By: Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF
Believe it or not, Friday December 12th is actually “Official Lost & Found Day,” according to various sources, including www.daysoftheyear.com. This topic seemed quite apropo for us at St. Anne’s; neither our residents, our staff, nor the visitors who frequently come here, are immune to this common human plight: that of losing items. We can only hope and pray that these things are found quickly and in one piece. Our reception desk here is a frequent “lost and found” site for items to be turned in.
Before I go on to share research on effective ways to find our missing articles, might I share a personal favorite method to start with: asking St. Anthony. In 5th grade CCD (Religious Education class), our instructor taught us a little prayer: “Dear St. Anthony, please come around, for something’s lost and can’t be found.” Though it’s not necessarily scientifically proven, I have found that this method often offers immediate success. The story of how St. Anthony became the patron of lost items is an interesting one, but that would be a topic for another article.
Other practical tips for finding lost items:
- Take several slow, deep breaths
- Look in plain sight first. Check your immediate surroundings and places you were recently. Look in the obvious spots. Survey the room or rooms where the item might be. Don’t go into depth, searching under piles of clothes and inside pants pockets. Instead, just look around to see if the item is in plain sight.
- Be systematic. Scan the room from left to right. Look over every corner, searching for places you haven’t checked yet, until you’ve covered the entire room. Your brain isn’t used to it, so it should pick the object up more quickly!
- Recall where you have been. Think about where you last where and call to mind possibilities of what could have happed to the object there (e.g., you could have set it down, it could have been bumped off a ledge, etc.)
- Don’t forget to look for the missing object where it’s supposed to be, or where it can usually be found. Sometimes things are just where you left them.
- Blank out your mind: Slow down those racing thoughts by giving them nowhere to run. If you can clear your mind, you can calm down to focus on the job at hand. Look slowly and carefully where the object should be: How many times have you smacked your forehead after a crisis after finding an object in its normal location after not seeing it there before? That’s one of the dangers of panic: the temporary suspension of certain mental functions. The “fight or flight” instinct controlled by the “lizard brain” is very powerful for evading predators (or incapacitating them, for that matter) but it has a powerful ability to blind you by impairing higher brain functions that human beings have developed over the ages. If you force yourself to slow down and work methodically, you can get control back from the “lizard”.
- Look slowly and carefully where the object probably shouldn’t be, but could be
- Once you’ve exhausted the normal places where the object should be, try moving on to less likely locations. Maybe you left the object near a door, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, etc. when you were interrupted in doing something else. In other words, check in high traffic areas or near areas where the object should be.
- Check on yourself. It is possible to forget that your glasses are already hanging around your neck or perched on your head. Check these obvious spots once more even if you’re sure you already did. •Don’t forget to check your pockets while you’re at it, even empty them out to make sure. Check the pockets of any jackets or coats you’ve worn lately, too. If you have carried a backpack, bag, or purse lately, make sure to get all the way to the bottom.
- Think back to the last time and place you used the missing object. Retracing your steps may lead to the object.
- Think about how and when an item is used in order to locate it. Consider the item’s characteristics. The nature of certain items makes them easier or more difficult to locate. For example, if you often use something in the winter, try checking the pockets of your winter jackets.
- Search your car. For many people, the last place they were was in their car. Look in all the nooks and crannies.
- Ask others to help you look for it. Enlisting the help of others will often enhance your chances of spotting the lost item.
- Check everything again and again. Even if you have searched your room for your keys three times, check again. It is not rare to find something in the very place you thought you had already searched thoroughly. In fact, writing off a tucked away spot because it is “impossible” and you “looked there already” is often how items stay lost!
- Remember the camouflage effect. Your object may be right where you recall having had it, or where it’s usually kept, but it has become covered up. Check beneath anything that might have been inadvertently placed on top of the object and be hiding it from view.
- Look once, look well. Don’t keep going back to check a particular site, no matter how promising. If it wasn’t there the first time, it won’t be there the second (assuming, of course, that your initial check was meticulous).
- Clean your surroundings. Try doing a rigorous tidy-up of your room, house, apartment, dorm room, car, book bag, backpack, purse, or whatever area you have likely lost your item. Just cleaning up may very well reveal the whereabouts of your lost item. •Try not to make a mess or you’ll have a harder time finding what you lost. Instead, be systematic, and use the opportunity to tidy up as you go.
- Give it time. Sometimes an item will surface in time. Your sister finds it while vacuuming in an oddball spot you never would thought of, for instance. Unless it is something which can cause serious problems (like credit cards, cell phones, checkbooks, I.D.), sometimes just waiting pays off.
- If you’re in a hurry trying to look for the object missing, just slow down take a deep, breathe and process your thoughts. Slow and steady wins the race, look from room to room, and don’t go crazy trying to rush. (Things will usually “show up” when you’re not looking for them, so just relax).
- Write your name on your items.
One way to prevent all this fuss and commotion is to improve your memory. The Mayo Clinic offers seven tips:
1. Stay mentally active
2. Socialize regularly
3. Get organized
4. Sleep well
5. Eat a healthy diet
6. Include physical activity in your daily routine
7. Manage chronic conditions