If You Can't Find a Lost Object, Clean Up


A resolution that I often follow, and that has been surprisingly useful, is "If I can't find something, clean up."

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This is true figuratively, as well as literally, but here I'm talking about the literal meaning of the resolution.

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.

Before I hit on this resolution, I often made my apartment messier during a search. For some reason, my search felt more thorough if I was moving things out of their places. Not so!

Also, even if I can't find what I'm looking for, my apartment is somewhat tidier, so that's a bonus.

As I'm tidying, I focus my efforts in the area where I last saw the object or where the object is supposed to be kept.

I got this tip from my friend Samantha Ettus. Her book The Experts' Guide to Doing Things Faster: 100 Ways to Make Life More Efficient includes a section by lost-objects expert Michael Solomon, who reports that most objects are right in the vicinity of where they're supposed to be, or where you last remember seeing them. This sounds so obvious as to be laughable, but somehow it's very helpful advice. Repeatedly I've found that after turning the apartment upside down looking for something, I eventually find it more or less where I originally thought it should be–but somehow I missed seeing it.

Finding lost objects is such a small aspect of life, but it can drive you crazy. One study estimated that the average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for things they can't find.

And, as Samuel Johnson observed, "It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible."

How about you? Have you found any good strategies for finding things that are misplaced?

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