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  • Aviva Nirenberg

ADHD Lost & Found




What happened to my keys?

Has anyone seen my glasses?

I can't find my phone again?


If questions like these are part of your daily life, you're not alone. Everyone misplaces their stuff occasionally. However, for folks with ADHD losing belongings can be a regular occurrence causing a lot of frustration and sapping much time and energy. Your tendency to lose things doesn't make you a loser. In fact, it's just another symptom of your unique brain wiring.


This particular symptom is so classic ADHD that it's even part of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. "Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones)."


So, let's explore why keeping track of items poses such a challenge for ADDers and then let's talk about some solutions. . So, why are people with ADHD perpetually losing things and then frantically searching for them. There are several reasons people with ADHD have a particularly difficult time keeping track of their stuff.

Inattention Dr. Martin W. Wetzel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha describes ADHD as an "underpowered state of consciousness." So, if you put down your phone and you're not really paying attention “It’s kind of like it never happened," he says. One minute of inattention can lead to way too many minutes of retracing your steps on a quest to find the elusive object.

Disorganization Creating and maintaining an organizational system relies on executive function skills which are often very challenging for someone with ADHD. Important objects run the risk of getting lost in a pile of papers or disappear off the radar into clutter oblivion.

Working Memory or in laymen’s terms forgetfulness You file some important documents but have no recollection where they may be. You hide your valuables in such an incredible hiding place that know will ever find them, including you.

But don’t despair, to help my clients stop losing things and make it easier to find those missing items, here are some solutions.

1. Create a Launchpad for your most used (and most easily lost) items. Designate a specific table, box, basket, cubby, or shelf as your place to dump those things you use every day. When you come home you dump your wallet, keys, id, etc. there and the next morning on your way out you can easily retrieve them. It’s a great advantage if your launch pad includes a place to charge your phone for the night. Your launch pad should be in a location that you can’t miss when entering or leaving your home. It should also grab your attention. Find a fun bowl or basket to contain your things. Add hooks to your launch pad for jackets, coats, briefcases, or backpacks. The trick then, is to create a homecoming ritual, when you enter your home all your essentials immediately go to your launchpad so you’re ready to launch on time and stress free the next day.

2. A place for Everything and Everything in its place. There’s definitely a good reason this is an organizational mantra. Assigning homes for everything makes it more efficient to put them away and to find them. Two tips, store like items together and store them where they are used. For example, group supplies like your stapler, tape, pens, scissors in a drawer or bin in your home office. Keep hats, gloves, and earmuffs in a bin in your coat closet. Set a daily timer for 5 minutes and race yourself to return things to their home.

3. Be mindful of where you place items. Pause, and say out loud, “I’m placing _____ here.” Stop and take a moment to really see the item in the location. This will help you to remember where it is later.

4. Habits – How often have you gone out with a jacket or umbrella and when it’s time to return home it’s warm and sunny? Develop a habit to visually scan the space you’re in to gather your things and not leave items behind. Another helpful habit to cultivate is to create and laminate a checklist of the items you need for work, school, soccer practice, a weekend at the beach, or any activity you do on a regular basis. Check your list before leaving to avoid forgetting important items.

5. Highlight Make your easily misplaced items stand out. Get a large and unique keychain. Select an unusual case for your cell phone. Put bright colored reflective tape on your Tv remote.

6. Trackers make technology your friend and are a smart hack to find items for people with ADHD. There are several varieties of trackers on the market that allow you to attach a sticker or plastic chip to your most frequently lost items (wallet, remote, dog, cat, phone, or laptop). When you lose a belonging with the tracker, you can activate the tracker and the lost item emits a sound revealing its location. Adopting some of these hints will help you to reduce the likelihood of losing things and allow you a lot more time and relaxation to do the things you enjoy.

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