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All is Not Lost

There are many benefits to being organized, but the biggest has got to be that you can find what you need when you need it. There are organized ways not to lose things in the first place, but I also have a few tricks for unexpectedly finding things when you’ve had an organizing lapse.

I once lost an expensive necklace and searched everywhere for it. I finally admitted to a friend that I’d lost it and was extremely frustrated with myself. She suggested saying the St. Anthony Prayer. Apparently, in folklore St Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects.

The prayer, in my friend’s version goes: “Tony, Tony, look around; something’s lost that must be found,” which sounds a little more like a spell from the old TV show “Bewitched” than a prayer, but I was desperate. I surrendered the search, got into a bubble bath and said the prayer.

The instant I finished the prayer I remembered that I’d stashed the necklace in a flat bag in the back of my safe. I jumped out of the tub and, dripping wet, retrieved the necklace. I’ve been a believer in this method and have used it successfully many times since.

Unfortunately when I share the St. Anthony prayer method with clients who have lost something, they look at me like I’m looney tunes and I end up feeling embarrassed and sorry I mentioned it. I think the reason it works is based on science though. When we surrender and relax, we are able to let our unconscious get to work and the answer can bubble to the mind’s surface.

Another familiar example of a frustrating loss occurs on the computer. Nothing is worse than to spend hours on a project, suddenly have a computer glitch and realize the document was not saved. Obviously, after such an occurrence we tend to be obsessive and save our work every five minutes. There is a case though, in which the “Save” button can cause a lot of pain.

Recently I wrote a lengthy client assessment using the formatting from another client’s assessment and without thinking hit “Save” instead of “Save As.” The “Save” button erases the old document and saves the new version over it (bad!) whereas “Save As” saves it as a new document, leaving the old document unchanged (good!). If you have worked in a word processing program for any length of time, you have probably experienced this debilitating horror.

I tried a bunch of things to get the original document back. Had I sent it to the client? If so, it would be an attachment in my Sent E-mails folder. No luck there, but I felt smart for thinking of it. Had I printed it out and put it in the client’s folder? Again, a good thought (at least I would be able to scan or retype and save the document) but I hadn’t printed it.

Then I remembered the exterior hard drive. Hurrah! The hard drive was backed up regularly and did indeed have the document I needed on it and I was able to copy and save it back on to my computer. This lost document situation was very different from the St Anthony’s prayer lost necklace situation—I had to think through all my potential back-up systems in order to find the document and repair my mistake. This was possible because my e-mails are organized, my printed files are organized, and my computer had been backed up. Organization can be a great safety net for some of life’s little mistakes.

The last tip I’ll share about misplacing things is to be aware and observant. Talk to yourself a little. Because I know I tend to misplace my phone or ear buds or earrings, I try to be especially mindful when I put these items down anywhere other than their usual landing pads. It helps to make a statement, either aloud (most effective) or silently (still effective and people won’t think you’re crazy). For example, “I am setting my phone on the bathroom counter,” and take a quick mental picture of the phone on the counter. Or, “I am setting my phone on the garden fence post.” I think you will be amazed at how effective this technique is for being able to locate often misplaced items easily and quickly.

Of course, the glasses you’re looking for will always be on top of your head.