Getting locked out of your house or apartment is a frustrating experience, and calling a locksmith costs valuable time and money. Here’s a guide to help you be sure you don’t have to hire one every time you find yourself locked out of your house.
Take Steps to Avoid Losing Your Keys
That may sound like a no-brainer, but on those days when your brain refuses to cooperate, one of these just might be the simple preventative measure that saves your skin.
- Attach your keys to a keychain so big or oddly shaped that you’ll notice immediately when it’s not in your pocket.
- Get into the habit of hanging your keys on the doorknob of the door you primarily exit and enter from. You’ll have to look at them every time before you lock the door and leave for the day.
- Keep your house keys attached to something you use regularly, like a bus pass, work ID, or car key, so you can’t get too far without it.
- For one week, every time you’re on your way out the door, make a mental note that you need your keys. Do the same thing coming in. The repetition will cement in your mind that your keys are important for getting you where need to go every day, and you’ll be less likely to let them out of your sight.
- Take some time (right now!) and figure out what circumstances, responsibilities, or people make you so anxious or out-of-control that you can’t think properly. Either eliminate them from your life, or find ways to make sure they don’t have such a negative impact on your focus.
- If you just realized you can’t find your keys—relax. Slow down, turn off your worry-motor, and focus. Studies show direct correlation between anxiety and memory loss. 9 times out of 10, your keys will be somewhere nearby that you haven’t thought of because you’re too worried to think.
Learn How to MacGyver It and Get in Without a Key
Angus MacGyver, a fictional crime-fighting secret agent from late-80’s television, was so good at coming up with unconventional ways to overcome obstacles that they named the whole skill after him. With proper preparation and training, locked doors will be no match for your impeccable mind either.
- Be sure that you know of any doors on the exterior of your house that you could pick with a credit card. Most doors have a metal tab positioned alongside the latch to prevent picking, but some do not. For a great how-to guide for credit card lock picking, check out this HowCast video that will walk you through it step-by-step. A word to the wise, though: keep in mind that if you can pick your door with a credit card, so can a crook.
- Learn how to pick locks on your own. With a few simple tools and some practice, it’s not too difficult to do. Not to mention, you’ll have a much better idea of how home security works. Here’s an outstanding guide from LifeHacker.com.
- It won’t work for everyone, but if you’ve got a small child with you and doggy door, you might have an in. Just be absolutely sure that the child knows how to unlock that particular door already, and that he or she will fit through the doggy door without a struggle. If you’re not careful, a locked door could be the least of your worries. Alternatively, if you happen to be an Olympic gymnast, you can try this method:
Find the Perfect Spot for a Spare
Not every hiding spot is created equal. Here are a few tried-and-tested places that will work in most situations. It wouldn’t hurt using 2 to 3, just in case.
- Keep one in your wallet or purse. Find a secure pocket or fold big enough for a key and you’ll be prepared for the majority of lock-out catastrophes. It’s not a cure-all though—if you lose your keys and your wallet/purse at the same time, you’re out of luck.
- When you have a spare made at your local hardware store, ask them to drill a hole in the body of the key while they’re at it. Then, remove the license plate of your car, and re-install it with the key on the back, the screw being pushed through the drillhole you made in the key.
- Think of a something with pockets that you have with you most of the time and store a key inside of it. Backpacks, briefcases, duffel bags, and suitcases would all work flawlessly.
- Do you work close to home? Keep a key at the office. A brisk walk there and back sure beats having to pay a locksmith to drill into your lock.
- If you live in an apartment building with a doorman, find out if he keeps spare keys on hand. More often than not, they do.
- Chances are your landlord has a spare for your apartment. Make sure you have his or her phone number saved or memorized in case you need them to let you in. A word of caution: some landlords will charge you a small fee for coming to open your door for you. Also, it’s quite possible that your landlord could be busy or out of town when you’re locked out. In other words, check to see if you can call them for help, but don’t count on it.
- If you know you can trust a neighbor, it wouldn’t hurt to ask them to hold onto a spare for you. Family members who live close by work too. Some additional advice: use nail polish (or a similar coloring agent) to mark the keys you give to these people. It’ll help them tell yours apart from others they may be storing with it.
Spend a Little, Save a Lot
The goal of this post is to keep you from having to pay a locksmith, but if you find yourself still getting locked out quite a bit or you’d rather not rely on a spare, one of these purchases may be just what the lock doctor ordered.
- In certain states, AAA (triple-A) offers a Premier Membership where they’ll credit you $100 toward whatever it costs you to hire a locksmith. The price of the annual membership is $119, but it comes with dozens of other valuable services that come in handy for the space cadets among us.
- Install a keyless entry lock on one of your doors. That way, all you need to do is remember a passcode to open your door. Caution: you’ll need to replace the batteries on keyless entry fixtures every several months to make sure they’re always working when you need them to.
- Buy a real estate agent’s lock. This is a password-protected lock-box for you to keep a key in. Store the box somewhere out of sight (e.g. the backyard, or behind some shrubbery) and you’ll always have a way in.
- If your home has a garage, install an electronic garage door opener. That way, if you have the remote in your car or you know the electronic password for the keypad, you can bypass the front door and go in that way.
Avoid Options That are Risky or Unreliable
If you’ve made it this far, you should have plenty of ideas to work with. But some of the most commonly used strategies make people vulnerable to burglaries or have them relying on things they shouldn’t. Here’s what to watch out for.
- Unless you have two or three other backups available, don’t keep your spare anywhere that can be moved, cleaned, or used with any amount of frequency.
- Even though they’re popular, avoid using a magnetized key holder that attaches to the wheel-well or undercarriage of your car. Hitting a stiff pothole or two could cause it to dislodge, leaving you high-and-dry when you need it most.
- It may be tempting to leave a door or window unlocked to use when you’re locked out of your main entry. If you assume a burglar is only going to check your front door, you’re forgetting that they break into houses for a living. Don’t make it easy on them.
- Don’t put your apartment number, street address or your name on a spare key. In the event that it falls into the hands of unsavory characters, a break-in is all but guaranteed.
- Everyone can pick out a fake rock or plant used to hide a key. Think a burglar will have any trouble spotting one either? If you decide to get one of these, choose one with a combination lock, such as this RocLock Hide-a-Key Faux Rock with Combination Lock.
- Don’t keep a spare, or anything for that matter, in your mailbox. The US Postal Service frowns on it. Also, see tip #21.