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Mysterious Disappearances

I'm often asked for suggestions on how to prevent items from disappearing from shared home spaces like kitchens or family rooms – even on the job.  The British Medical Journal published the results of a study documenting the disappearance of teaspoons from their cafeteria. They purchased both high and low quality teaspoons and distributed them throughout the cafeterias of their research center.  They also examined teaspoon disappearance in common private dining rooms.

They discovered in private dining rooms half the teaspoons had permanently disappeared in 11 weeks, whereas communal dining rooms lost half of their teaspoons in only 6 weeks.  The researchers concluded that in order to keep the necessary number of teaspoons available, the center would be required to purchase over 250 teaspoons each year.

This study is very interesting from an organizing perspective because it indicates that items disappear faster when left in common areas where more people have access to them. This is a problem especially for employers as productivity is wasted searching, and money is wasted in buying replacements.  Families also struggle, as personal items are more likely to be moved by someone else in the home when left out in a common area instead of being properly stored after use. Organizing and simplifying procedures can minimize loss and misplacement of items, therefore making it a win-win for everyone.

Recommendations for change:
Ensure everyone has access to the supplies they need.  Both at home and work, each person should start off with a standard set of necessary supplies (e.g. school supplies in the fall, desk supplies at work). Also, review what shared items are needed in these spaces (batteries, hole puncher). At home, if your children are in school, they will need their own supplies for their desks instead of needing to take them from the kitchen or from your home desk.

Purchase specialized items for common areas to make them obviously shared items. I love to do this with color-coding.  I have all boys at my house so anything I purchase in pink is not likely to end up in someone's backpack.  You can take it one step further by assigning everyone in your home a specific color (green for son, purple for daughter, yellow for mom, blue for dad, black for the kitchen, and orange for the craft room).

The bottom line is if you don't want to share an item with someone else, put it away after use to reduce the risk it will be picked up and carried away.

While all the systems listed above may work, nothing will change unless people are educated on the importance of returning items to where they belong.  A simple walk through the house each night before bed to relocate out-of-place items can also help to return items to their proper storage space so they don't "get legs" and disappear for long periods of time.

Have a Neat day,

Jennifer Snyder, Certified Professional Organizer

Neat as a Pin Organizing Exerts


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Categories:  Organizing Tips

About the Author

Jennifer Snyder

Jennifer Snyder

My name is Jennifer Snyder CPO, Chief Executive Organizer of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts, a Waco-based company of Professional Organizers that is not only focused on organizing the clutter in your home or office but also clutter of the heart and mind. 

I am happy that you are taking an interest in the benefits of getting your home and life organized.  Living an organized life is for everyone!

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