How to Remember Where You Put Something (Once and For all)

| Memory

how to remember where you put something feature imageThe answer to how to remember you put something is simple:

Step One: Designate specific spots for things.

Step Two: Always put things in those spots.

If you really want to go for gold, create a written list or spreadsheet for reference.

The question is:

As golden as that strategy is…

How realistic is it?

The answer is:

Not very.

Life goes by very quickly and we simply cannot expect that we’re going to put things in the same place every single time.

That’s why on this page we’re going to explore reasonable ways to find something that’s lost. And we’ll learn ways to reduce having them get lost in the first place.

Why We Lose Things

If you want to find lost things in a hurry, it can be painfully annoying to analyze the reasons why they got lost in the first place.

However, it’s worth spending some time thinking this issue through.

For example, we may lose things because of:

  • Clutter
  • Cognitive decline
  • Not knowing something we set down will be needed at a certain time
  • The specific intrinsic value we assign to the thing
  • The kind of thing (a receipt may get lost in a way that is different than car keys)
  • Disruptions that “knock” information out of our immediate awareness

Thinking through such possibilities can help us be kinder to ourselves when things get lost, which they inevitably will.

One interesting study to look at is called The significance of losing things for nursing home residents with dementia and their families.

One interesting point the authors make is that never in history have people owned so many personal possessions.

Not only do we tend to have more objects overall than any previous generation. We also have elaborate digital identities.

It might seem like a small thing at first glance. But in reality, having multiple email accounts and social media profiles on several platforms takes up mental space. Managing it all can and does lead to digital amnesia.

digital products

How to Remember Where You Put Something: 6 Easy Tips

As we’ve already noted, not losing things in the first place by organizing their locations is not always a realistic strategy.

This begs the question:

How do I remember where I put something?

Give the following steps a try:

Step One: Relax

Before you do anything, make a conscious effort to bring peace and calm into your mind and body.

You can do this by taking a deep breath and flexing all your major muscle groups.

a woman is stretching on the floor

Taking a moment to relax will help you focus on a strategic approach to your search and reduce unhelpful frustration.

To relax your mind, commit to not getting upset or frustrated during your search. This part of the process can be difficult, but you have little to gain by searching as if you’re on the warpath.

You might also find that taking this simple step sometimes pops the missing item into your mind. When you’re willing to let go of the outcome, you make it easier for this to happen.

Step Two: Mentally Retrace Your Steps

This is a common piece of advice, and it works a lot better if you’re relaxed first.

Here’s a tip for how to do it thoroughly:

Start at the “terminal station” in your home. By this, I mean the spot that would be a dead end if you were to enter at the front door and walk up to something like the master bedroom on the second floor.

The exact spot will be different in each home or office, but if you start there, you can mentally walk toward one of the exits in an orderly fashion.

You can make the process easier by drawing a floor plan for yourself to help visualize the mental journey.

Step Three: The Physical Search

If your mental searching doesn’t give you any clues or direct answers, it’s time to start hunting with your eyes and hands.

a hunting woman

Searching in a targeted way, as if you were a professional hunter, will yield better results than random searching.

But instead of conducting the search “helter skelter,”use the same principle I just suggested. Start as deep into the building as you can and move through it in an orderly fashion.

Another benefit of this strategy is that it will help make sure you don’t lose your train of thought as you search.

Step Four: Make A Checklist

It can be useful to keep a checklist of where you’ve looked. This is because nothing wastes time and stacks on frustration faster than looking in the same place two or more times.

When looking for the missing object, aim to be thorough. If you’re looking into boxes in storage, for example, make sure to pick them up and look under them so that shadows don’t obscure the object.

This happened to me during a recent move when I was looking for a screwdriver I’d set down. I couldn’t see it in the garage until I picked up a box that had hidden it in shadow.

Step Five: Take A Break

Any time the object you’re looking for isn’t desperately needed, taking breaks is important. Focusing on something else after 10-15 minutes of searching can help the mind remember details that otherwise would not float to the surface.

Taking walks or a hot shower can also stimulate what is called diffuse thinking. Many problems are solved this way, including memory issues related to lost objects.

Step Six: Celebrate & Commit

Let’s assume you’ve found the missing object.

a happy woman is jumping

First, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You’ve done well.

Then, commit to doing better the next time.


Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Learn more about how to stop losing things
  • Practice concentration skills by practicing valid brain exercises
  • Spend time organizing both your offline and online life to reduce clutter
  • If you have cognitive issues, consider taking photographs of where you leave things
  • New technologies make it easy to add tabs and tags to objects for finding using apps

But on the final suggestions, make sure that using technology is a supplement to training your brain to find things, not a replacement. 

We don’t want to use our modern tools to create learned helplessness, and the risk is very high of doing that. I’m only mentioning these options because some people might have no other choice.

How to Find Lost Items: Additional Tips

When it comes to finding lost items even faster, here are some additional tips and tricks.

Keep Control Over Your Emotions

Getting upset when you can’t find something you’ve lost track of is understandable.

But it could be causing you to push the location even further out of your mind. Stress has been linked to memory loss, so we want to avoid it.

Draw A Map

We often try to solve problems purely mentally.

But by taking a second to draw out a floor plan of your home or office, you can start to see the location more objectively.

A simple sketch can also help you remember areas that you may not have searched already. You can also use the map to tick off areas you’ve searched, thereby saving time and frustration.

Make Use Of Technology

Wherever possible, register devices that allow it with GPS tracking.

Although you’re losing an opportunity for memory exercise, this approach may be best in some situations.

And you can still use memory techniques to help you preemptively remember where you place things in combination with GPS tracking. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Harness Your Family & Community

You don’t always have to search alone. Ask for help in order to speed up the search.

If you’re particularly forgetful, getting into the habit of telling others where you’re placing a commonly misplaced object can be helpful.

You’ll remember the location better yourself by saying it out loud. And you have an extra shot that someone else will remember it too.

Play Lost & Found Games

Okay, this suggestion is a bit quirky.

But think about it:

When you regularly exercise the “treasure hunt” capacities of your mind, you’ll develop mental muscles for locations.

You don’t have to wait for Easter to play such games. And it’s fun to get the whole family involved.

Also consider using a round of lost & found as a segue into other brain games for adults.

The Ultimate Way To Train Your Brain For Finding Things

Earlier I mentioned starting at a particular part of your home when conducting a search.

This approach is also used with the Memory Palace technique. It’s a way of rapidly finding our way back to ideas we don’t want to forget. It’s also useful in language learning, where the practice of memorizing vocabulary itself helps you find information better in your mind.

Although it’s an indirect way to help you improve your focus and concentration, it uses spatial memory in a way that can heighten your awareness. 

If you’d like to learn more about it, check out my FREE Memory Improvement Course:

Free Memory Improvement Course


Within a short period of practice, you should find yourself experiencing some memory boosts that help you learn faster across the board.

But at the end of the day, nothing beats relaxing yourself, searching strategically and then committing to do better in the future.

So what do you say?

Are you ready to find things you’ve lost in a better way than ever before?

2 Responses to " How to Remember Where You Put Something (Once and For all) "

  1. Diana L Morgan says:

    Thank you I just read your article in many of them on memory I lost my social security card and I need it for a really important appointment so I can get back pay. And I’m very disorganized but it’s like secretly disorganized it looks like I’m organized the house is clean but when you open a drawer I’m not. I’m taking a small break and then I’m going to go in there and try again.thank you wish me luck

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