By Britt Parrott

Having spent a good part of my life living with people who tend to misplace things, I’ve noticed a general tendency whenever such an event occurs. Panic immediately set in. A person who has misplaced something panics in accordance with the importance of the item misplaced.

Here’s an example based in part on a true story: A friend calls asking if I’d like to go on a hike. I agree and he picks me up. We arrive at the parking area near the trail head, and we fling open the doors and trunk. We change shoes, stow valuables in the trunk, swap coats for rain jackets, grab backpacks, etc. When we’re ready, we close up the car and start hiking.

Along the hike, we pass an abandoned well. My friend pulls out some pocket change and we toss some dimes and nickels to the barely visible water below. OK, that part I made up, but stay with me.

We return to the car after a couple hours hiking. My friend is frantically patting himself down. He can’t find the keys! He freezes in his tracks and looks at me with wide eyes. “I must have dropped them in the well!” he says.

This is where I intervene. Once that panic sets in, a person who has misplaced something tends to lose it and instantly thinks of the worst possible place that lost item could be.

I calm my friend down and begin searching in the most obvious places first. We check pockets, slowly and deliberately, look in all backpack compartments, scan the car and the ground around the car. We continue this until we find the keys, which aren’t in the bottom of the well. Had my friend been alone, he would have climbed down into the bottom of that well and spent hours looking for keys that were still sticking out of the trunk lock.

One other detrimental habit of people who tend to misplace objects is that when they do start searching, they tend to base their searching technique on those they have seen on popular TV cop dramas. That is, they create a huge mess as they scatter papers, clothes, and drawer contents all over the house looking for their lost item. Not only do they create a mess, but they most likely lose something else in the process.

If you do misplace something, let the panic subside before starting your search. Start with the most obvious places first, even if you’re sure the item can’t be there. I’m amazed how often it is in the most obvious place. Second, make your search slow and deliberate. Keep places you’ve searched organized. It will likely increase your chances of finding your lost item, but even if it doesn’t, at least there won’t be an additional trail of destruction left behind.

Author Bio: Britt Parrott is the communications manager for an engineering firm in Portland, Oregon, by day and a screenwriter by night. He posts most of his nonsense at Perhapses.

7 Comments on When you misplace something, don’t lose it

  1. Silvia says:

    That’s exactly what I do since a friend once told me to calm down. Recently, it happened a curious situation. I could not find a paper although I was sure I have it in the proper place. After some nervous movements, I called my mother and asked her to help me. What should I do, she asked me. I answered, just stay here. I did the research again and it was exactly where it should be. I missed it while fumbling many times before. I thanked her a lot although she couldn’t guess why!

  2. mark says:

    I usually misplace things when i’m in a hurry. When you misplace something you kind of panic, but if you are going to be late as well the panic can get intensified.
    So what i do is make a pile of things i need by my front door, or if one one my shoes mysteriously vanishes i put the one i’ve found on so that i don’t get confused and panic even more!
    Does anyone else do that or is it just me?

  3. Glen says:

    ‘Oh my God I’ve lost it’ panic is the worst kind, because as you say, it actually prevents you from finding what you think you have lost. Generally I am OK with this except:

    I lost my passport 6 hours before I was due to go on holiday (i found it after a friend drove me to my girlfirends house and I found it in a CD rack(?))

    I’m in a shop about to pay, give my back, right pocket a tap and no wallet. Instant panic – later I find it in my coat pocket where I knew I had left it but the lost item mist clouded my thoughts. (happens about twice a week)

    Was going to my girlfriends cousins wedding. Stayed overnight in London, awoke with moments to spare to get to the wedding in the morning. Opened bag – had only packed one shoe. I did actually do the TV style search where you throw everything all over the place. I had to by new shoes on the way.

    With the exception of the above, I am as good as anyone you are likely to find when it comes to finding lost stuff.

  4. Of course, it’s best to avoid misplacing things in the first place by always keeping things in a set place. Develop the habit of putting things where they belong. I always know my keys are in a particular pocket of my purse, no matter what. I always leave my shoes in the same spot (including the slip-on shoes I wear to go down to the basement, which are not surprisingly kept next to the door going to the basement). You lose things much less frequently this way.

    Of course, it still does happen occasionally. :)

  5. Jan Korbel says:

    But after that hard panic work and searching everywhere else except the obvious place, isn’t it BEAUTIFUL to find it… sometimes the relief is worth the stress :)

  6. Thanks for sharing those stories.

    I have misplaced my daughter before (with her help, of course). Talk about panic!

  7. Lost your keys? Don’t panic

    Britt Parrott has posted a story about how quickly a mood of panic (anxiety) can lead us in the wrong direction, and all from simply misplacing one’s keys….

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