What thing did you lose today? Your keys, wallet, glasses, or maybe your phone? Losing your things is not really a big deal and it happens to everyone at some point, but for someone with ADHD, it’s almost guaranteed on a daily basis.
People with ADHD have a particularly difficult time keeping track of their things and the issue can cause further problems, besides wasting a lot of time looking for the same things over and over again.
‘Loses things necessary for tasks/activities’ is listed as one of the symptoms of inattention on the official diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
Misplacing and forgetting where you put your things can trigger anxiety and panic, escalating to further problems.
How to stop losing your things
A place for everything and everything in its place.
The basic rule of being organized sounds deceptively simple but can be anything but simple to follow.
If you or someone in your family has ADHD, you can use this rule to make your lives a little easier, but you do need to take a slightly different approach to make it work.
Everything in its place
You can give all your personal belongings a designated place around you, but just make sure this place is in your line of sight.
Putting something in a drawer or a box is as good as losing it. If you have ADHD, you won’t be able to remember where you put it.
For the small things you carry around with you all the time, a good place would be near the front door. Create a designated space near the entrance and when you get home put your keys, wallet, glasses, umbrella in there first.
It must be visible each time you enter (and leave) your home, so make it a shelf or a small table or shoe cabinet.
It will also help you remember to take your things with you when you leave your home since you have to go past it on your way out.
Get some smart item finders
Smart item finders are a great hack for people with ADHD. You can use your phone to check if all your personal items are nearby and make them ring so you can find them without a lengthy search through your home.
They can also be used to find your phone. You just press the item finder and your phone will start to ring, even if it’s on silent.
Adding another thing to your mental list can seem like a problem, but item trackers can easily be attached to stuck to different items and are also water-resistant, so no worries if you forget them outside.
Because they were primarily made to track your keys, they can also take some wear and tear without any problems.
You can use these to track your keys, wallet, phone, TV remote control, umbrella…
And Chipolo item finders even come with Out of Range Alerts, so your phone will alert you if you ever leave and forget to take your keys or wallet with you.
Keep a laminated checklist by the door
Pin a laminated A4 piece of paper with a checklist of all your usual personal items to the wall next to your door. Make it extra visible with a nice frame if necessary.
It’s a quick and easy way to double-check you have everything you need with you before you walk out the door.
It’s also a good way to check you brought everything back home with you when you return.
The real problem is the items you take around with you wherever you go.
ADHD coach Dana Rayburn has a special name for items like cell phones, keys, glasses, purses or wallets; she calls them the Travelers since they travel around with you (and sometimes without you too).
With these, you need to be a little more flexible and accept the fact that they cannot only have one designated spot but a few.
Your keys might have a really nice bowl waiting for them by the front door, but they might not always make it there. Add a few extra ‘usual spots’ like the right jacket pocket, your bag, the kitchen counter…
Or if keeping track of a few designated places is too difficult, try to leave your Traveler things in highly visible places. Don’t put them in a drawer or in a pile of other stuff, instead always place them somewhere you’ll have no trouble seeing them when you look for them.
Why do people with ADHD lose their things so easily?
Personal objects are usually small
Our keys, wallet and phone are all designed to fit in our pockets easily, which also makes them super easy to lose. Regular people struggle with finding their keys, so it’s no wonder ADHD people have even more difficulty keeping track of their belongings.
Personal objects move around with you
Your keys, wallet and phone go where you go. They migrate between your home, car, office, and any other place you visit in between. You only need to be distracted one time to lose track of any one of these things.
It's difficult to keep your attention
You put down and pick up your personal belongings so many times, you probably do it automatically, without even thinking about it. Which is not a problem if you always put your things in the same place. Sadly, that is something people with ADHD struggle with.
'Disorganized' is your middle name
Having difficulty getting organized is one of the symptoms of ADHD in adults. The usual responsibilities like your job, bills, grocery shopping and managing a family can be overwhelming on their own, so keeping track of your personal belongings is pushed so far down the list, losing your things is no longer an annoyance but a fact of life.
Everything is doubly distracting
Even if you’re beating the odds and are staying organized, ADHD means you’re almost never able to fully concentrate on what you’re doing. It’s somewhat like being on autopilot: you’re there, but your brain is just letting your body go through the motions on its own. Because you’re not really ‘using your brain’, it’s easy to have something slip by unnoticed.
The good news is people, in general, are creatures of habit. So, if you misplace your keys and can’t find them again, they’re probably in the same place you left them before.