I Can’t Find My…

Frustration. The average person spends anywhere from 10 - 55 minutes a day looking for stuff. Here's how to do better.
photo credit: Hello Turkey Toe via photopin cc

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:

  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • Cell Phone (and charger)
  • Purse/Briefcase/Backpack
  • Wallet/ID/Driver’s License/Passport
  • Pen, pencil, highlighter
  • Scissors
  • Flash Drive
  • Earbuds

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.

*     *     *

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?

30 thoughts on “I Can’t Find My…”

    1. LOL — I totally forgot about that one. I used to “lose” a lot of clothing and jewelry before my oldest went off to college!

    1. We finally got key hooks… it’s (almost) a life changer! And I got so tired of buying sunglasses that I finally said “All sunglasses go in this drawer”… it is a small drawer in an entry table that really isn’t good for much else. Now I know where to hunt down a pair when we need them!

  1. I have been trying to get myself (and my husband) of getting into the habit of find a home for different things and to put them back where they belong when we use them. Thankfully, our keys are not generally something we lose because that’s the one thing we always put in the same place. Now if only we could do that with everything else…
    Felicia recently posted…Sunrise over Lake Erie, Sandusky OhioMy Profile

    1. Starting a new habit isn’t easy, Felicia!! But focus on the success you’ve had with the keys. I always say just pick ONE thing… just ONE thing you tend to lose track of and make November your “get that thing a home” month:) Thanks for stopping by… I really loved the photo of Sandusky 🙂

    1. My husband and I are getting there with needing the reading glasses… so I bought the multi-pack at Costco and keep a pair in multiple places. My parents have a cute little holder that sits in a designated spot… maybe a Christmas idea!!

    1. Hope you can conquer a few of the “common offenders” and get some time back in your day. Thanks for stopping by and commenting:)

    1. They borrow your stuff because your stuff is in a predictable place:) Happens to me all the time… and then they don’t put it back. Someday, they will be on their own and have to find their own scissors!

    1. Oh, setting up for the baby is the MOST fun! I always enjoy when I have a client who wants some help with the nursery… big fun for me! And you are so right, Susannah, that when a little one arrives on the scene, having homes for everything is particularly valuable:)

    1. Okay Nettie, you are making me laugh! Not sure where to keep our minds… but at least we know we can’t be too far away from them:) Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Yep, it happens Amber. To all of us. Sounds like you’ve made the area near your purse a “staging area,” which I am a big fan of. You are on the right track. Thanks for reading… maybe one of these posts will be a lightbulb moment:)

  2. Oh, oh, oh! (I’m like the kid in class with his hand in the air that finally got the right answer). I have a GREAT tip that I use all the time to keep my absent-minded self from losing things. When you lose something, after you find it, go back to the very FIRST place you went to look for it. That is it’s natural home and if you keep it there, you will always go right to it! So if the first place you went to look for the scissors was the top left kitchen drawer – voila! That’s where you should always keep them.
    adrian recently posted…The TRICK to Minimum PaymentsMy Profile

    1. THAT is a fabulous trip, Adrian! I might have to post that our separately to make sure no one misses it. I often tell clients something similar. When you are trying to decide where to keep something, ask yourself where is the first place you would look. TERRIFIC !!

  3. True. I get guilty when I put something down and I know it’s not the right place. I guess that helps – feeling guilty. LOL. So before I go to sleep, I make sure it’s indeed in the right place. Now, I just need my husband and son to follow my foot steps. Haha
    Rea recently posted…Live Another DayMy Profile

    1. Isn’t that the truth, Rea! Sometimes we can be as orderly as possible, and then some people we share space with come in and don’t “stick with the plan.” Fortunately, we love them and they bring a lot of other positives. But stay strong, sometimes it eventually wears off on them!

  4. I think guys are worse at this than girls. For me, all my useful possessions– cell phone, keys, wallet, coins, watch, sunglasses – seemed to get lost just when I most needed them. Every day, I came home from work and dumped my things wherever there was space – and then promptly forgot where I had put them. One day, I was looking at an old cigar box that I had inherited from my great grandfather and realized that if I emptied my pockets there, at least I would know where everything was. Because of that, I decided to make a men’s valet box that was both environmentally conscious and aesthetically pleasing – but still made a man feel like a man, not like he owned a women’s jewelry box. Until finally, I made Caja del Campeón – a sturdy place for men to store their everyday things (and some things we bring out only once in a while).

    1. Everybody needs a place for their small belongings, guys & gals alike. And I think repurposing an old cigar box is a terrific idea. They are beautiful to look at and definitely feel “manly.” Thanks for the comment!

  5. Love this post! It’s all true!

    I also find that clients have “helper” who put away stuff as part of their work, but it makes for craziness. When the cleaning people come, their job is to get stuff off of counters. The results can be items lost for a long time. The solution? It’s tricky!

    1. That’s so true, Ellen. If your surfaces are covered when a cleaning crew arrives, they have no choice but to stack it up so they can clean the surface underneath. This makes for an immediate “visual loss.” The solution is tricky. I always encourage clients to take the time to restore order before the cleaning team comes. It makes them more efficient and helps to keep from losing things. This is a great comment!!

  6. So funny to read all these different strategies. Think no matter how organized we think we are, we ALL have our moments of misplacing our things. Sometimes it’s because we are simply not being “present” in the moment, like “where did I park my car?” For me, I find that talking out loud to myself is super helpful. In fact, I’ve discovered that among the many learning modalities, I am an auditory learner too!
    Nancy Borg recently posted…Comment on How to Avoid Burn-out by Janet BarclayMy Profile

    1. I’m very auditory as well, Nancy. I am always talking to myself:) I agree that often we just aren’t paying attention, or our attention is temporarily distracted by someone/something else and then we don’t make a very conscious impression. Thanks for the comment!

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