Common clutter items: unidentified keys and cords

As a cat lover, I’m fond of the smartphone game called Neko Atsume, where you get various cats to visit you and leave behind some treasures. The treasure that one cat leaves is “a small toy key” — but “no one knows where it goes to.”

Seeing this reminded me of all the keys so many people have stashed away — and they, too, have no idea what many of the keys were ever intended to unlock. I just looked at my own key collection and noticed I have a few of these, also. I carry a limited number of keys with me daily: house key, car key fob, my neighbor’s house key, and the key to my UPS Store mailbox. In my box of other keys should be one for my brother’s house, my safe deposit box, my two lockboxes, and the door to The UPS Store. And there should be a couple spare house keys for my own home.

But I don’t know which key is my brother’s and which goes to The UPS Store — and I have three extra keys that are total mysteries. Furthermore, I’m almost positive that one of the keys in the box is the key to a good friend’s old house, before she moved out of the area. So my to-do list for October includes identifying the useful keys, using colored key caps (with an associated list) so I know which is which, and tossing the mystery keys. In some places such keys can be recycled as scrap metal, which is better than sending them to landfill if you have that option.

And in the future, I’ll make life easier on myself by immediately tossing any keys I don’t need — for example, my current copy of my brother’s house key if he ever changes the locks — and labeling any new ones.

A similar problem happens with cables and cords, where almost everyone I know has a box or a drawer (or maybe multiple boxes and drawers) filled with unidentified items. If all the electronic equipment you have is working fine with the cords you already have in place — and you have found the cords to any electronics you plan to sell, donate, or give away — you may be able to let all those other cords go. In some cases you may want spare cords: for travel, for replacing ones the cat chews through, etc. But many people also have a bunch of cords that go to electronics they haven’t owned in years. Along with the cords you may also have old remotes and charging devices.

Those whose hobbies involve tinkering with computers and electronics may want to keep an array of cords and cables for purposes as yet unknown. But those of us who just want to use our devices don’t need the cords to old computers, monitors, printers, etc. These cords qualify as e-waste, and you can usually find a place to recycle them without too much trouble. For example, in the U.S., they can be dropped off at Best Buy stores, in the recycling kiosks that are just inside the front doors.

7 Comments for “Common clutter items: unidentified keys and cords”

  1. posted by Juli on

    How do you label and store useful cords? Periodically I spend a long frustrating afternoon identifying cords and then tying them in neat knots, but almost as soon as I close the drawer everything reverts to chaos.

  2. posted by Lucie on

    For Juli:
    Try cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls; also, the plastic tabs from bread bags; or cheapo labels from the dollar store (same size as address labels used in offices) which you can write on, then stick on the cord near the plug, and stick back on itself.

  3. posted by infmom on

    We have a box full of old keys that I’m slowly whittling down. The problem is that my husband doesn’t want to get rid of any of them till he’s absolutely sure they don’t open anything we have.

    I did manage to get rid of my late mother’s post office box key, the key to the townhouse we lived in 20 years ago, the key to my mom’s long-junked car and assorted padlock keys for which no padlock could be found, by putting them on a fancy key ring and giving them to my granddaughter to play with.

  4. posted by Johncanon on

    To organize and access cords, I bought one of those rotating necktie organizers that attach under a closet shelf. I bent each of the 12 hooks upward to hold more cables. I labeled the hooks as: power, fat power, USB old, USB new, jumper, telco, audio, etc. I fold each cable in half and hang them on the rack.In the space of 1 square foot in the hall closet, I can quickly find or store over 100 cables.
    As an electronics technician, I learned early on to hang cables from hooks. This rotating gizmo is my latest invention.

  5. posted by JJ on

    For keeping cords together once they’ve been unraveled I always use small velcro straps – you can buy a 100-pack on amazon, or often find small packages of them at discount or dollar stores: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....tterer-20/

  6. posted by Maryann Aguilar on

    Definitely use the velcro straps! When using the cord you can velcro a strap onto the cord and always have it to wind the cord again. I use a P-Touch Labeler to ID the cords near the plug end – fold the labels back on themself like a little flag. For some cords, like camera to tv cords, I label which end goes into which device.

  7. posted by Alex Q on

    I use the velcro ties to individually wrap each cable. I used to use Monoprice’s cheap ties, but lately I’ve really been liking the Velcro Then I place like cables in a quart- or snack-sized Ziploc bag. I label each bag: “Micro USB”, “USB B”, “HDMI cords”, “3.5mm” etc. near the top of the bag. These then are placed in a medium-sized box, almost like a filing cabinet. This way it’s easy to flick through the sealed bags, find the one you’re after. As a bonus, each cable stays tangle-free from its brethren and is easy to remove or put back.

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