Looking for the lost


By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

I’ve lost my phone. I’ve lost my car keys. I’ve lost my car in a vast, anonymous parking lot. And when you drive a silver Honda CR-V, it’s worse than a needle in a haystack. It’s a needle in a needle stack. The only consolation, and it’s a small one, is that I am not alone. It has been reported that on average, Americans spend 2.5 days a year looking for lost stuff. That’s sixty hours of standing around, scratching your head, beginning countless numbers of sentences with, “Now where’s my (Fill in the blank with the currently lost item or, worse, items.)?”

I like to be organized. In an unceasing effort to attain that goal, I often change how I store things, searching for that perfect mix of findability and out-of-the-wayness. Storage space is at an absolute premium at my house. I want to maximize the use of the space but I do not want to stack items. This is because of the Law of Inverse Availability. The Law of Inverse Availability states that the object onto which you wish most to put your hands will be at the bottom of the tallest stack in the house. A certain amount of creativity is needed to keep items handy, non-stacked, and visibly prominent. Obviously, you can guess what is next. There is an item I haven’t used in weeks. I decide it no longer deserves a place in a handy location. I take the item from its spot of conspicuousness and put it somewhere else. Less than twenty-four hours later, I will desperately need this item. Knowing that I laid eyes on it very recently, I will go to its former site of repose. It is, of course, no longer there. Many colorful phrases cross my mind, but the one that wins out is, “Now where’s my …?” (There is a prerequisite amount of destiny in all this.)

I come from a long line of spreadsheet makers. My sister, who makes Martha Stewart look like a lay-about tosspot, makes a spreadsheet for nearly everything. There is one for her freezer. Food in. Date of food in. Food out. One column reflects a running total of the food left in the freezer. She might lose her car keys, too, but she can tell you within a half an ounce how much frozen zucchini she has on hand. We recently celebrated my mother’s ninetieth birthday. Such a milestone requires a party. A party, to my sister, is simply an excuse to see friends, make delicious food, and create a spreadsheet for every aspect of the event. We (she) had a spreadsheet for who was coming and what they drank, cross referenced with a liquor store list. We (she) had a spreadsheet for hors d ‘oeuvres. This indicated the food to be served, how far ahead it should be made, what the necessary ingredients were, and where we should purchase said ingredients.

Lately I have found myself falling under her influence. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet on moved items…items that have been relocated due to this insatiable drive to organize. I am not making this up. My spreadsheet is more modest. There is a document on my desk that outlines what the item is, where it used to be and where it is now. It’s only a matter of time before I lose the spreadsheet but so far so good. I haven’t, unfortunately, needed to find a single thing that I remembered to put on the spreadsheet but at this stage of the game I’m just playing the odds anyway.

Here is another good way to find something you’ve lost. Go buy another one. To find it faster, buy two.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today

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