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5 Brain Hacks to Help You Stop Misplacing Things
Woman looking up at the sky

5 Brain Hacks to Help You Stop Misplacing Things

I don’t know about you but I’ve got enough to remember in my day-to-day life without taking into account all the little things like:


  • Where I left my keys last night
  • Where I put my extra laptop travel charger the last time I used it
  • Or where I hid an important document which, I’m sure, was tossed into a random cabinet as soon as it had outlasted its use.

Good riddance, I must have thought at the time. Good lord, where art thou, I pronounce now in my time of need.

Whether it’s tomorrow’s work, what you’re going to get for dinner tonight, your kid’s project due this Thursday, or an array of far more important and immediately pressing things, our mind is often maxed out with that which we must remember now or risk some catastrophic misstep.

Well, maybe it’s not catastrophic but it sure feels that way at the time.

Despite the inevitability of losing things then, it’s no less frustrating when it happens.

Unfortunately, you’re not Superman and you don’t have X-ray vision (dang). However, there are mental hacks you can use to help you stop losing things for good and rid yourself of those frustrating moments of mental malaise.

I lose things all the time. I once left my mother's ashes at a bus stop!

– Katy Manning

Here are five mental hacks to help you stop losing things.

1. Be mindful when placing things down or putting them away


Being more mindful in general is one of the best ways to stop losing things. Without elaborating too extensively, suffice it to say that mindfulness is the art of paying attention and, need to pay more attention if you’re losing things often.

However, it goes beyond that. Experts say that encoding -- the practice of concentrating on something so that it becomes more concretely etched in your mind -- is the best way to keep from losing things.

To do that, whenever you place something down, note mindfully where you’ve set it to yourself (“I’ve placed my keys on the center divider.”) and reflect on that for a moment. Doing so will “encode” a small memory which is much more reliable than your inherent memory is.

2. Use verbal phrasing

Similarly, you can use verbal phrasing to create a more defined memory of where you placed the item. Think of it as placing a kind of bookmark in your mind.

To make this most effective, create a very simple but easily memorized phrase that will help you remember where the item is and say it a few times out loud or to yourself, such as “Keys on divider” or “Social in the left desk”.

3. Set a designated place for each item you typically lose track of

The first two points had everything to do with using your own mental tools to enhance your ability to remember where you’ve placed things. This next point has everything to do with adjusting your outside environment to do just the same.

Whether it’s your keys, extra phone charger, or something else, decide on a designated area for each of the items you tend to forget and try to only ever place that particular item in that corresponding designated area. That way, if you ever do misplace it you’ll have a reference point to track it.

Clearly, this is easier said than done. But in exchange for not losing your keys once a week? I’ll take it.

4. Use emotional memory


Another useful trick you can use is emotional memory.

Memory, it turns out, is closely linked to our emotional response during the time of said experience. That means the more emotional an event is the more likely you are to remember it.

You can use this to your advantage by generating a little bit of excitement when you’re placing the item down. Do this the first few times to create a more powerful memory of it or just once if it’s a unique case where you need to place something down somewhere you aren’t used to (or other than where you typically put it).

5. Recall meditatively

Recalling where you lost something is the first step everyone takes when they misplace something. That’s because it is, generally, the most effective. However, it obviously doesn’t always work otherwise we wouldn’t be talking.

But you can take that and improve upon it by recalling meditatively. To do that, take a moment to sit down to yourself quietly and allow yourself to enter a deeper and more meditative state before recalling where you left the item.

This will allow you to visualize better and more clearly than if you were rushing around, frantic attempting to recall while at the same time lifting cushions and brushing aside piles of documents.

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