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Last week, I wrote a post about how to be a good steward of someone else’s housekeys. That got me to thinking about the hows and whys of entrusting your own housekey to someone else.

The reasons we need to give a housekey to someone vary. Most of the time it’s for a specific purpose: you’re going out of town and need someone to water your plants, bring in the newspaper or mail, feed the fish, etc.

Sometimes it’s because it can be a lifesaver to have a neighbor with a key in case you find yourself locked out. Having a neighbor with a spare key is a lot more convenient and cheaper than calling a locksmith or breaking into your own house.

I still have a window screen with a hanging spline from the time ten years ago I got back from a trip and realized I’d left my key 200 miles away.

Hiding a spare is one option, but it’s an option most security experts discourage. Try as we might to be creative with our hiding place, tell the truth: it usually ends up under the mat, over the door, or beneath one of the flowerpots by the entrance. And guess who knows this, too? No, not Santa Claus. And who’s to say who might be watching when you go to retrieve your key from its spot? I can tell you I feel like all eyes are upon me whenever I collect a hidden key.

Another disappointing thing about being really creative with the hiding place is that we can forget where it was ourselves. Plus it can be hard to describe to someone who needs to find it. I once got a call from a friend who left town and had the awful feeling she’d left her iron on. Her hiding place was very creative; so creative I had a hard time figuring out where it was and I spent a lot of time pawing through dead leaves in the dark.

So sometimes it needs to be done. I’ve compiled a few guidelines for how to lend out your key.

  1. Only give your key to a living saint. Or as close as you possibly can get. It’s probably going to be someone with a few years on him or her and who has a reputation for responsibility. As some people have found out to their regret, relatives aren’t always the best choice. They may feel too at home in your home. If you don’t mind this, fine, but make it a consideration.

  2. If at all possible only give your key to someone you have known at least a year. It takes this long to weed out people who might seem reliable but who are not.

  3. Think twice before giving a key to someone who suggests it first. Best to hand-pick someone rather than be pressured into it for fear of insulting someone. Put them off. Indefinitely.

  4. Choose someone with trustworthy associates. Your pick might be a real saint, but someone they live with can be a real devil sometimes. Check him or her off your list of possibles.

  5. Give the key a distinctive label or key fob to help identify it. As a commenter on my last post suggested, it’s probably unwise to put your name and address on it in case it gets lost and falls into the wrong hands. Your key keeper should know you well enough that if you use a promotional key chain from your place of employment, for example, they’ll know it’s yours.

  6. Don’t wear out your welcome. If the neighbor or friend is keeping your key as a fallback, try to rely on it sparingly. They are going to rethink the honor of being your key keeper if you keep waking them up at 1 o’clock in the morning because you can’t get into your house.

When you hand over your key, be sure to communicate your expectations clearly. Sometimes it can be helpful to have them written out along with other pertinent information such as how to contact you in an emergency, how much to feed the fish, etc. You can print out the 6 Commandments Of Other People’s Housekeys here.

If you have any other tips or advice or anecdotes, please add them in the comments. I know I’ve forgotten something and I learn so much from others’ experiences.

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