I hate losing stuff. Really. And yet I can often be found frantically running around my apartment, digging in pockets and bags for things like my keys and phone while cursing up a storm. I just want to learn how to stop losing things.
And according to an article in Psychology Today by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D, I am definitely not alone. Research shows that in order for us to remember things (i.e. where we put our subway card) we must first have encoded it in our brains by being conscious of our actions in the moment.
The problem, Whitbourne said, is that most of us "mindlessly go about our day's activities, often preoccupied with several concerns at once. We all dissociate to a certain extent ("multi-task"), and so the part of our brain carrying out routine activities doesn't connect with the part of our brain responsible for conscious thought." This results in us forgetting things like where we parked the car, because while we were parking the car we were thinking about what we needed to get in the store, or how fast we had to shop in order to get to the next thing on our list.
The reality is, most of us aren't going to be able to completely simplify our lives overnight, becoming perfectly zen individuals who are never lost in thought (though kudos if you can!). Because of this, I've compiled a list of seven super helpful and practical ways to spend less time looking for things.
1. Create A Go-To Place For Your Phone And Keys
Umbra Cubby Entryway Organizer, $29.99, Kohls.com
In a piece on how to stop losing things for QuickandDirty.com, productivity coach Steven Robbins advocated creating a place where you always put your phone and keys when walking in the door, every single time. "Create a place for your most important things, like your wallet and keys. Use a test run. Walk into your house carrying your things, and look for a place you’ll be able to put them every single time you get home. Your keys, for instance, could always go just inside the door in that priceless Four Dynasty Chinese Urn you found on eBay," Robbins said.
2. Place A Tub By The Front Door
6.5 Gallon Red Medium Tubtrug, $12.58, USPlastic.com
In a piece on RealSimple.com on ways to keep your home organized, design blogger Benita Larsson said she keeps a tub by her front door to keep seasonal items that can easily get misplaced. For example, in winter it's the drop box for hats and mittens, and in summer a place for goggles and sunscreen.
3. Deal With Mail Immediately
In a piece for GoodHouskeeping, CEO and interior designer Cheryl Eisen said to deal with mail as soon as you come home, as opposed to just letting it pile up or find its way to different places all over the house. She notes that if you can't file it or frame it, toss it ASAP. That way you definitely won't be digging through stacks for the electric bill at the end of the month.
4. Have A Tray Where All Remotes Go
Aqua Large Accessory Tray, $18, Poppin.com
This is a personal tip that seriously changed my life, and is definitely in line with having a go-to place for everything. Get a tray that you like, whether store-bought or repurposed and redecorated from something you already have, and make it the official home for all your remotes. No matter what, the remotes always go back on the tray, meaning you'll never have to waste another minute looking for them again.
5. Be Conscious When You Change Your Routine
According to psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis in a PsycheCentral article on how to stop losing your stuff, we most often lose things when we have a change in routine. For example, you always keep your keys in one particular pocket in your purse, but today you used a different bag. Sarkis stressed the importance of being aware when you have a change in routine so that you'll be extra on guard and less likely to lose something important.
6. Figure Out What You Lose The Most
Sarkis also recommended taking a moment to figure out what, exactly, you lose the most on a day-to-day basis. Is it your keys? Your phone? Your charger? Once you recognize what it is you continually misplace, it will be easier to come up with practical ways to prevent it from happening. For example, buy a small container for your phone charger and be sure to place it there whenever you are done with it, or stick a handy hook right by your door for you car keys.
7. Train Your Brain
This tip from Robbins might sound a little hokey, but it could be more than worth trying if it helps you stop losing necessary items. Once you have established places for the things you consistently lose, like trays for your remotes or a bowl for you keys, he said to continually visualize yourself putting these items in their place, as it will help train your brain to remember to do it automatically.
Losing things is one of the most frustrating daily experiences, and can cost us both time and money. However, the good news is there are definitely practical ways to help control the problem — just make sure you establish what your new routines are going to be, and make them easy to follow by creating convenient places for everything. You'll probably find yourself looking for misplaced items a lot less — even on your busiest and most absent-minded days.