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Lost and Found

“Gee, I wonder where that hairbrush/peeler/car key will eventually turn up.” And they all do, turn up, that is, just not where I’d expect them….


It’s uncanny how I’ll have an article (or two) in the works — notes, outlines, supporting facts, and anecdotes. Then something will happen in real life that resonates so strongly, it virtually turns itself into an article, while the other topics gets kicked down the road.

Case in point: Last Tuesday I was working on an article about do-it-yourself mishaps (I generally write about what I know), when I found half an onion on my spice carousel. This seemingly innocuous discovery brought to mind all of the other times I’ve found unlikely items in less likely places. The can opener in the refrigerator. The phone book in the silverware drawer. Not to mention the unusual things that turn up in my pockets.

Does this happen to anyone else? (Please answer yes.)

The scary part is that I can’t blame other family members for these strange discoveries, because I usually experience some fleeting “aha” moment of vague recognition when I come across... let’s say, the toothpaste in the sock drawer. Riiight, I put that there for a reason that made perfect sense at the time. (Or more likely, I was distracted and simply didn’t think about what I was doing!)

This is the flip side of the common problem that I hear so many of my (middle-aged) friends complaining about. We can’t remember where we’ve put things. And unfortunately, the more important the item, the more likely we will have stored it away especially “safely”… thus the less likely we are to find it!

In such cases, I’ve learned that sitting back and just letting things unfold is usually the best course of (in)action. Intensely focusing on what I’m missing never helps me find it. It’s like when you’re mentally searching for someone’s name and you can’t recall it. Think about something else and voila, the name will come to you in the shower or while out gardening — anyplace — just not while you’re razor focused on remembering it.

So as long as I’m not searching for something as time-bound as a wayward passport 24 hours before a flight, I’ve fortunately attained a relaxed level of humorous curiosity. It’s like an impromptu treasure hunt without all the preparation.

“Gee, I wonder where that hairbrush/peeler/car key will eventually turn up.” And they all do, turn up, that is, just not where I’d expect them….

I’ve come to the point where I’ll talk to myself out loud, especially when I’m putting something away in a super-secure place. “I’m putting this important check in the cabinet over the sink,” I’ll say, the logic being that maybe if I get another sense involved in the process, it’ll help me remember where to look. So far, mixed results on that.

One common piece of practical advice (Practical Tip #1) is to establish a set place where specific things always go.

But that isn’t always practical. Take the gum lollies we bought on Tuesday as a Shabbos treat. They definitely needed a good hiding place. But like they advise you when formulating a secure password, you can’t use the same one twice. You can’t use the same hiding place twice, either.

This can get out of hand. Once I hid my preteen’s laptop in a different spot every time we put it away. Of course by the third round of this game of hide-and seek, I was completely flummoxed when I needed to find it. (Pot cabinet, left side, under the grill pan).

I came up with some more practical tips, based on hard-earned experience:

Practical Tip #2: Avoid the oven. Whenever I stash anything in there, I’ll inevitably decide to bake something that requires a preheated oven. Note to self: Always open the oven door and give a careful look inside before you preheat the oven… gum lollies don’t hold up well to 350º.

Practical Tip #3: Contrary to popular belief, shoes do not always hang around in pairs, especially kids’ shoes. I’ve been amazed at the distance covered by a wayward shoe. They can be found on two different floors of the house! So cast a wide net when a kid’s shoe has gone missing. (And don’t forget to check inside the trunk of the Little Tikes cozy coupe.)

Practical Tip #4: Never spend more than five dollars on an item that you know you’ll permanently misplace (read lose). For me that would include gloves, umbrellas, and sunglasses. Anything that gets carried around outside will eventually get left outside, or in the case of the sunglasses, sat on.

And when all else fails, sit tight. It will show up eventually.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 729)

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