020 Lost and Disorganized: The Financial Impact of Lost Items

woman looking for her lost items

We’re diving into a topic that plagues us all – lost items. We’ve all been there, frantically searching for misplaced keys, important papers, wallets, phones – the list goes on. But have you ever stopped to consider the true cost of this disorganization? It goes far beyond the initial frustration. I’ll also talk about the hidden financial impact of lost belongings.

Lost but not forgotten: The most common culprits

Let’s face it, some items seem to have a life of their own when it comes to disappearing. According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American burns 55 minutes a day–roughly 12 weeks a year–looking for things they know they own but can’t find. (Newsweek). 12 weeks….3 months…that’s a LONG time.

Research found we also lose up to nine items every day – or 198,743 items in a lifetime. (DailyMail). That’s a lot of stuff!

43% of lost items are never found. (Lostings)

Americans collectively spend $2.7 billion each year replacing items (PRNewswire)

Here are the top six most commonly lost items


A 2021 survey found that 30% of Americans lose their keys at least once a month! Replacing a standard key costs around $10, but for more complex key systems or car keys with transponders, the price can skyrocket to $200 or more.

Wallets and Purses: 

A 2023 report estimates that over 25 million wallets and purses are lost annually in the US alone. Replacing a lost wallet itself can cost $20-$50, but the real financial blow comes from replacing lost credit cards, IDs, cash, etc.


Three in ten Canadian (28%) smartphone users have lost their phone. Replacing a lost phone can range from $100 for a budget model to well over $1000 for the latest popular smartphone.


We’ve all been there – frantically patting our faces searching for missing glasses. 20% of people who wear glasses lose them at least once a year. Replacing glasses can cost anywhere from $150 for a basic pair to $500+ for designer frames and prescription lenses.


Our lifeline to the digital world, chargers seem to vanish into thin air. Just ask your family members who seems to fight over these things. I know mine do! It’s estimated that the average person loses two phone chargers a year. Replacing them can cost $10-$30 each.

TV Remotes:

In the US, the top spot on this list goes to the TV remote, which over 71% of Americans lose it at least once a month. (Chipolo)

The hidden cost: Time is money

Now, let’s factor in the real kicker – the time we spend searching for these lost items. Imagine you earn an average hourly wage of $20. Let’s use the study from the Boston firm from earlier, 55 minutes/day, five times a week, equals approximately $4,767 a year wasted on looking for lost items! Think about all those frantic searches for your keys, wallet, phone, or glasses.  Even a few minutes a day spent looking adds up significantly. 

The ripple effect: Lost items and lost opportunities

The impact of lost belongings goes beyond the immediate financial cost. It can also affect your productivity, leading to missed deadlines and potential lost income. Imagine missing an important meeting because you can’t find your keys, or being late for work due to a misplaced phone.

Missing a due date for a bill can cost you interest from the company. This adds up over time and a late payment can actually affect your credit score too.

The mental impact of lost items

Furthermore, the stress and frustration associated with searching for lost items can take a toll on your mental well-being. It disrupts your focus and steals time you could be spending on more productive or enjoyable activities.

Just this past weekend, my daughter and I were looking for my keys so we could go out to the store! The first thing my daughter said was; “YOU lost your keys?” as this was a VERY unusual occurrence because my keys and wallet go back to the exact same spot every single time. However, this day they didn’t. In fact, we looked for well over 15 minutes for them. 

Wanna know where they ended up being? 

In the back seat of my car with the grocery bags! 

How they got there? 

I can only guess I must have had them in my hand as I was tossing the bags back into the car and somehow my keys went with them and I didn’t notice. The frustration this caused me was crazy as I was trying to recall all the places I might have put my keys down. It had me second guessing my memory and looking in places I had already looked as if they’d magically show up the second time around. My daughter watched as each minute passed, my frustration grew stronger. I was losing my mind and I know I’m not the only one that’s felt this before.


Have you lost any of the top six items I mentioned? I’d love to hear your story. You can email me at Heather@declutterforchange.com. Please let me know I’m not the only one that’s felt she’s lost her mind looking for something. 

Beyond the dollar signs: The environmental impact

Let’s not forget the environmental consequences of lost belongings. Replacing lost items often means increased production and consumption, leading to a larger carbon footprint. Think about all the plastic phone chargers, leather wallets, and metal keychains that end up in landfills because someone misplaced them.

