5/14/2021 | By Rachel Marsh

It happened again – you’ve set down your car keys (or your purse, or your wallet, or your phone) and you can’t find them anywhere. Sound familiar? It can be so difficult when trying to figure out how to remember where you have put something. If you mindlessly set it down and walked away, you often have no recollection of where it last went.

Is anything more frustrating?!

But, fear not! We’ve got tips on how to handle the dreaded “lost item” situation, and – even better – how to prevent it!

Keep Your Search Space as Intact as Possible

When you’re frustratedly in search of something important, it’s too easy and too tempting to ransack the area during your hunt. Hey – we’ve all done it. 

After all, you “just had it!”

But to help avoid offering more – sometimes deeper – spots for your missing item to hide, you’ll be more likely to find it faster if you keep everything in place. “Treat the room like a crime scene and try to move things as minimally as possible,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. in Psychology Today. “Be systematic. Don’t throw things around in a wild panic.”

She also recommends to really look. Especially if it’s a familiar room or space, we often become unintentionally blind to the area. Just like when you do a wordsearch or hunt for Waldo – don’t skim over the individual words or people at the park. Pay closer attention to every detail.

Retrace Your Steps – Slowly and Deliberately

Have you ever driven to a familiar destination and suddenly realized you had no memory of the trip itself? That your brain had switched into autopilot and you had zoned out throughout the entire drive?

When something is so routine, it’s common for our brains to “turn off” and prioritize its energy for things that require conscious thought. Which is often what happens when we lose something. 

If you really thought about that drive you just did, regardless of how monotonous and methodical, you’d likely remember snippets of the trip: the too-long red light you stopped at; the tailgater; the car wash sign on the corner.

The same thing applies when trying to think about how to remember where you put something.

Start from where you last had, for example, your keys. You got out of the car; you unlocked your front door; you set your bag down; and so on. Tap into “context-dependent memory” by putting yourself into the same frame of mind; recollect what you were thinking and feeling at the time.

Eventually, your brain will start to offer you snippets of details and, hopefully, an “aha” moment will surface. 

What do you know, those keys were in the door this whole time!

Prevention Strategies: Practice Mindfulness, and Put Everything in a Glass of Milk

But, like just about everything else in life, prevention is key when it comes to figuring out how to remember where you put something. Throughout your days, work on being more mindful of your actions – even routine, subconscious ones.

And when you do set things down – unloading your pockets after coming home, for example – don’t merely put the items on the counter or side table where you would normally and absentmindedly place them. Instead, make a conscious effort to picture yourself setting each individual item into a glass of milk.

“In your mind’s eye, drop your keys into a glass of milk onto the counter; watch the milk splash,” says Barry Reitmen, author of Secret, Tips, and Tricks of a Powerful Memory. “And when you’re about to look for your car keys … just say, where did my car keys splash that milk?”

Though a bit odd, this visual will give you a clearer, better memory of where you put these items. Nobody likes spilled milk, after all.

5 Easy Memory Tips for Locating Your Lost Items

How to Remember Where You Have Put Something Using Technology

But, of course, the magic of technology is here to help! There are so many new devices on the market to help prevent that dreaded “where did I put my…” syndrome.


This tiny tracking device comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it easy to attach it to whatever item (or items) you’re constantly losing. Add the Tile sticker to your remote control; slip the Tile slim into your wallet; attach the Tile keychain to your keyring.

The device connects to an app on your phone; so if you’ve lost whatever it’s attached to, simply alert the app and the Tile will ring until you’ve found it.

And yes – it works the other way around, too! Press your Tile and it will set off the app for easy phone-finding.

Click ‘n Dig

Similar to the Tile, you can attach a Click ‘n Dig tracker onto any commonly lost device: wallet, purse, keys, and so on. 

Unlike the Tile, however, you use the Click ‘n Dig remote to track down the lost item – no smartphone or apps necessary!

Don’t Panic: This Happens to Everyone!

It’s human nature to mindlessly misplace something – at any age. It doesn’t necessarily indicate a sign of aging, so don’t automatically assume you’re losing your memory (or your mind!).

Panic also leads to a heightened emotional response, which, of course, makes it harder to find what you’re looking for.

Take a deep breath, remain calm, and let the search begin.

Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh