I need to stop losing stuff. But how?
October 18, 2007 11:28 PM   Subscribe

I need to stop losing stuff. But how?

When I am on the train, in a public building like a library or even in a park, I may incidentally leave behind an item of mine to never see it again.

The worst incidents happened on the train as a hat, gloves, cell phone, or wallet that I had put on the seat next to me or on my lap did not make it out of the train with me.

(I would take gloves and hat off because it was hot, but have nowhere to put them. I would hold the wallet on my lap cause I took out some card from it and forgot to put it back in my pocket.)

Now, recently, I have decided to always have the wallet and cell phone in my pocket so that I wouldn't have the chance to lose them. But my PDA/Palm Pocket PC was always in my hands cause I was writing or reading it. To my dismay, I didn't take it with me as I left the train. I probably laid it down by my side and forget to check whether I put it back in my backpack as I exited the train.

Now, what should I do in the future to make sure that I don't lose a PDA (or anything else in my hands like hat, gloves) in a public place. I really need some tips to feel like I am gonna manage to keep my stuff, otherwise I'll be pretty nervous about carrying PDAs and/or other expensive things.

(It takes only one forgetful moment every 6 months or so, or every year to lose an important item. But how to prevent it?)
posted by gregb1007 to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You need a bag.

Not a purse, but something to to fit your needs - for me, its my laptop bag, as I have to take it pretty much everywhere I need to go for work. If you're not carrying a laptop, you can go with a smaller, lighter bag, say something big enough to carry a book or two, maybe a magazine as well.

This bag should have enough spare pockets for each of your key items - PDA, cell, gloves, etc.. I keep my cell in my pants pocket and wallet in the other pants pocket, but everything else (headphones, eyeglasses case, business cards case, pda, etc.) has its designated spot in the bag.

Its like the old mantra: a place for everything and everything in its place. I just think that through quickly before I leave the house, before I get out of my seat on the train / airplane / etc..

The key is this: don't check for the items themselves - this is what you've been failing at all along. Instead, check the designated spots that the items should be in (pockets in the bag, pockets in your pants/jacket, etc.). Make sure none of them are empty. Did I put everything back where it belongs? Ok, now I can go.

Its not easy and you'll still lose things, but hopefully less frequently. For me I find the stuff I lose now is the "extras" that I pick up along the way that didn't have a designated spot in the bag (e.g. the duty free goodies I picked up in the airport last time I was flying - didn't notice them when pulling my bag out of the overhead upon leaving the plane).
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:36 PM on October 18, 2007

Instead, check the designated spots that the items should be in (pockets in the bag, pockets in your pants/jacket, etc.).

Bingo. I now habitually touch each of my pockets. If you do it every time you leave somewhere (home, work, the train) then you'll notice when something's missing. It might take you a second or two to work out what it is, but it should prompt you to check the seat next to you to make sure you haven't left something there.
posted by robcorr at 11:39 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll second the idea of having a bag with a specific pocket for every item. When I'm using my shoulder-bag (which is almost all the time) my wallet goes in one poocket, my ipod in another, my keys in yet another and my phone in a phone-pouch clipped to the strap. Every time I get up, move from one place to another, put the bag on or take it off, and often when I'm just walking I'll pat all of the pockets to make sure that they're full. Also, when I'm on a train or a subway or in a restaurant I never treat the table or the seat next to me or anything other than my bag as my personal space. That way I never end up taking things out and putting down next to me to be forgotten about instead of right back in my bag where they belong.
posted by thecjm at 11:57 PM on October 18, 2007

I almost never lose anything but umbrellas, and those, all the time. Here's why: It's my long-ingrained habit to look back at any spot I'm leaving to see if I've left or dropped anything... but umbrellas, when they've been used, are wet, and usually end up somewhere out of the way, so as not to drip on the floor of whatever establishment I'm in... if it's not raining when I leave, bye-bye, umbrella. Thank goodness they aren't as expensive as palm pilots!

Get a bag, put things away instead of setting them down beside you... but most of all, do the look-back. Everywhere. Leaving the grocery checkout? Look back. Finished at the library? Look back. ALB. Always Look Back. Getting out of bed? Look back.

okay, not so much on the last one, but ... you never know, :)
posted by taz at 12:15 AM on October 19, 2007

I pretty much just make a ritual out of packing and unpacking my bag. Things don't always have a certain pocket, but they have a certain order that they go in.

