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How to Find Your Lost Stuff

Calm down and look methodically. It's probably in the cluttered messy spot.

Key points

  • Most people, even when young, spend time looking for mislaid items.
  • One in three people say they get into fights with others over lost items.
  • Develop routines and designated spots so you remember where your items are. If you lose something, make your search systematic.
 Filip Szalbot/Unsplash
Filip Szalbot/Unsplash

No keys?

Don’t ransack your house. Instead, think about where your keys ought to be, advises professional magician “Professor Solomon,” author of How to Find Lost Objects.

“There are no lost objects,” he writes, “only unsystematic searchers.”

Often, things are exactly where they are supposed to be but somehow slightly hidden. No, it's not just you! We all put things in an appropriate spot and then forget the appropriate spot. Research hasn’t answered why, but you’re not alone.

When facing the calamity of a possibly lost thing, Professor Solomon advises that we all practice the “three C’s,” which are comfort, calmness, and confidence.

“Start by making yourself comfortable in an armchair or sofa. Have a cup of tea, perhaps, or a stick of gum.

Next, empty your mind of any unsettling thoughts. Pretend that the sea is lapping at your feet. Or that you’re sitting in a garden full of birds and flowers.

Finally, tell yourself you will locate that missing object.”

Now you’ll undertake a systematic search, not a crazy-making one. What's the appropriate spot for that item? Go look there first. Another tip: check the cluttered, messy spots in your home first. Your item may be buried there.

It’s also possible that you left your misplaced object where it was when you last used it. Think back to the most recent time you saw the object. It probably hasn’t traveled far. Most things aren’t lost–but misplaced.

When you search, look thoroughly in each likely area. Don’t circle round and round with half-hearted searches unless you want to make yourself unhappy. While you’re searching, clean up or tidy. You’ll feel less frustrated since you’ll have made better use of your time.

Did someone else take it? Ask the likely subjects. Just be forewarned that one in three people say they get into fights with their significant others over such matters. It’s tempting to accuse each other of being more forgetful than anyone else on earth. Chances are that neither you nor your partner are especially forgetful–or, put another way, more forgetful than the normal forgetfulness among human beings.

According to the Lost and Found survey, by Pixie, Americans spend two and a half days a year looking for misplaced items, especially the TV remote, phones, and car and house keys. About a quarter of Americans say they misplace keys twice a week. The time spent searching for things makes us miss appointments or run late to work or school.

We tend to blame age, but younger people have just as much trouble. The real culprit may be multitasking. So what can you do?

Assign precise spots for things. Ask yourself:

  • “How often do I use this item?
  • “Where do I use it the most?”
  • “Is there a better location for this item?”
  • “Are there similar items to store with this item?”

The entryway is a key area. Have a basket or rack by the door for your keys. As soon as you get home, put the keys in their home. Consider investing in organizing systems: a basket for phones and a tray for sunglasses.

Make the assigned spots convenient so you'll actually use them. Keep your reading glasses on your nightstand if you’ll need them as soon as you wake up or read in bed.

Put colorful stickers or protective cases on phones, so they are easier to see.

Maintain routines. You might resolve to always put things in your pocketbook or backpack before you go to sleep. Most people do a “hotel room” check before they leave; apply the same logic to the places where you typically leave things. Double-check that everything is there before you leave the house.

Do you often leave things behind in your car, at the office, at other people’s houses, or in restaurants? Have a routine before you leave any of these places. Do you forget where you’ve parked? Write it down.

To keep track of an important piece you only use once or twice a year, make a note on your calendar with a reminder alert scheduled for several days before you need the item.

Go Electronic

Several smartphone apps use Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices: Tile allows you to tag your items and then see them on a map on your phone. The tag can make a sound to help you spot it. (If you have your phone, that is!) Duet similarly offers tags and a method for retrieving your phone. Phone control systems for hearing aids also have location trackers.

Good luck!

A version of this story also appears at Your Care Everywhere.

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