Posted by: Kate | July 17, 2009


Who has keys to your house?

It’s never been something I gave much thought to, because since college, we’ve lived far enough away from family that it was kind of a moot point. We would never be out of the house if we were expecting one of our parents, etc., to visit, and when there’s a 6-hour drive separating us, it’s usually a safe bet that they won’t make the trip without at least a quick warning call from the road.

When we would go on vacation, we would find someone to look in on the cat, but it was a case of dropping off the keys before we left, and then picking them up upon return – no “giving,” just “handing.” There was never a real reason for someone to have permanent copies of our housekeys, as far as we could figure.

Hell, I didn’t own copies of my own keys in our last house, or until about a year ago in this house. We simply never bothered to lock the doors, unless we were going to be away for more than a few days, and then I’d be traveling with Willem so I’d just trust that he’d have his keys. I know, bad security, dangerous, living on the edge… but we seem to have survived it so far, and I’m of the opinion that if someone wants in badly enough, they’ll find a way regardless of locks and keys. When we move again, we’ll lock it, because we’re moving to a busy, unfamiliar neighborhood and it seems like the safe, grown-up sort of thing to do.

But, the keys. Who else gets them? Here, if we did lock the house, my dad and my friend L would each have needed their own sets, because they lived here and because even after they moved out they needed to know that the door was always, literally, open to them. But at the next place, we’ll have space for brief visitors but no guest room.

The landlord – who apparently drenches herself in Awesome every morning and I’m already mentally constructing her Best Landlord Ever shrine – handed over four sets of keys on Wednesday, and Willem and I have attached ours to our key rings. I’ve handed a set over to Gretchen, because out of the population of the world, she is someone whose unexpected presence on my couch would be particularly nonupsetting. But, using that criterion, I’d have to hand keys out to my sisters, Jenny and Carolyn, and a handful of other friends and relatives, and I don’t see us buying a couch quite that big. L will also get a set, because she still needs to be able to escape even when life is safer or more predictable.

So I’ve figured out these four sets of keys, and can take a while before deciding who else. Happily, I do have some very clear no’s already figured out…



  1. In our last home we exchanged keys with our neighbors a year or so after we moved in and had time to become good friends. I like the idea of someone having a key if I should somehow get locked out, or if something were to come up while we were out of town. They were the only ones with a key, besides ourselves. My husband’s mother also had a key, just for really serious emergencies.

    There’s no one in our lives who needs to be provided an “our door is always open” key – at least no one who lives nearby. Hmmm, maybe I should find one. Or ask for one.

    In this house (for your readers who don’t know I recently moved into the house my Dad has owned – and I lived in on and off while growing up – for 35 years after he moved to the beach) there are probably 30 people who have keys, and I’m not even sure who many of them are. My Dad, brothers, sister-in-law, my Dad’s cleaning lady (who I luckily get to borrow occasionally when Dad is out of town), his building contractor, and various others who received keys over the past 35+ years that are nameless to me. And we have not changed the alarm code, either.

    It’s odd when you consider that I never had a key to this house myself until about 10 years ago. Up to that point they set the alarm but didn’t lock the door unless they were going out of town for an extended period.

    It does make me uneasy that there are so many keys and alarm code knowers, and we’ll probably eventually re-key and change the code. It’s just weird right now for the family for us to be in “their” home, so the status quo is what we’re maintaining for now. There’s also the fact that the city we’re in charges when they respond to false alarms, and I don’t want to give them my money.

    In our next home we’ll go back to the system of having a single family member and a close neighbor (hopefully one will qualify) or nearby friend with keys. If no neighbor or nearby friend qualifies we’ll find a really, really, really good hiding place for a spare.

  2. I think it’s easier to ask who does NOT have a key to my house…. Between it being my grandparents’ house, the people who’ve lived here over the years and the number of family members who come by to use the pool in the summer, I think the entire city of Boston has access to my home.

    On the other hand, most are good about calling before they come over, to make sure it’s ok. We’ve changed the locks once and we have an alarm. I think at some point, when we’re past the “we need other people to live with us so we can afford it” stage, I’ll change the locks and alarm code again.

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