For instance, if I'm packing my big backpack: jacket, bottled water, meds, wallet, iPod, lunch. When you do it in the same order everyday, you really notice when you miss something.

Same thing for my morning ritual. Brushing my teeth, cleaning my face, wetting and styling my hair, then pants, shirt, then shoes. Then I proceed with the previously mentioned packing of my backpack.

I feel really "off" when I do things out of order. But when I do them in that order, I almost never forget anything.
posted by Zarya at 2:03 AM on October 19, 2007

I almost never lose stuff. The reason is because I am very conscious of my ability to lose stuff. If I put my wallet on the seat next to me, I immediately think "wow, that looks like an accident waiting to happen, better put it back in my pocket right away."
posted by grouse at 2:04 AM on October 19, 2007

I don't lose things now that they are all connected together. I.e. keys are connected via beaner to the purse (or wallet, or whatever). Cell phone is in a zippered pouch. Gloves have connections to the jacket.

It's harder to lose things when you need to use something in the bunch every few minutes. The bigger the bunch, the faster you notice if it's gone.
posted by nat at 2:17 AM on October 19, 2007

In addition to not losing stuff, hop on your computer, play with Word or some fancier graphics software, and make a label with some contact details. Print out a bazillion of these at various sizes, and put them on your PDAs, umbrellas, and other things. So when you do lose them, if someone were inclined to email you (or whatever) and let you know where to retrieve it, they can.

You're probably thinking "What? Name tags? Like what mom used to sew in my underwear?!".
Instead think of Ex Libris, or personal insignia, or monograms. Stylish customisation of your property that just happens to also include just enough info to facilitate any good Samaritans (but not enough to enable stalkers, if that sort of thing is a concern)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:40 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I never lose things, and it's not because I have a great memory or fancy system or something, but just because I keep all my shit in one big messy bag. Cards, books, papers, notebook, pens, pencils, hat, gloves, keys. All the loose stuff I carry about is always in one place. I may have to hunt for something in the bag, but I know it's in there somewhere.

Dig something out of the bag, use it, and then throw it back in the bag. On the train, keep one thing in your hands and the rest in the bag; never put stuff on the seat next to you or on the storage shelves above the seat. At the cafe, put what you need on the clean tabletop or counter in front of you where you can see it all at once and dump it all into the bag again in five seconds.
posted by pracowity at 2:44 AM on October 19, 2007

As to not losing things, I got in the habit of dominoing things - I rest the handle of my umbrella on my bag, so I can't take the bag without the umbrella clattering down and drawing my attention. I stick a toe through one of the bag straps (the bag is resting on the floor) so I can't stand up without the bag reminding me it's there.

I just make sure that everything I put down has some kind of Rube-Goldberg chain of connection with something else, with me at the centre of the web.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:48 AM on October 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

The way to keep from unintentionally leaving/losing things is to be intentional about not doing it. Sounds obvious, I know. I tend to be a little scatterbrained (moreso now that I'm pregnant) and I have had to learn to keep track of my possessions. When I handle something important, something I definitely do not want to lose, I handle it with that importance. I wouldn't set $150 on the seat next to me so I won't do it with my iPod. If I'm not using it, back into the purse/bag it goes. It may be a little extra work to put it in/take it out if it's just for a minute, but because I've decided it's a valuable item, it's worth it to me. Gadgets have become so ubiquitous that it's easy to take them for granted. Keeping their true value (especially if it contains your life, like a PDA does) at the forefront of your mind will help you be more mindful of how you handle them.
posted by wallaby at 3:45 AM on October 19, 2007

I think "consciously putting stuff in your pockets/bag" is doing it backwards. You don't want to check you've "got everything" - because as you say, you forget to include some stuff in your mental category of "everything" - you just want to check you haven't left anything behind.

So whenever I leave anywhere I've been doing anything (a train, a bench, a cafe, whatever) I pack up like normal, and then spend 10 seconds checking there's nothing left behind - on my chair, the chair next to me, under the table, on the table, etc etc. I look slightly weird ducking around checking out the situation from every available angle, but it seems to work... most of the time :-)
posted by so_necessary at 4:10 AM on October 19, 2007

Finally, your way out get in the habit of doing a quick scan of where you were just sitting.

