How do I make a massive set of keys more manageable?
May 7, 2011 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure there are many guys who would love to have this problem, but I assure you it's more of a curse than a blessing. Yes, I have an extraordinarily large… keychain. Seriously, though, do you guys have any miraculous tips for making a big set of keys less of a burden?

This thing is a pain. Both of our cars have ridiculously large keys. Beyond the car keys, I have really minimized as much as possible. All that I have is my apartment key, the common area key for our apartments, our mailbox key and my alumni association tag. Sure, I could get rid of the alumni association thing, but I don't think that's going to make the difference, and it's nice to have the 0.5% chance that if someone did find the keys they'd actually use the "drop in a mailbox to return them" feature.

In the winter (well, at least when I lived in Seattle where we *had* winters), it's not too bad because I can keep the keys in my jacket. When I'm going to work, it's alright because I put my keys in my laptop bag. But on a day like today, when I went shopping and it was too warm for a jacket, I have nowhere decent to put them. I had them in the front pocket of my jeans, which not only looks ridiculous, but is uncomfortable. When I bought something at the first shop, I put my keys in the shopping bag, though I was paranoid I was going to forget it somewhere or they'd somehow get lost. I don't want to wear them on my pants like a school custodian, and there's no way I'm wearing a fanny pack. It's almost enough to make me wish I was a girl so I could get away with carrying a purse…

One obvious thing I can do is get rid of one car key. Clearly I'm only driving one car at a time. But I do drive both sometimes, and whenever I drive either, I need the rest of the keys available. So to pull that off I'd really need an easy way to swap car keys on and off of the keychain (I don't want to have the apartment keys separate from the car key, because that makes me much more likely to lose it). I've seen some "quick release" key things, but they all seem fairly bulky, making the problem worse rather than better. And even only one of those gargantuan car keys is more than I *really* want to carry in my jeans pocket. That said, if you know of a small and secure quick-release system, please let me know.

Are there any solutions I'm not thinking of? Do I just need to get cars with smaller keys?
posted by sharding to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have separate key chains for each vehicle (each with a house key attached), for my office, etc. So at any moment, the key chain in my pocket has only two or three keys on it and avoids the problem you are illustrating. The downside is that you need a bunch of copies of your house key, and there are more key chains total to keep track of.
posted by Forktine at 9:10 PM on May 7, 2011

They are kinda dorky but caribiners make great keychains for this purpose. Take your car key off, stick in your pocket, put the remaining keys in the glovebox or whatever, then walkaround with just one key.
posted by ian1977 at 9:14 PM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have three sets of keys in constant rotation. The main keys (home, parent's place, dads office, cousin's house, about 10 keys total) live on a big brass hook. When I leave the house, that set of keys gets clipped to a belt loop or purse strap. They are always on my person, but never in a pocket. My motorcycle keys (set of three) live on a ring in my riding jacket pocket. My work keys (3 ID badges, 4 keys) lives clipped to a belt loop of my work pants.

All these keys (except the moto keys) get hung on a hook inside the front door whenever I come home. It's automatic. Unlock the door, reach over to the hook.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:14 PM on May 7, 2011

Ditto what ian1977 said. I keep my keys on a D ring ring almost all the time. It's pretty handy, but the downside is that when I'm walking around the hallways at work, it isn't exactly stealthy.
posted by AMSBoethius at 9:18 PM on May 7, 2011

I like this leatherman type thing. There's also the keyport.
posted by cazoo at 9:20 PM on May 7, 2011

I know you're worried about bulk, but these these quick-pop adapters aren't too chunky, and really do make it easy to separate the car keys from the rest of the ring. (Especially useful if you need to leave the key with a garage or similar.) To offset, these loop rings offer strength without bulk.
posted by holgate at 9:20 PM on May 7, 2011

I got in the habit of having two rings. One with giant Audi key fob + house key, one with everything else. If I didn't have my bag or car or somewhere for the everything else keyring, having it in my other pocket made it more manageable. Trading off having the second car key on me 24/7 was easy since I didn't want to look like a valet runner. Carry your main car key fob and leave the other one at home or in your bag.
posted by birdherder at 9:23 PM on May 7, 2011

I've had this page open in a tab for a few months now. Just haven't taken the plunge yet.

