I lose things frequently and, as a result, am often exposed to the single most infuriating attempt at helpfulness in the history of civilisation: "Can you remember where you had it last?" The answer is no, of course; this is pretty much the definition of losing something. You wouldn't try to help a bankrupt person by suggesting they consider not spending all their money in the first place. And yet we people who lose things - "losers", if you will - must endure it all the time.
Freud thought we lose things for subconscious reasons - that loss is "welcome at least to the secret intention of the loser". He recounts the tale of a man whose brother-in-law gave him a steel pencil which he treasured; when he fell out with his brother-in-law, he lost the pencil. As so often with Freud, this is a) fascinating, but b) pure speculation, and c) of no use whatsoever when it comes to figuring out what to do about the problem. How can I avoid losing my mobile phone for the third time since October? And how can I find it when I do?
In answer to the second question, I give you Professor Solomon, whose book, How To Find Lost Objects, sets out what he describes as an "AMAZING METHOD" for doing exactly that. It is a 12-step plan, summarised on his website, professorsolomon.com: follow it, and you'll find what you've lost, or failing that, achieve serenity about losing it. True, one of the steps involves remembering where you last had the item. But that's compensated for by the useful notion of the "eureka zone" - the observation that ordinary lost objects "tend to travel no more than 18 inches from their original location". I scoffed. And then, weeks later, I found a lost debit card this way. The trick is to demarcate a small area, then search it exhaustively, when what our brains seem to want to do instead is look only in "logical" places or, alternatively, to search the whole house from top to bottom.
Not losing things to begin with is a different matter. Counterintuitively, getting older might help: misplacing things is a problem for 43% of younger adults (aged 20-36), but only 22% of older ones (56-80), according to research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Either we get better at not losing things, or better at not being bothered by it.
The Georgia researchers proposed a comically hi-tech solution, involving a camera attached to a pair of glasses, recording your entire experience, then making it computer-searchable. The low-tech alternative is depressingly familiar: a place for everything, and everything in its place.
Note, however, that this doesn't mean you have to become a neat freak. Instead, embrace the principle of constrained mess: chuck utility bills into a cardboard box; chuck the kids' toys into a crate in the corner; chuck your keys into a tray by the door. No tidying's involved, no filing, no sorting - in other words, no effort.
This works. Take it from a loser.