Find Things You Lost

Losing something can be a frustrating inconvenience or even a devastation. Whether you've lost your parking pass or your grandmother's necklace, there are a few tricks that can help you find the lost object quickly and as painlessly as possible. To find things you lost, retrace your steps to determine where you may have lost the item, then perform a thorough search at each point, enlisting the help of others as needed or available. After you've found the item in question, take some precautions to stay organized and avoid losing it again.


Reflecting on the Loss

  1. Try to remember the last time you had the item. Before you begin your search, think about the last time you had the item -- whether it was your phone, your glasses, or one of your precious earrings. Close your eyes and try to think about the last time it was with you, or what you were doing when it was last in your possession. Here are some tricks for remembering the last time you had it:
    • Be logical. If it was a practical item like a phone or pair of glasses, think of the last call you made or the last time you wore your glasses.
    • Ask your friends. If you lost a piece of jewelry or a favorite scarf and were hanging out with your friends earlier that day, ask your friends if they remembered you wearing that item.
    • If you're lucky enough to have lost something during an occasion when you were taking lots of pictures, then search through your photos to see if you can spot when you no longer had the item.
    • If you absolutely can't remember the last time you had it that day, or even that month, then it'll be harder to find it, but not impossible.
  2. Think of everywhere you went since you lost the item. Once you have a rough idea of when you lost it, make a list of all the places you went since you lost it. If you were hanging out at home, then it's easy. If you ran errands all over town, then it's trickier. Wherever you went, write down all of the locations.
  3. Get in the right mental space. Before you start looking for the item, you should get in the right head space for finding the item. There are two main things you can do mentally to improve your chances of finding the item:
    • Try to get in the mindset you had when you lost the item. Maybe you lost your graphing calculator after your big exam. Try to remember what thoughts were going through your head during the exam, and maybe the free association will help you remember that you left the calculator in your locker or loaned it to a friend.
    • Be positive and relaxed. If you're in a frenzy because you can't find the item, then you won't be able to focus or take your time in finding it.

Searching for the Item

  1. Search yourself and your close belongings. The most obvious places are often overlooked. Though you may not think your precious object is that close to you, you should first search your clothes, your pockets, and your wallet to make sure the item isn't there. Once that's been established, look through your backpack, your bag, or your purse, or any other bag you were carrying.
    • Don't just search through your bag or purse -- empty the contents onto the floor and search through them.
    • Your car is also a prime target for lost things. Look through your car, especially under the seats.
    • If you're in school, check your school locker.
    • If you lost a small piece of jewelry, consider finding a bathroom or private space and undressing. Maybe your stud earring or ring got caught on your clothes. If you have long hair, turn your head upside down and shake it out.
  2. Retrace your steps. Work backwards to do every single thing you did after you lost the item. If you lost the item the night before, you can visit any bars and restaurants where you lost the item. You can call them yourself for confirmation, but you should also step inside to see if you can find it yourself.
    • Walk down every single street or path that you took before you lost the item. This will be time-consuming, but worth it.
  3. Ask for help. Your work will be much easier if you don't have to do it alone. Not only will asking friends for help make the search more fun, but a friend may have a fresh insight into where you put your lost item. Here's how you can ask for help:
    • Call a close friend and ask her to help you search. Maybe she can retrace a different part of your steps to save time, if she knows exactly where to go.
    • Send an email to your friends and coworkers, asking if they've seen your missing item and when they last saw you with the lost item.
    • If the item is very valuable, put up a notice with a picture of the item in several locations, and even offer a reward.
  4. Look everywhere. Once you've retraced your steps and found nothing, it's time to look absolutely everywhere for the item. Turn your car, room, and closet upside-down if you have to. Start searching through the predictable places, like under your bed and couch and in the pockets of your coats, and turn to the less predictable places.
    • Lift up your couch cushions to see if the item is there.
    • Look through any important folders or paperwork you go through daily.
    • See if it fell behind your bed, desk, or dresser.
    • Search your friends' cars and homes as well if you think you may have lost it there -- as long as you have their permission.
  5. Clean. If you're pretty sure the item is in your home but have looked absolutely everywhere but can't find it, take a break from searching and start cleaning your personal space, from getting rid of all waste to cleaning the surfaces of your furniture and putting all of your things back in their places. You can clean out your locker or car as well if there's a chance the item may be there.
    • You'll be surprised by how often you'll be able to find something just by cleaning.
  6. Take a break. If you're getting frustrated and starting to tear your hair out because you're still searching for the long-lost item, it may be time to take a break. Stop looking for a few hours or a day, and you may suddenly realize where the item is or may stumble upon it when you least expect it.
    • If you really need the item and a few days have passed, it may be time to replace it.

Preventing Future Loss

  1. Be organized. The easiest way to prevent future loss is to be an organized and put-together person instead of the kind of person who is always scrambling to do things at the last minute. An organized person knows where his things are at any given time. Here's how to be more organized:
    • Organize all aspects of your life, from where you store files on your computer to where you keep clothes in your closet.
    • Take five minutes at the end of every day to put things in their places. The time you spend doing this will add up and will make you much more organized.
    • Get rid of any mess or clutter that you don't need. You should only stick with the things that you can put away and use.
  2. Check that you have everything routinely. Whether you're hanging out or on your way to the airport, make a list of the five most important things you have, and look through your things to make sure you have everything on that list a few times a day or at important points, like before you board a plane or train or go to school.
    • Don't do this obsessively. Just checking a few times a day can help you prevent loss.
  3. Don't rush. You won't lose things nearly as often if you're not always late, rushing around, or struggling to find something to wear. Give yourself more than enough time to get anywhere in a timely fashion, and do a quick scan of your belongings before you head out instead of sorting through your things in the middle of a hectic activity.
    • If you don't rush, you'll feel more relaxed and in control of yourself and your things, and therefore less likely to lose anything.
  4. If you're sitting down and you get up to leave, look back and check to see that you didn't accidentally leave anything behind. This is very helpful if you carry a lot of stuff on hand and put it down when you have the chance.


  • Always double-check places to be sure you didn't overlook anything.
  • Do not get frustrated or angry, for this will make you lose your concentration; it won't help you find what you're looking for.
  • Try not to give up if you can't find an item in the first five minutes; persist in searching and you might find a lost item you weren't even looking for!
  • Use a flashlight to focus your search. Eyes naturally pattern-scan the environment, so it is easy to miss something that is "in plain sight". Methodically scan the room from bottom to top, using the flashlight beam to focus your search. Look only within the beam.
    Note: Detectives do not use the flashlight to see better, they use the flashlight to focus attention on all details.
  • Sometimes, lost things are not in the most common areas, so look in out-of-the-way places: in a cupboard, in the freezer, under a package.
  • Retrace your steps and always take breaks so you don't get too stressed out!
  • Ask friends, family or even co-workers if they have seen the item you have lost.
  • Double check areas where you think you lost the thing you are looking for.
  • Look places that you don't often look at, like under the couch, bed, pillows etc. You must examine the location very thoroughly, if not you might miss some spots.
  • If you can't find it after a while, just take a break because you might find it when you are not looking.
  • Take deep breaths. Close your eyes and remember where you saw it the last time.
  • If you can not find it after a while, take a break. Sometimes you will find it if you simply relax.
  • Check in the most innocent places where you may have carelessly left the thing. It just might turn up!
  • If you are too stressed out and can't find the thing you are looking for just relax and go about life as usual. It will turn up.
  • Retrace your steps.

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