How not to lose things | Sunday Observer

How not to lose things

20 December, 2020

For ‘tis a truth well known to most, That whatsoever thing is lost, We seek it, ere it comes to light, In every cranny but the right. - William Cowper

People lose everything from pens, keys, purses, spectacles, books, money, travelling bags, umbrellas, to even dentures. Hiran Percy Maxim in his book “A Genius in the Family” wrote about the lifetime losing streak of his father, Hiran Stevens Maxim, inventor of the first efficient machine gun. He insisted upon losing umbrellas, books, and drawings until he became desperate. When he came to his wits’ end, he pinned stickers on certain items: “This was lost by a damned fool named Hiran Stevens Maxim, who lives at 325 Union Street, Brooklyn.” He promised to give a suitable reward to anyone who found his lost items. He used the stickers on almost everything he had. However, his wife one day put her foot down and told him, “No more stickers!”

Hiran Stevens Maxim belongs to a rare breed of losers. However, you are unlikely to find anyone who has never lost anything. It does not mean that we are born losers. Psychologists who have paid attention to this strange phenomenon think that there are certain skills that can be developed to halt the habit of losing things.

The first step in not losing things is to remember where you keep your personal belongings at home or in office. Keep your pair of spectacles on your writing table every day. Some people keep it on the television or the refrigerator and later try to locate it. Wherever you happen to work keep all the items close to you. If you are a painter, keep your painting brushes, pencils and other related items in a box. When you keep them in different places you will find it difficult to find them later. As they say everything has a right place to live. For instance, those who keep their spectacles connected to a chain round their necks never lose them.

Be methodical

The bathroom is the place to keep your towels, toothbrushes and soap. Shoes, shoe polish and brushes should be close to the shoe rack. Some people, however, leave their shoes, brushes and socks in different places and try to find them in the morning. If you are methodical in putting things in the right place, even your family members will emulate the example.

If you are a scholar reading many books, newspapers, and magazines regularly, do not dump them on your table. Keep them separately. There are magazine racks for sale. Old newspapers should be bundled and kept in a particular place until they are disposed of.

I have seen heaps of newspapers lying in a disorderly manner in some houses. This is an ugly sight and it sends out a signal that you are a disorganised person. You can sell old newspapers and avoid cluttering your house with them. Use a holder to put your pens and pencils and a plastic container for loose change. Efficiency experts recommend keeping a small box for storage in each room. I use a big plastic container to put odds and ends such as nails, broken padlocks and pieces of wire which may be useful at times.

Most people cannot remember where they kept their car keys. This will not happen if you put them in a bowl on a table making it their place to live. Otherwise, every morning you will have to search for the car keys. People get irritated when they lose their car keys but they have to blame themselves for such events. When you start putting your car keys in a bowl it will soon become a habit.

Habituated things

Neal Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University psychologist points out that habituated things create a sense of presence that can linger after they are gone. Sometimes you will note that certain items you keep in particular places go missing. This can be avoided by making sure things are in place before you leave home. Some people have the habit of checking their briefcases before leaving home. This is a good practice to avoid unwanted losses.

There is a regular place for you to park your car in your office premises. However, if you happen to park your car at a shopping mall or an airport, you will not be able to locate it easily. Experts recommend an effective mnemonic device. Before you park your car find out whether there is an immovable object such as a tree, lamp post or a sign board. This will help you to locate your car easily.

One day, one of the editors with whom I worked for a long time left his car at the Galle Face Green and went for a stroll. When he returned after some time he saw two cars of the same model and colour. Then he tried to open the door using his key. At once a man came running and asked him what he was doing. The editor had forgotten the number of his car and had tried to open somebody else’s vehicle.

Retracing your footsteps

Some people have the habit of mentally retracing their steps to find a lost item. Sometimes retracing your footsteps will not work properly on such occasions. Tell your mind what you are looking for and ask for a clue. The ideal time to do this is just before you fall asleep. According to Harry P. Dunne, a psychologist and author of “To love and work”, although you may not know where you lost something, your subconscious knows it.

Many drivers misplace or lose their car keys. Therefore, if you are employing a driver, it is wise to keep a duplicate key with you all the time. You will find this a good practice when travelling to remote places. If your driver loses the car key, you will be in great trouble.

If you are a businessman, you will have a lot of cash, jewellery and other valuable documents. Keep them in a safe or a bank safe-deposit box which has become quite popular.

With all such precautions, you might lose some valuable items. As you know, lost items cannot be found easily and they cannot be duplicated. You have only to grin and bear the loss. You can draw some consolation from the Roman writer Publilius Syrus who wrote in the first century B.C.: “Whatever you can lose, you should reckon of no account.”

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