys to their rightful home instead of simply tossing them into the metal recycling bin.

If you’ve got unlabeled keys lying around, label the ones that you can still identify. Do your best to identify the rest of them. If nothing comes to mind and you know you haven’t used them in a long time, the metal recycling bin beckons.

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