Ask LH: How Can I Stop Losing Things?

Dear Lifehacker, I constantly find myself losing things: my ID card, my mobile phone, my clothes, my keys, even old things I haven’t touched for ages. I often spend hours looking for things I’ve lost but never find them in the end. I know you can always try retracing your steps, but when you’ve lost something for a long time that doesn’t help. Are there any other strategies for finding missing items? Thanks, Misplaced

Keys picture from Shutterstock

Dear Misplaced,

Short of nailing items to yourself (which is a rather extreme strategy) there’s no dead set way to ensure you’ll always be able to find everything, but if you find you’re constantly losing the same things, there are two things that will help.

Firstly, dedicate an area — it can be a box, it can be a drawer, or just a shelf — that your common items go onto, and make sure you make a habit of placing those items in that area or shelf every single time. The challenge here is not using multiple “spots” for items, which is where it can be handy to go out and buy a small box (or similar receptacle) specifically for those vital items. Even the act of buying the box will cement it in your head that this is where your vital objects go. It’s surprising how quickly that kind of habit forms, and I know it has saved me more than a few fruitless searches for keys or wallets over the years.

This gets to the other issue that often makes finding missing items a chore, and that’s clutter. Every single object that isn’t the one you’re looking for isn’t just an annoyance; it’s also a hurdle on the way to easily being able to find something. A bit of decluttering work while you search may not help you find the specific object you’re after, but do it for long enough and there simply won’t be anywhere for those pesky missing items to actually hide. As an added bonus, if you do find your missing item, you’ll have the added mental uptick of having done some useful tidying along the way.


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