If you have a big family, and particularly if you have more than two cars, there are probably quite a few sets of keys floating around your house. I know in my family, we do more than a little car juggling (“I need the van today, you take the truck!”), which can sometimes lead to crossed signals and miscommunication if we aren’t careful. Keeping all the family’s keys in one designated spot is a simple step that makes a big difference, since no one is ever stuck searching for someone else’s keys.
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If you want everyone in your family to leave their keys in one spot, it’s important that the spot you choose is both obvious and specific. Leaving keys on the table by the most oft-used entrance (whether it’s the front door, garage, or mudroom) is an obvious choice, but if that table gets used for anything else, leaving the keys out loose probably isn’t a good idea. At the very least, you want to have some kind of simple container to put the keys in or on so they don’t get lost in plain sight, or buried under winter gear or junk mail.
It also helps to choose a dish, tray, or bowl where you can spread the keys out a little, particularly if you have a lot of similar-looking key fobs. A big, mixed grab-bag of keys will work if you know what everyone’s key chains look like, but a long, narrow tray definitely makes it easier to find a particular set of keys at a glance. These take up a bit more space, but will definitely save you time when you’re on the way out the door.
Really, though, one of the very best ways to keep individual keys obviously organized is to hang a few small hooks on the wall. These can be basic, cutesy, personalized, traditional, or even built into a coat rack, and give every member of the family a hook for their set of keys. Hooks keep keys better sorted and very easy to find, so while it might take a few extra seconds to hang keys up rather than tossing them in a dish, it might be worthwhile for a family that does a lot of car swapping.
I particularly like key hooks that are built into small message boards. If the whole family is in the routine of hanging up their keys, that means everyone will at least spare a glance eat any messages written on the board every time they come home or go out. That makes it a perfect communication hub for everything from letting someone know who has which car to posting other important reminders or messages, or even distributing mail if the board has built in clips or mail organizer.
If your family has a lot of shared keys – like, not just car keys, but keys to your community pool, laundry room, or clubhouse, to your furnace room, garage, shed, or ride on lawnmower, or so on – it can be worth going the extra mile and actually mounting a small key cabinet on the wall near your front door. These provide a lot more key hooks in a lot less space, and close up to keep them concealed, sort of like the key holders in an old timey hotel. This option is probably overkill for most families, but can be a lifesaver for those in gated communities, large housing associations, or condos with lots of locked public buildings you might not be able to get duplicate keys for. A small cabinet keeps all those highly specific, infrequently used keys in one place that anyone in the family can reach as needed.
If you don’t like the idea of leaving all your keys out in the open – particularly near a door – you might want to consider putting your keys in a small decorative box instead. These have the same problems as big bowls or round dishes in that keys can tend to get mixed up, and they’ll only keep your keys hidden if your family remembers to keep the lid on the box, but are a bit more discreet than open trays or wall hooks.
How does your family deal with juggling keys and cars? Would you rather have your keys all in one place and organized by person, or just toss them in a dish when you walk in the door? Let me know in the comments!