How to Remember That Thing You Always Forget

You know the feeling… you're halfway to work and — gasp! — "Did I bring my keycard?" Or you've landed at the Minneapolis Airport for the family reunion and — gasp! — "Did I pack the gloves?"

Whether it's daily life or situations, like travel, that take you out of your routine, there are a few tried-and-true ways to avoid that "OH NO!" moment. (See also: 10 Things You Should Immediately Do After Losing Your Wallet)

Have a Designated Place for Your Things

Car keys, house keys, office keys, keycards, wallets, cash, and any other things that leave the house with you in the morning — and come home again with you at the end of the day — should have a designated place. In our house, we have a ceramic bowl. Every time he walks into the house, my husband puts his wallet, work keycard, and keys in the bowl. Every time he leaves the house, that's where he knows he can find them. And, since they're all in the same place, he never forgets any of them.

The Bowl

"The bowl," as we fondly call it, also keeps the house neat. No random keys on the living room table, or keycard cluttering the dresser in the bedroom.

We even have a "guest bowl" near the front door, where family and close friends always deposit their keys, wallet, cell phone, etc. Gone are the days we need to chase after them waving their cell phone in hand!

Hooks, Hooks, Hooks

Key hooks, coat racks, and backpack hooks are great things. All house keys, extra car keys and the neighbor's key have a home on the key hook. No need to search through the kitchen "junk drawer" for when one of the kids gets locked out of the car and calls to ask us to bring the spare. Backpacks are in the same place every morning and every night.

Stands and Other Storage

Cell phones retire at bedtime on a charger station we received as a gift. We always know where to find our cell phones, ipods, and other rechargeable electronics in the morning.

Purses, briefcases, backpacks, and diaper bags also work for things that consistently come and go with you — as long as you keep them in that same place. If you have a car with push-button start, keep the keys in the same pocket of your purse. You'll know exactly where to find them when you take the car in for an oil change.


Does your baby have a favorite teething toy? Keep one at home, and one in the diaper bag. Are your eyes particularly sensitive to the sun? Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car, and another in your purse or briefcase. Do you shower at the gym? Keep a brush at home, and one in your gym bag. When you double up, you are less likely to forget something really important — at a time you need it most.

Create a "Departure" and "Arrival" Routine

Chances are, every time you leave the house or apartment, you take the same things with you — and check to make sure that the same appliances are off. Collect your things, check your stove/coffee maker/hair straightener, turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat in the same order every day. By creating a "departure" routine, you eventually give yourself the luxury of going on auto-pilot — and reduce the chances of forgetting to bring or do something.

Same thing on the way into your abode. Whether you were at work, out running errands, meeting friends for dinner, if you put your belongings in the same place every time, you can avoid that "where did I put my xyz" feeling.

Use Sticky Notes

People laugh when they come to our house and see a reusable sticky note taped to the side of the coffee pot. It says, "Coffee Pot!" It's not that we are so forgetful that we can't remember the names of the appliances in our kitchen, but because we set up the coffee the night before, it has been known to happen that we forget to take the coffee pot out of the dishwasher before hitting the "brew" button.

If it's your child's turn to bring snacks at pre-school, put a sticky note on the door so that you don't forget the cupcakes sitting on the dining room table. Anything that's out of the ordinary, remind yourself with a sticky note on your wallet, or something else that's part of your normal "take-it-with-you" routine. For those of you who have gone paperless, set a reminder on your phone. Virtual sticky notes work just as well!

Rely on Packing Lists

In the olden days, it was inevitable that we would forget that one thing — aloe vera gel for the sunburn — when we went on a beach vacation, or hand warmers when traveling somewhere to ski. No more forgetting — and having to replace at a much higher price once you reach your destination!

You can create a packing list for every type of vacation or road trip, and for every member of your family (even the dog.) As needs change, adjust the lists.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is a beautiful thing — particularly when it increases our efficiency. Think about it: If you're talking on your cell phone as you head out the door, you are much more likely to forget "that one thing." Leaving and coming home are transition times that deserve our full attention. We arrive at our destinations calmer, and can leave that "OH NO" feeling — instead of "that one thing" — at home.

How do you stop yourself from forgetting that one thing? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

If there's something I need to take with me when I leave the house, I always put my keys with it. Hard to leave home without the keys! I can't tell you how many times I've gotten to the car, couldn't unlock it, and remembered my lunch because my keys were in the fridge.

Mardee Handler's picture

Kelly, that's a great idea ... not to mention a creative one! I love it!