“Do you lose things frequently?”

A friend was taking a psychological questionnaire with this question recently, and asked me if I lose things frequently too. My first reaction was to say no: I don’t often lose things, I’m the guy who has the things. I always have my keys and cell phone, and while my desk may have several (ahem, many) piles of paper, no, I don’t lose things, not me.

In our household, I am the Finder Of Lost Things. It feels like there’s some hidden household manual that says “If your MacGuffin is lost, the first step is ask Shane: ‘where is my MacGuffin?’” This is a little weird, since in some cases I don’t even know what this MacGuffin is, since it’s not mine and I’ve never seen it. But help find the MacGuffin I shall, and even if I don’t find it directly, my attempt at the task allows you to find the MacGuffin yourself.

For whatever reason, I’m good at finding things at home. And then I thought to myself, wait:

I do lose things — all the time. I’m just good at finding them again.

In hindsight the obvious, but at the time it was quite the revelation. I lose things all the time — that important letter from yesterday, the hammer I brought down to the basement to put away, the tea mug I just poured. I lose things. All. The. Time.

The process of finding lost things — I honestly have no idea where I put that hot tea down — is so instinctual that it’s often invisible to my conscious mind. Sure, I physically feel that I’m crisscrossing the house with my hand out reaching for my mug, but it’s just this little interlude of time and motion until suddenly, the mug is in my hand and all is right again. Now I can get back to coding or writing my new blog on Medium.

The automatic-ness of this search process was so unconscious that it took external intervention for me to understand it. My brain truly believes that I know where that tea mug is, even though that knowledge is not the physical location, but rather the steps I could take to put the mug back into my hand.

While at times this is frustrating — the process doesn’t always work, and sometimes takes long enough that I realize I’ve lost something and must go find it again — it’s quite a useful skill. It does not rely on knowledge of locations; I really don’t know where MacGuffin is. It’s the process of searching, knowing what size/shape/color object it is, and who most likely lost it, that is the important part.

I do have to wonder how much time I’ve unconsciously lost in finding things. If only I knew what shape or color time was, to find some more.

How To Find Your Lost Things

For those of you who also tend to lose things, here are a few tips for finding them again.

Have a landing spot. Keys/phone/wallet are things I do not lose, because I have painfully trained myself over a lifetime to always put them in the same exact place. My keys are in my pocket (right front, always), my car ignition, or in the key place. Never anyplace else. There is no allowable transition to anyplace besides those three places.

Alternately, if you do lose keys frequently: get a large iron keychain. When you lose them, turn on a powerful electromagnet. Click! Keys found. Hint: back up your data first.

Understand what you are looking for. Watching other people search for X is painful: they walk right past obvious places where the MacGuffin could be hiding. When you walk around — trying to imagine places where you might have gone — you can’t just look. You need to look. Not at just what’s there, but what might be behind there. If the MacGuffin is flat, look under piles. If the MacGuffin is small, look behind things and inside containers. If the MacGuffin is large, there are a whole host of places that you can skip looking (but don’t forget to look outside or in the car too).

If this still keeps happening, consider buying only very large, garishly colored MacGuffin’s — even if that offends your sensibility of colorizing classic movies.

Enlist household help. Asking friends and family for help is a dual-edged sword at times, but is generally helpful. People of different heights look in different places. Sometimes it turns out they took what you were looking for and put it elsewhere. Alternately, if you have pets, you can enlist their aid to help find your keys.

If you have a dog: Use a chew toy for a keychain. Be sure to fill with fresh treats regularly for best results.

If you have fish: This one’s obvious, isn’t it? They won’t mind the keys in the bowl. Just keep a towel handy.

If you have cats: this one depends on their mood. If they’re playful, great: they batted them under the couch. Otherwise, you’re screwed: what does a cat need with keys?

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.