I really want to try this out, as it seems like it'd be the ultimate solution.
posted by ijaaz at 9:25 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ijaaz, that Keyport thing does look cool. Unfortunately, it says it's not compatible with "prox" car keys, which let you open the car and start the engine without actually inserting the key (you can just open the door when you're close enough, and push a button on the console to start the car). Both of our car keys are of that type. So I don't think it will work for my situation. Very neat idea, though.
posted by sharding at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2011

A wrist-length key leash is dorky but will do the job; it's not very bulky, and on a "day like today" you can loop it through a belt loop temporarily. Not one of the coil ones, but one of leash material, just a short loop (here's the first one google found me) ... college shops often have them. Less bulky than the coils. Plus when you're carrying a ton of crap you can put it on your actual wrist and have the keys to hand when you get to the door.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:34 PM on May 7, 2011

Could you switch to bikes? Bike locks have smaller keys, and if you want to get away with carrying a purse, as a bicyclist you could totally rock the messenger bag.
posted by lover at 9:36 PM on May 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all, some good ideas here!

Hanging weight off of the key ignition isn't an issue because neither car has a key that physically goes into the ignition. And no, I'm not going to switch to bikes ;-)
posted by sharding at 9:45 PM on May 7, 2011

Take your car key off, stick in your pocket, put the remaining keys in the glovebox or whatever, then walkaround with just one key.

I sometimes do this when I go to the park, but it's risky. If somebody breaks into your car they can steal not only your house key, but several handy pieces of documentation with your home address on them.

I'd recommend something like this multi-key release keyring. You can slide any key off in about two seconds. I had one for about a decade and it lasted well, though the finish quickly tarnished.

Otherwise, do you have the kind of look that could pull of a satchel or messenger bag? A lot of guys carry them these days and they can look pretty sharp, especially if you get a leather one.
posted by Georgina at 9:48 PM on May 7, 2011

Are all your other keys copyable? I have 3 completely separate sets of keys, 1 for work (which I don't drive to, but have several keys for), 1 for driving, and 1 for going out when I'm not driving. All my other keys (house, common area, etc.) I got extra copies for, and they're on all 3 keychains. They all hang on hooks by the door, so when I'm leaving, I just grab the right keychain, and voila I have all the keys I need for that day. Yeah, it's not that hard to just slip the right keys on and off, but it was an extra step every single day that I just didn't want to have to take.
posted by brainmouse at 10:01 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's almost enough to make me wish I was a girl so I could get away with carrying a purse…

You can! Get yourself a nice "man bag" and carry it every day. I carry a purse daily and (knock on wood) I never lose stuff. The people I know who try to balance their things in their pockets are always the ones losing stuff. Plus, your clothes will look nicer without a huge lump of keys in your pockets.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:09 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

What about using a nice backpack or messenger bag? They're pretty blokey. And handy.
posted by taff at 12:37 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have a nice bag I use when I'm going to work, traveling, etc. But if I'm just running to the grocery store, going to to the mall, seeing a movie, going out to eat, going for a walk, etc., carrying a bag is a hassle, and sometimes impractical.

I do like the suggestion, which for some inexplicable reason never occurred to me, to have multiple copies of the apartment key so I can have more than one set of keys without having to swap things around all the time.
posted by sharding at 12:47 AM on May 8, 2011

I have a VW with a similar key, and I eventually separated it from my other keys and haven't looked back. I don't always drive everywhere, so it's nice to grab my essential keys without the car key if I'm not going to be driving. Since you have two big car keys, surely you aren't driving both cars at the same time. :)
posted by rhizome at 12:48 AM on May 8, 2011

I have twice this many keys and keep them attached to a belt loop with a caribiner. If they jingle too much, I tuck them into my back pocket.
posted by wayland at 12:48 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for two sets of identical keyrings with only the car key different. Yes, you'll have to take both if you are going out and need to drive both cars - but how often does that happen?
posted by mr_silver at 2:00 AM on May 8, 2011

@ijaaz: I ordered the keyport for my husband 3 weeks ago on Monday. It's a fairly involved process to order, you have to take pictures of your current keys and email them to the company. Then they send you key "blanks" to take to a locksmith (they don't recommend Lowe's or Home Depot, a true locksmith) to have them cut to your current key at your expense. We haven't received our order yet, but supposedly it's been shipped as of May 4th. So far, not impressed with our experience, but YMMV.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sorry for the derail-just wanted ijaaz to know my experience before he made a decision on this one thing.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:17 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I leave the mailbox key in a pot by the door to the mailbox. I get the apt key copied a zillion times, and have one of those (no keyring, just the key) in the key-pockets of jeans and pants, where it takes no space at all.
That just leaves the car fob, which again, becomes quite flat and takes up very little space once it's off a keyring, and that can slide into a regular pocket without being uncomfortable or bulky or heavy.

You'd be surprised how much of the problem is simply all that stuff being together, and it all being on a big ring. It's on a ring so you can grab one thing that has everything and go, and you won't forget anything, but there are other ways to solve that problem (such as my approach of having duplicates of the apt key everywhere so I can't forget it, and even if I do, there are more stashed in the car, etc)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:50 PM on May 8, 2011

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