In my work as a professional organizer, I’ve heard that the average person spends anywhere from 10 – 55 minutes a day looking for stuff. As we all know, time spent trying to find what you know you have is frustrating! Typically, there are three primary reasons why this happens.
1. You Haven’t Designated a Home
The most common reason we “lose” items is that we haven’t taken the time to intentionally designate where they will live. As a result, we put them down in a variety of places, which makes them hard to find. By defining a specific resting location for commonly used items, you can significantly reduce the time you spend searching. Some commonly used items that you need to assign a space for include:
- Cell Phone (and charger)
- Wallet/ID/Driver’s License/Passport
- Pen, pencil, highlighter
- Flash Drive
Remember to think this through for your home, office, car and anywhere else you go. For example…
Where will you put your sunglasses if you wear them into a store?
Where will you put your phone when you are at school?
Where will you keep your wallet when you are in your car?
2. You Put Things Down Mindlessly
For some, the struggle is less with establishing a home for items and more with returning them to their rightful spot. This is understandable…we walk in the door and the phone is ringing or someone needs our immediate attention. As a result, we tend to mindlessly put things down without taking note of where we are putting them.
Changing this habit is largely an issue of discipline. A few tricks to force yourself to put things away include:
- Speaking out loud when you put an item down. “I’m putting my keys on the counter.” If this is the RIGHT spot for the item, you’ll feel good about it. If it is the wrong spot, you may guilt yourself into not putting them there… and even if you don’t, you will have audibly reminded yourself where you put the keys.
- Asking others to hold you accountable for putting items away. For example, tell the kids they get a nickel every time they catch you not putting your glasses back in the holder next to the sink.
- Focusing on one belonging at a time. Spend a month focusing on the one item you most frequently lose track of.
3. Stuff Gets Covered Up
A third common situation is when we put something down and then someone else comes along and covers it up with another object. Paperwork is the classic example. You put a school form down on the counter, and within an hour it is covered with the mail, the newspaper and the loose change your spouse emptied out of his pocket.
Unfortunately, we can’t always control the behavior of others. Therefore, the best way to avoid having your belongings covered up is to resist putting them where they can easily be piled upon. Hang them up, file them, put them away in a drawer… whatever it takes. In addition, make sure every family has a space somewhere in the house that is “theirs”… no one else can put stuff there except that one particular person.
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If there is one thing we can all use more of, it is time. Who needs to waste it looking for stuff?
What tricks have you found helpful for keeping track of your belongings?