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I have a big problem of forgetting where I have put things. I always seem to forget where, for example I left my papers, keys, etc.

Is there a way I can remember all the objects and where I have placed them all the time?

In your personal experience, how do I keep yourself aware when doing things so that you don't forget them?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

I would recommend that you make sure that every important item has its dedicated spot. For my keys and my wallet this is a kind of place mat on my desk. Every time I arrive at home my keys go there along with my wallet. If the keys aren't there, they are in my left pant pocket or the left pocket of my jacket.

For other things there are document drawers (mine are labeled: "to do", "file" (to be sorted into the appropriate folders) and "out" (mail which has to be mailed)).

To be perfectly honest: I used to clutter my desk with about everything I worked on. But now the amount of papers I have to use per task almost forced me to change that, so I regularly clean up my desk and put the thing back to their locations. It also helps to remove seldom used tools and store them separately: I need a log ruler or colored pencils: They reside now in a drawer instead of my desk to have more space for more important items.

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+1: for the dedicated spot. It's either that or remembering everything. – Demian Kasier Jun 29 '12 at 12:59
+1 dedicated spot. This actually caused a problem when I moved. The dedicated spots moved and I forgot things for a few days. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jun 29 '12 at 15:22
Yes, dedicated spot is the perfect idea. I really like it! – meetpd Jun 30 '12 at 5:26
+1 dedicated spot! "A place for everything and everything in it's place." – Dennis S. Jul 2 '12 at 20:17

The things I tend to misplace are new or temporary things that don't yet have a defined place. This can particularly be a problem if you live with someone else who might tidy up after you...

My solution is to have In Boxes in strategic spots (office, kitchen, and garage). Anything that doesn't have a place, or anything my wife knows is mine but doesn't know where it goes, goes into the In Box.

Then, once a week or when it fills up or just when I'm bored, I'll go through the boxes. It's surprising how much of the stuff in the In Box ends up going in the trash. I try hard to make sure there is nothing left when I'm done; you don't want them accumulate stuff and becoming storage destinations themselves.

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Cool, a dedicated spot for things that don't have a dedicated spot :-) – w00t Jul 3 '12 at 20:13

I have this problem too. I mitigate it by:

  • Always putting objects in a dedicated spot
  • Putting objects I shouldn't forget about in prominent places, like at eye height on the stairs

If you do the latter too much, you'll end up creating familiarity and you will no longer notice these objects. Keep it fresh.

Furthermore I strengthen my awareness by:

  • Training mindfulness
  • Recognizing situations where I may end up forgetting things and deliberately telling myself where I'm placing an object

Being mindful is very important in being able to recognize situations. See also the excellent book Your Brain at Work.

And finally, accidentally, I improved my brain's capacity to pay attention to these things by:

  • Cleaning up my diet

I now eat a Paleo diet and it has given me more energy as well as removing brain fog and fixing a host of ailments. Highly recommended.

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Just a couple of days ago, I misplaced my car keys and it took me 15 minutes to find them (they were buried under some papers). I can't count on using a dedicated spot to hang them up, so I just ordered one of these sets of wireless key finders. Won't help with finding papers, but could be helpful for some of the other items in your life that get lost. I plan on keeping the transmitter in a pouch on my backpack, so it is always with me.

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Just as a follow-up, they seem to work as advertised. Haven't had them long enough to tell how long the batteries are going to last though. – tcrosley Jul 4 '12 at 16:40

I am using the following trick: every time I am not sure where to put something (if this something doesn't have a permanent spot yet) I am asking myself:

where would I look if I was looking for this thing?

The answer usually gives me the best place and one more thing would have it's designated spot.

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