Wallet and Key Chain Audit

I was at a meeting the other day. I plunked my keys down on the table, and eyes of the guy I was meeting with widened. “Woah, are those are all your keys?” he asked, pointing to the jumbled mass of keys. “Yeah.” I responded, trying to laugh off my mess of keys. He then went on the explain how the extra weight of all my keys could hurt the ignition switch on my car. I had no idea, and apparently there may be some truth to the story.

Regardless of whether the extra keys could hurt my car’s ignition switch, he was absolutely right. I had too many keys. It had gotten to the point where I don’t even know what most of them were for. I of course have keys for my house and rentals, but beyond that I had all sorts of random keys that I had accumulated over the years. Some were probably for my parent’s houses. Some were from old jobs, some were probably old apartments I lived at, one was a key for a little lock I used for my gym bag, and I had several duplicates. I had close to a dozen keys in total. I only use the house key regularly, but it’s nice to have the keys for my rentals on hand because you never know when you need to stop by for a repair or turnover.

So this weekend I added streamlining my key chain to the ole “to-do” list. I stopped by the hardware store and picked up a couple colored plastic key covers. I then color coded the 3 keys I actually use, and ditched the rest. I saved the duplicates and labeled them, and now the duplicates and the rest of the old discarded keys sit on a shelf in the unlikely event that I ever stumble across a lock that I need to open.

I’m sure my car’s ignition will thank me, but I was surprised at how nice it felt to discard these extra keys. While the reduction of bulk and weight in my pocket is noticeable, the mental effect is what I appreciated the most. If you are like me, you use your keys at least twice a day, and fumbling through a mess of unorganized keys all the time adds mental stress and aggravation. That compounded over time probably would lead to a nervous breakdown. Fumbling through dozens of keys all the time is just one more piece of bullshit you have to contend with.

This was a surprisingly cathartic experience and one I recommend going through if you haven’t in a while. I’m a believer in spending money on things you use every day (in my case, shoes, a watch, a belt, my laptop, etc.). This project in particular hardly cost anything, but here I would consider it a small investment in time.

I went through a similar routine with my wallet years ago. I switched from the George Costanza wallet to a “minimalist” wallet, specifically a Big Skinny Bi-fold, and ditched all the superfluous receipts, cards, etc that build up in your wallet if you aren’t careful. I went from a dozen+ cards down to 6. I don’t miss all the extra stuff. It drags on your body, and it drags on your mind.

It is a microcosm of minimalism. I am not a minimalist, but I’d say I’m a frugalist, and in a way frugality can be seen as a form of financial minimalism. You buy less stuff so you have less things to burden yourself with. I have tried to consolidate and streamline. I use a Kindle rather than buying books, I have minimized my wardrobe to a couple “uniforms”, I’ve automated my finances and sworn off superfluous spending. I’ve also tried to say “No” and do a better job guarding my time.

The goal here is peace. The hope is that financial peace will bring mental peace, but your finances are only one part of the equation and simplicity is the true path to peace. They say enlightenment is being in a state of wanting nothing. No wonder so few ever see the light. Still, I try to keep my investing simple and I am trying to keep my life relatively simple. Of course, it’s an uphill battle and part of becoming an adult is about taking on more responsibility. Managing more chaos.

As I continue battle my way upstream I am trying to find the patterns. I am trying to figure out ways to let things go. To consolidate. I see my parents and all the stuff they have accumulated, and it’s almost painful to watch. But in many ways I am struck from the same mold. I guess the idea is to not become too attached. To be willing to purge. There are infinite ways to optimize and organize. In truth I’m not a naturally organized person. I trend towards chaos. But I’m trying. One set of keys at a time.