The 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:
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:
- 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.
How to Find Lost Items
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Kit:
Within a short period of practice, you should find yourself experiencing some memory boosts 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?