Don’t Lose Your Belongings
Tools and tricks for keeping track of everything from toys to keys to just-washed socks.
Your Wallet and More
- Choose a wallet in a vivid color, so it stands out inside your dark purse. Keep it in a zippered pocket, and always return it there.
- Try not to change bags too often. "Transferring between purses creates more opportunities for losing stuff," says Lisa Zaslow, owner of Gotham Organizers, in New York City.
- Use Velcro to attach the remote to the side of the TV when it's not in use.
- Use an electronic finder system.
- If you primarily wear your sunglasses for driving, "leave them in the car," says James O'Connor, president of Clutter Control, a home-organization service in Lake Forest, Illinois. "Or designate a place for them near the front or back door. Don't bring them any further into your home, where they may be misplaced."
- Designate a fabric-lined tray for your reading glasses next to your chair or nightstand. Don't set them down anywhere else.
- Use an eyeglass chain to keep your specs securely on your neck ($18 and up, snootyjewelry.com).
- Get eyeglass cases in bright colors to make locating them easier.
- Keep all your credit cards in the same wallet.
- When making a purchase, keep your card in view at all times, and ask for it back as soon as the cashier has completed the transaction.
- Photocopy your cards, front and back, making sure the customer-service phone numbers are legible. Put the copies in your filing cabinet under C. If you need to cancel a card, you'll have all the necessary numbers ready.
- Always store your phone in the same pocket of your purse.
- Keep your phone in a case and "use the clip on the case to attach it to the pocket," says Nokia's Keith Nowak. "If the purse tips over, the phone won't go flying out."
- Always keep your charger plugged into the same outlet, preferably one in plain view.
Bills and Keys
- Create one convenient spot for all of them, ideally a separate basket alongside your other mail, and keep all your bill-paying needs―checkbook, calculator, stamps, return-address labels―nearby.
- Always put keys in the exact same place: Hang them on a hook on your doorjamb (be sure it's out of reach of kids or pets), or place them in a basket near the door. "Being organized is really not rocket science," says Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "It's about doing something in a systematic way and sticking to it."
- Make not one but two backup sets of your keys, says real estate broker Tom Polley of the Corcoran Group, in Brooklyn, whose job requires handling dozens of sets of keys at a time. "Keep one set in your desk drawer," he says, "and give a set to a friend who lives nearby."
- The Wireless Key Finder ($50, brookstone.com) comes with two color-coded key rings, two slim receivers you can stick to a TV remote or cell phone, and a wireless transmitter. Press the button on the transmitter that corresponds to the missing object and follow the alarm to its hiding place.
- The Sound Activated Key Finder with Microlight (shown at right in the pictured tray; $24, gadgetbargains.com) attaches to your keys; it beeps and flashes when you clap, whistle, or shout.
Gloves and More
Gloves and Hats
- Purchase an over-the-door shoe organizer for your closet, and designate a few pockets for hats, scarves, and gloves. For a no-cost alternative, put a clear plastic bag on a hanger for your head and hand accessories.
- When you take winter wear off while you're out and about, stuff it securely in the interior pockets of your jacket, says Ashley Miller, who has seen more than her share of missing mittens on the job at the Rockefeller Center ice-skating rink, in New York City.
- Tote your garden tools in a caddy and keep them there when not in use. Individual tools are easier to overlook under the daisies. To improvise a less expensive version, Arlene Kestner, president of the Herb Society of America, suggests using a plastic cleaning-supply container with wells on each side. Keep frequently used household tools (hammer, screwdrivers, wrenches) in a toolbox or mounted on pegboard, and put them back as soon as you're finished with your task.
- Avoid buying garden equipment in any shade of green. It's too easy to lose amid the foliage.
- Kestner suggests painting garden tools with fluorescent orange spray paint. Or wrap tool handles with Super Bright Reflective Tape―they’ll be easier to spot in a dark basement or garage.
- "My mother attaches two-foot-long fluorescent orange-and-yellow plastic ribbons to each tool," says organizer Lisa Zaslow. Not only does this increase their visibility but "you can make a loop in the end of the ribbon to hang the tools on hooks or nails in your garage," says Zaslow.
- When doing the laundry, put all the socks into a lingerie bag to keep them neatly contained.
- You could also try Sock Locks (packs start at $4, sock-locks.com), plastic disks that firmly grip the tops or toes of a pair of socks.
- Keep a bag in your drawer for single-tons, so if a missing sock resurfaces, you know right where to find its mate.
Your Kids and More
- If you're going to be in a crowd, dress your tot in bright colors or a distinctive hat so she'll be easy to spot.
- Safety-pin a card with your phone number into your child's pocket, and "practice with your children what they'll say or do if they get lost," says Dallas teacher Sara Long.
- Investigate a high-tech tracking system. lonKids allows parents to monitor the locations of up to four kids via water-and tamper-resistant wrist tags that transmit their whereabouts to a base unit up to 500 feet away outdoors, or 350 feet indoors ($240 for one handheld base unit and one hand-held Wrist Tag, ionkids.com).
- "When you realize a particular toy is important, buy another one of them," says child psychologist Lawrence Shapiro, author of The Secret Language of Children.
- Never let a treasured toy out of your home, he also suggests.
- Buy or make a collar and a dog tag for beloved stuffed animals.
- Make sure your pet is properly tagged and licensed. And consider an ID microchip, suggests Ruth Goldstein of the ASPCA. This tiny metal chip is injected between your pet's shoulder blades. Animal-control authorities routinely scan lost animals for chips.
- "Use a standard leash, not a retractable one," says Seth Edelstein, owner of New York City dog-walking service Walkee Doggie. The small plastic handle of a retractable leash is harder to hold on to if your dog bolts.
- Clip the leash to your dog's collar or harness and to a nylon safety choke collar ($7, bowwowshop.com). If the regular collar breaks, the safety collar will save the day.
Computer Files and More
- At least twice a week, copy all the important documents on your computer onto another medium, such as a CD (from $8 for 10, staples.com) or a key chain–size USB flash drive (from $11, staples.com). "I say it 50 times a day," says Karen Simon of PT Tech Associates, in Santa Monica, California. "I had a client who was working on a million-dollar sales deal, and his hard drive took a dive. He had no backup." And, alas, no deal.
- If you're not good about putting your backup CDs into their jewel cases, keep a small basket or tray near the computer to act as an interim holding bin. Line the basket with cloth to protect the CDs. Do the same thing near your stereo for your music CDs.
- Another option for your music: "Throw out the jewel cases immediately and get a big CD storage book," urges international DJ Lady Bunny, who prefers the convenience of three-ring-style binders to hold her many discs.
- Simple, foolproof rule: When you're away from home, always keep your laptop in view―even if you think it's in a secure room.
- If that's not possible, use a cable lock to secure your laptop to a table leg or a heavy chair ($65, bicyclebuys.com). "If someone just picks up your laptop and walks down the hall with confidence, no one's going to look twice," says Broadway stage manager Patty Lyon, whose untraditional work space―a theater―makes laptop locks a necessity. "It's the equivalent of the Club for your car," she says.
- Use a coded return-service tag.
- Write your name and phone number in indelible ink on a heavy-duty label and stick it in a conspicuous place on the item. For safety's sake, use your office phone number―you don't want to disclose any more personal info to strangers than your PDA already has.
- Clearly write that you're offering a reward for the item's return.
- If you use a pen-and-paper day planner, photocopy its contents at least once a year. If you use a PDA, make sure that you do regular backups onto your computer.