Monday, September 23, 2013

Strategies for Finding Lost Things: Phones, Keys, Etc.

Sombrero from

Let's say you weren't able to avoid losing your phone, your keys, or whatever. How do you go about finding your lost item?

The most comprehensive advice, involving 12 principles, comes from Professor Solomon. You can read his 12 principles online — and for even more information, you can get his free ebook. Here's an example of his advice, from Principle Seven:
Don’t be fooled. Your object may be right where you thought it was—but it has become hidden from view. Be sure to check under anything that could be covering your object, having inadvertently been placed on top of it.

I call this the Camouflage Effect. Among the most common offenders are newspapers and sombreros.
Gretchen Rubin explains a strategy that works for her:
Over and over, I’ve found, if I can’t find something, I just start tidying up. Almost inevitably, the lost thing turns up, even when I’m convinced that tidying won’t make any difference in the search process.

Maybe I engage more actively with my surroundings, maybe my vision is sharper — I’m not sure why.
Finally, Susan Krauss Whitbourne writes in Psychology Today about why we lose things, and also provides advice on finding them:
Instead of panicking, sit down and think. Reconstruct the series of steps you followed when you put the item down. Remind yourself of what you were thinking and feeling. Context-dependent memory, in which you put yourself in the same frame of mind, is your best friend right now. You need to reconstruct the entire scenario mentally, walking through it like a crime scene. Eventually little details will float to the surface of your memory and you will have that wonderful "aha" moment when you remember exactly where you put it.
There are gadgets that can help you find lost items, too — but that's the next post in this series.


Anonymous said...

My trick is to visualize the item and say to myself 'ok, my phone is black, and thin, and square with silver edges' and so on. Just describing the appearance of the item to myself, often helps, because sometimes my eyes passed right over the 'lost' object, but yet I didn't 'see' it.

JustGail said...

Sometimes if I drop something on the floor, it helps to hold my head sideways while I'm down there.

Also - go buy a new one. Keep the receipt because you will find the old item right where you are putting its replacement.

And I know some people rely on invoking St. Anthony's aid.

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous and JustGail: Thanks for the wonderful additions to my post! You both have great ideas; thanks for sharing them!