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Always losing stuff?

Some of us are forever losing keys, phones, pens - if we put it down for a second we mislay it. What's really behind this absent-mindedness?

by Psychologies

'Remembering stuff is just one of those things that some poeple are good at and some are not so good at,' says neuropsychologist Chris Moulin. 'Some people are simply more absent-minded than others.'

But external factors play a part too - busy lifestyles, stress and tiredness all feed the problem. 'When any of these come into play, you have less mental energy to encode where you've put your things,' Moulin adds.

So what can you do?

  • Invest wisely. Invest in things that are most important to you that you really do not want to forget. The more you invest emotions in an object, the less likely you are to lose it. Get yourself a keyring that means something to you, buy yourself a brightly coloured wallet or a beautiful travel ticket holder.
  • Get organised. It's easier to stop forgetting things when you are not relying purely on your memory. To this, organise your belongings more effectively, form habits and make little rules. 'Regular rules mean that rather than having to mentally retrace your steps or recall specifics, you can just rely on facts,' explains Moulin. Keep the same objects in the same place, such as your passport or birth certificate. Organise a 'memory shelf' for important everyday objects like your phone or train ticket or keys.
  • Watch out for low moods. Was there a particular time when you started losing things? Is losing things a new development? In extreme circumstances, it can be a sign of the onset of depression. If so, it should taken more seriously - it may not be just carelessness.
  • Relinquish control. If you have a strong sense of responsibility, and yet you often don't pay attention to your belongings, it could actually be a sign that you are making progress! You are in the process of working out that you can't control everything. You are allowing yourself to put your need to relax ahead of the demands placed upon you.

Photograph: Corbis

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