House Keys: Where To Keep Them, Where To Hide Them

Let’s talk house keys. Where to put them, that is, when we’re at home and away.

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You’ve probably got at least two sets: the set you use every day, and the spare set you stash somewhere in case you misplace your everyday keys. (At least you should, if you have a house.) You use the first set everyday; you use the spare set sometimes — and it’s that set that makes you most vulnerable to burglary. 

When it comes to your everyday keys, you want to leave them in the same place every day. That way, you always know where they are — both for ease and convenience and so you can grab them in case of an emergency. This place is preferably on hooks, where small children can’t grab them (should that be an issue in your house).

Some Quora readers have had success with leaving their keys next to whatever particular thing they need to remember to take in the morning; this could be an effective strategy if you need that type of memory device. But for the vast majority of people, as soon as you walk in the door, keys go in the same place, every time, and stay there until they’re needed. This prevents them from getting lost in a messy house. Just make sure that, if you have a mail slot, your keys are kept well away from its reach: crooks in Britain, according to Quora readers, have been known to hook them through the slot with a wire, using a mirror to see them. 

What to do with you spare keys, however, is a much more important question. Especially if you need to let family members, babysitters, or dog walkers in the door. There are a few common, and rather terrible, places to leave your spare key. 

Don’t leave your spare key under the mat. It’s a cliché, and as such, it’s probably the first place a thief would look. It’s too close to the door and too easy to check.

Don’t stash your spare key above the door lintel. All a thief has to do is run his hand over the lintel and see if he feels a key. Like the doormat, it’s too easy and too close.

Don’t hide your spare key under a flower pot right near the door. Again: it’s too close to the door, and too obvious. What’s convenient for you is also too convenient for a crook.

Don’t use a fake rock. They look fake, and they’re a dead giveaway. 

Don’t put a spare key in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen or lost, your license will be in it. Someone could then have both your address and a key to get inside. Without a swift resolution, you’ll probably find yourself changing locks as well as credit cards.

There are, however, some great places to stash a spare key. These places are more remote, less convenient, and may require some effort on your part — effort that’s worth it for the extra security. 

Just leave a key with a neighbor. This is the simplest and safest way to keep your key safe, as long as you trust the neighbor, of course. When I was a kid, we always just kept spare keys with relatives who lived nearby. The only problem came when the relatives weren’t home.

Leave a magnetic keytainer on your car. Most burglaries happen during the daytime hours — when you’re not home. If you’re not home, neither is your car. 

Leave a magnetic keytainer at the neighbor’s. No burglar is going to suspect that key in the keytainer or the fake rock belongs to someone living in another house.

Use a fake sprinkler head. This obviously only works if you have a sprinkler system. 

If your property is heavily wooded, nail a key to a tree in a densely wooded area. It’s a bit strange, but burglars don’t go searching through the trees for keys nailed to them.

Consider a well-rated key lockbox. Though they may be more obvious than some of these methods, there are few things more suspicious than a stranger taking any extended amount of time to crack open a lockbox. This may not be the best idea when you’re away on vacation, but it can still do the trick for trusted guests.

Good places for keytainers, if you must use them, include way up under your grill, in your doghouse, or simply placed in some terribly inconspicuous, though somehow obvious to you, spot. 

Then there’s the conundrum: is it time to get a smart lock? It’s up to you — make sure the lock is well-reviewed, obviously — but price is still a big obstacle to many users. It also seems unlikely that most homeowners will be putting a smart lock on every door. But some burglars likely won’t even want to bother dealing with a smart lock due to concerns — will it set off alarms? will it notify the homeowner? — so it might be worth considering.

In addition to fortifying your lock, you can also think about fortifying your door: House Logic recommends that you trade your wooden exterior door for steel “reinforce wooden door jambs for steel ones … install strike plates made of heavy-duty metal, and secure them with 3-inch screws.”

Oh, and most importantly: locks don’t work unless you use them. So don’t forget to lock your door.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on Time.com.

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