This is the major trick I employ, and I've never left behind a purse, wallet, umbrella, etc. It's really about being mindful of your surroundings. If you're a good driver, you always know what vehicles are around you in the other lanes, so you'll know what to do if a deer jumps out into the road. Likewise, if you're sitting on a train, you have your belongings in your radar. Bag hanging from hook, book on seat to your left, wet umbrella on floor. I'm sure you're aware of the woman sitting to your right, so you won't inadvertently put one of your belongings in her lap. Just be as mindful of your stuff as you are of the people around you. There are only so many things to look at on the train (I'm using this train example, but this really applies to anywhere that you're sitting), so keeping these things in your "sights" would be only a matter of minor training. But even if that fails, when you stand up, do a 360 scan and see what's there.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:37 AM on October 19, 2007

Finally, your way out get in the habit of doing a quick scan of where you were just sitting.

Seconded. I actually learned to mutter "I am leaving now" to myself -- okay I don't move my lips much, but still -- which seems to trigger the "scan for what you left behind" response.

You may have better luck with "this is my stop" or "this is where I get off" if the problem is train-specific.
posted by rokusan at 6:17 AM on October 19, 2007

I'll tell you how I address this in myself. I am a creature of habit. I turn off my car, take out my keys, get out of the car. IF I linger in the car, I leave the keys, always. I try to put stuff in the same place, but if I don't put it where it goes, I have NO IDEA WHERE IT WENT. So, because of this, I advise AGAINST assigned pockets, because as soon as it's NOT there, you're confused and, if you're like me, you'll probably lose something else as you rip through everything trying to figure out how your scheme went wrong. So I do this:

I look at stuff. No, really. Cell phone comes out of my pocket, I LOOK AT IT, and watch myself set it down. Keys, same. Socks, same. Backpack, same. Any time I move something, I physically LOOK at it. Especially car keys. Looking at it makes me actually process what I'm doing, so that later I can say "Keys....right...I set them down under the caraffe next to the sugar cannister".

Works for me, but it looks sort of stupid as I hold stuff to my face, lol.
posted by TomMelee at 7:58 AM on October 19, 2007

I'm not much of a loser which may be because of the methods I use. When I put something down, I try to always put in in the same place in relation to me, so that I only have to look one place for it. It's kind of pattern recognition...when I get up to leave I look for certain patterns in my stuff and note any difference which reminds me to check further. Hard to explain. Get into the habit of always putting your PDA in the same spot on the table in relation to you (like always at 10 o' clock) and then you will notice it when you do your scan.

A more practical thing is what I do with stuff that I don't carry everyday, like an umbrella. If I sit down at a restaurant or in a taxi, I lean my umbrella on something that will move when I get up to leave...like against my chair or my bag. That way, even if I don't see it or think of it, at least it will fall and that will remind me to take it. I try not to hang it on the chair or stow it away where it won't grab my attention.

One more little trick is to take care of it when you think of it. For example, if you suddenly think "I can't forget my PDA!" deal with it then...pop it into your bag or pocket right then...don't say "oh yeah, I'll remember to do that when I leave". If you can't put it away then, at least do something with it, like put it in your lap or on top of your bag, but do listen to your brain...it's doing you a huge favor!
posted by kenzi23 at 11:55 AM on October 19, 2007

I feel your pain. I've been scatterbrained since birth. The winter I was 10, I lost seven winter coats. How did I not notice I was cold on the way home? No idea.

I have just trained myself to repeat the "phone, keys, money, fags" mantra at the front door and whenever I'm getting off anything or leaving anywhere. I actually physically pat myself down when I leave my office because I am CONSTANTLY leaving my mobile behind.

After the year of 3 mobiles, 4 wallets and 3 passports, I really got strict and serious about the mantra and it has really, really helped.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:12 PM on October 19, 2007

Yeah, visual scan when you get up (just a glance down is good enough for me) and pat you pockets in case something has fallen out. I always put a wallet straight back in my pocket when I've finished using it. And a I carry everything around in bag.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:42 PM on October 20, 2007

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