While doing this search I even googled how to find stuff you lost, and it turned out that I had already tried most of the suggestions I found in places such a this one and this one.
Since this problem of mine is chronic, I decided to share my experience losing stuff, hoping it might help you find something you've lost. Here's what has been useful to me:
- Occam's Razor. Don't insist on far-fetched possibilities like "Someone's trying to destroy you, broke into your house to get your wallet and is going to do illegal stuff using your identity and get away with it leaving you to pay for the mess". Although that's possible, a more likely possibility is "You left your wallet at the bank", so relax. Things might even turn out where they're supposed to be.
- Stalk Yourself. Make a detailed reconstruction of all the things you've done and places you've visited since you last saw the missing item until you first noticed it's missing. Social networks have become extremely handy for me: Check your Tweets and Facebook messages. Things like "At the movies, then to the bar" or "I hate bringing my backpack to the mall" may contain very helpful clues. Even pictures of you with and without the item might help.
- Don't stick to one conclusion. Even if you've made a list of places you visited, people you talked to and things you did on one particular day, there's a big chance you didn't lose the item that day.
- With all this info, ask everywhere. You have to be pushy. You have to insist and describe the object at least twice. Last time I had to ask the guy "Are you really really sure?, because it looks just like that envelope over there", which was not my envelope, but the guy remembered my envelope after looking at the one I pointed to. So if I hadn't insisted, I would've ended up writing something very different here. Remember: You're interested, no one else is.
- Give up looking in places you've already looked thoroughly. Don't search your office 14 times (Like I did last time). If your cellphone wasn't inside your desk drawer yesterday, it won't be there today. But make sure you've searched thoroughly! It might be under a sheet of paper you overlooked twice.
- If you need it soon, start getting a replacement. There is a chance that you won't find what you've lost. In that case, searching won't ultimately get your item and the sooner you start getting a replacement, the better. Worst case: You'll manage with your replacement. Best case: You'll have two of those.
Here's some advice
If you have trouble losing stuff often, consider the following preventive heuristics:
- Accept the fact that you have a problem and try to focus. People lose their stuff because they're absent minded. Try to make it a routine to always ALWAYS look at the table before you leave the restaurant, check your wallet after paying for something, etc. Just like an alcoholic should always watch out, you must remember that you have a tendency to leave your stuff behind.
- Have a special place for important things. You might want to consider getting a safe. Always put your important stuff there.
- Put a tag on your important stuff with your contact info. If you don't want to use your phone number, you can use an email address you seldom use.
- Pay a visit to your lawyer and get a certified copy of all your important/irreplaceable documents. You'll thank yourself later (very much).
- Always have a copy of your car keys in a separate key chain. I use my spare keys like twice a year.
I've lost several things on several occasions, which have worried me very much. Here's a little summary of the latest with the places they were found:
- 2007: I lost a briefcase containing my passport and my BSEE diploma. It was at a house I used to live in.
- 2010: I lost my passport (again) at the JW Marriot in Orlando at FTF (Freescale's technology event). It was inside the safe of the room I had already checked out from.
- 2010: I lost my Guatemalan ID (which took about 8 years to get since I'm originally from Honduras). I dropped it on the street in front of a place I visited. A kid found it and gave it to the salesperson.
- 2011: I lost my backpack with my ASUS laptop at San Antonio, TX airport. The police took it as part of their policy of unattended luggage. They called me :S
- 2011: I lost a bag of Sparkfun gooddies I was going to give away at a technology event that was coming up (I'm not the only one to blame for this one... this isn't the toughest on the list either). It was in a storage room I searched at least twice.
- 2011: I (not my wife) lost an invitation to a wedding we had no clue when or where was going to be. It was in my wife's nightstand, where we both had looked at least twice.
- 2011: I lost an envelope containing my LIFE: My Guatemalan ID and my passport with my US visa. It was at the supermarket. Not the supermarket I suspected, but the other one.
- Always: I leave my car keys inside. Once I had to Clothes-Hanger it, but only once. Then I got a copy of my car keys and carry it with me in a separate keychain always.
- 2011: I forgot to handbrake my car. I found it in front of my house with a dent on the front bumper :(
I want to thank my wife for being so supportive. I haven't forgiven myself for this last one. She has :)