Understanding the “Why” behind the lost items

Beyond the financial impact, understanding the psychology behind losing things is crucial. Several factors contribute to misplaced belongings.

Let’s take stress and forgetfulness, for example. When our minds are overloaded with information and tasks, even simple actions like putting down our keys can become an afterthought. Imagine rushing out the door for an important meeting, keys clutched in your hand. In the flurry of activity, you might absentmindedly set them down on a random surface, only to forget their location later. Stress can also cloud our memory, making it difficult to recall where we last placed something.

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle with executive function, a set of skills that includes organization and planning. This can manifest as misplaced belongings and difficulties keeping track of items. Imagine someone with ADHD setting their phone down on a table while multitasking. A sudden distraction can cause them to forget the phone’s location moments later.

Our daily routines can also play a significant role in how easily we lose things. If you have a habit of tossing your keys on the counter without a designated spot, you’re more likely to forget their location later. This repetitive behavior creates a cycle of disorganization, making it challenging to keep track of your belongings. Imagine always tossing your phone on the couch. Over time, this ingrained habit can lead to moments of frantic searching when you can’t find it.

Strategies for a more organized you

Now that we’ve explored the costs and causes of lost belongings, let’s talk about some strategies to combat disorganization:

  • Create Designated Spots: Assign specific locations for frequently used items. Invest in key hooks near the door, a phone charging station by your bed, and designated spots for purses or wallets.
  • Develop a Routine: Get into the habit of placing your belongings in their designated spots after every use. This might feel tedious at first, but routine creates consistency and reduces forgetfulness. As soon as I walk in my door after driving, my wallet with my keys attached gets hung up in the exact place right away, before I even take off my shoes.
  • Utilize Technology: Smart trackers for keys, wallets, or phones can help locate misplaced items with ease. Phone apps with “Find My Phone” features can also be lifesavers.
  • Declutter Regularly: Clutter breeds chaos. By periodically decluttering your belongings, you’ll have fewer items to potentially lose. Donate or sell unused items to create a more manageable living space.
  • Embrace “Less is more”: Consider adopting a “less is more” lifestyle with fewer possessions. This can not only reduce the risk of losing things but also simplify your life and reduce stress.

Investing in organization: A long-term gain

While investing in organizational tools like key hooks, phone chargers, or storage containers may seem like a small expense, the long-term financial and mental health benefits far outweigh the initial cost. Think about it – a $20 key organizer can save you hundreds of dollars over time in lost key replacements and wasted search time.

Insurance and replacement costs

Some homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies offer coverage for lost or stolen belongings. However, there are usually limitations and deductibles, so it’s crucial to check your specific policy details.

Expert Tips

Beyond the strategies we’ve discussed, professional organizers offer a wealth of practical advice for creating a more organized space. Let’s look into some of their top tips.

One key concept is the “landing zone.” We all have those items we tend to misplace in the daily rush – mail, keys, sunglasses.  Professional organizers recommend establishing a designated spot for these frequently used items. This could be a key hook by the door, a tray on your dresser, or a small basket by the entryway.  Imagine a designated spot that eliminates the temptation to toss these things down on any available surface.  By creating this “landing zone,” you significantly reduce the likelihood of them disappearing later, saving you time and frustration in the search.

Professional organizers also swear by the power of labeling.  “Out of sight, out of mind” certainly applies to clutter stored in drawers and cabinets.  Taking the time to label shelves, drawers, and containers makes it significantly easier to find what you’re looking for.  Think about clear labels with handwritten descriptions or investing in a label maker for a more polished look.  Clear containers offer another valuable advantage – you can see what’s inside at a glance, eliminating the need to rummage through drawers or open multiple containers to find a specific item.  Labeling and clear containers work together to create a more organized and efficient system for storing your belongings.


Lost items are a common yet costly problem. By understanding the true financial impact, both in terms of replacement costs and wasted time, and by implementing these organizational strategies, you can take proactive steps to become more organized. Remember, a little planning and effort today can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Episode Timestamps

[1:28] Americans collectively spent $2.7 billion each year [on lost items].

[4:52] My frustration grows stronger.

[5:38] End up in the landfills because someone misplaced them.

[7:11] Create designated spots for frequently used items.

[8:01] Clutter breeds chaos!

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Heather Clark declutter expert

Heather Clark, Declutter Expert

Helping you navigate the change by decluttering your MIND | BODY | SOUL | HOME.

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