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Tips from a finder of lost objects

I am the finder of lost objects in our house. Whether it's a jar of mayonnaise or the car keys, I assist and locate the unfindable. It may seem like this is not on topic for successful aging but spending hours every week frantically searching for lost items could shorten your life. Frustration leads to anger, which leads to stress, which leads to cortisol increases.

A 2017 survey showed that Americans waste 2.5 days a year looking for lost items and 60% of the respondents had been late to work or school because of it. This Pixie survey calculated a cost of $2.7 billion/year to replace lost items. Some people lose something every day. This is a problem worth discussing.

“We don’t have any.”

“Yes, we do.”

“No, we don’t. I’m looking and it’s not here!”


“Oh, here it is.”

What do you call a person who loses things frequently? A chronic loser? No, that’s not right. I like the word "mislayer," because that’s often what occurred. Laying an object down wherever you happen to be is the most likely scenario. Not encoding the event is the next thing that happened. The science of memory tells us that we need to encode a memory before we can retrieve it.

5 Stages of the search for lost items:

1. Blame someone else.

2. Convince yourself that you put it right here or there.

3. Try to convince someone else that your memory is correct.

4. Look in places you have not been or already searched.

5. Give up and buy a replacement.

If this describes your life, I have a few suggestions to prepare, prevent and recover. They may seem like obvious steps, but people run around like headless chickens in a panic to locate things. Have you ever watched “The Amazing Race?” Be systematic.


  1. Have another set of keys, credit card, photo ID, or other essential item available.

  2. Back up everything in your phone or wallet.

  3. Get Tile or TrackR for your keys, wallet or other important items.

  4. Set up Find My Phone, Google Find My Device, or other apps and make sure they are configured correctly.


  1. Clean and organize your home, car, and work space. Cluttered areas are often the source of this problem.

  2. Designate the item’s place. Make a real effort to never put it anywhere else.

  3. Say it aloud. “I’m putting this Christmas gift in the coat closet.”

  4. Before you set something down, STOP and put it where it belongs.

  5. Do not tell yourself that you will remember where you put it.

  6. Do not hide it in a special place so it will be safe.

  7. If you must, write a note but put it in one place that never changes.

  8. Check the ground when you get out of the car.

  9. Always check pockets before laundering or placing in hamper.

  10. Take one second to encode where you’re putting an item and why it belongs there.


  1. Calm down.

  2. Do not blame the person who is helping you.

  3. Close your eyes and visualize where you last saw it.

  4. Look in obvious places, such as the object’s designated place.

  5. Consider the size, shape, and texture.

  6. Look under, behind, and above (for tall people)

  7. Don’t waste time looking in tidy places. According to a University of Aberdeen study, that's what people usually do.

  8. Clean up first, recommends author Gretchen Rubin.

  9. Systematically check every location you have ever seen this item before.

  10. Use your backup item and continue looking later.

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