Never Lose Anything





Introduction: Never Lose Anything

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

The classic image for remembering something is a piece of string tied around your finger.  It is supposed to remind you of what you want to remember. 

I know a couple expecting their second child.  They have a nice crib they want to use, but they cannot remember where the special screws are for assembling part of the crib.  What I am about to demonstrate in this Instructable would have allowed them to find the missing screws in a few seconds with almost no effort.

Step 1: The Force IS With You--Use the Force!

Your computer is the force that will enable you to retrieve any piece of information or any item you need.  All you need is a simple text document that you compose. 

In the graphic you see a simple text document.  I made the font extra large so you can read it easily.  Normally, it would be the much smaller size I usually use for documents I compose.  I could title this text document "My Stuff" or "Locater."  

Where I store things I will need later is not important.  But, it is important that I make an entry in this text document for each item or idea or piece of information I may want to find quickly later.  I used a right angle bracket or chevron (>) to separate the item from its location.  I used a simple dash (-) to separate entries.  These things are entirely arbitrary and your decision. 

Sometimes an entry could have several key words associated with it.  Include as many key words as you can conceive.  You never know which one will come to your mind when you want to find something.  You will not run out of space in this document, so increase your likelihood for finding the entry you need by using plenty of key words.  For example, if the item you will try to find later is Coca-Cola, include key words like coke, Coca-Cola, carbonated beverage, drink, and soda pop. 

Step 2: A New Use for an Old Feature

When you need to locate an entry in your text file, open it and use the Find function built into your word processor.  Pull down Edit and click on Find & Replace.

Step 3: Search

After clicking on Find & Replace, the dialog box opens.  I entered "leaf" because I am reasonably certain this is part of the entry that tells me where the digitized manual is for our 2-cycle leaf blower.  The computer is able to sort through any number of pages in any document to find a word that may occur only one time in that document.  After I click on "Close" in the dialog box, I can read the rest of the entry.  In this case, the digitized manual for our leaf blower is in a folder titled "Equipment manuals," and it is on a thumb drive I keep plugged into a USB hub that is connected to the computer.  As it happens I know a copy of this folder also exists on a special backup CD stored in another location.  It is a good idea to have backups of all of these files, including the file that tells where I have stored all of my documents, things, and ideas. 

Step 4: Away From Your Computer?

What about when you are away from your computer, but need to make an entry? 

I always carry a pen and a small piece of paper or two in my pocket.  Scribble a note and enter the information into your computer text file the next time you are at your computer. 

Step 5: Away From Home

Many people carry digital devices, like this iPhone.  These devices usually allow the user to load documents onto them, or they allow the user to have an account on-line where personal information and documents can be stored for access while away from home.  If you are traveling and someone back home needs to know where something is, you can access the text file you make in conjunction with this Instructable, search it, and give that person the exact location.  You can do this in seconds without straining to remember where something might be.

This is a simple idea that uses a familiar computer function in a new way to manage any type of personal information you might need later.  The ways that you use this to retrieve any kind of information related to your life are limited only by your imagination.  As you begin to use it, you will think of even more powerful ways to manage more and more information quickly and effortlessly.  One beauty of this idea is that you do not need to buy special equipment beyond the computer you already use to read this Instructable.   

(The photo is from Bing images.)



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    I just lost my draft with many photos, writing an instructable, help! Googled and your project came up. 8-)

    1 reply

    I am sorry for you about your lost work. I do not claim control over the vapors where data resides, but only spaces and places where we store daily needs

    With regards to the crib and other disassembled items I like to use packing tape to tape screws and other small pieces to the larger pieces. Duct tape can work as well. I also put manuals and spare bits in ziplock bags and tape them to the back/bottom of appliances and equipment. The bag of extra filters for my shop-vac are duct taped to my shop-vac for example. Why have a finger pointing at the moon when you can have the moon?

    3 replies

    I have done what you do and seen others use it, too. It is fine until someone does not put a manual back, or a manual could be placed with any one of several units, but no one remembers which one or where it is. Also, in these times manuals are often elecronic. If you have a computer file like the one suggested here it does not matter where you file the CD containing the manual. The computer file tells you exactly where the manual can be found. I know you believe your method is sufficient, but from my experience there are pitfalls in it that will one day leave you scratching your head and wishing you had the location of a manual in a searchable computer file. I have had that experience, and that is why I use the system I described.

    Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your approach and I have lost manuals. In which case I've downloaded copies from the internet. After a long career in IT, I find it relaxing to not be chained to a computer when at home. I like simpler methods that don't require :^D

    The main issue I have with a file that tells where things are is that if someone doesn't put a manual back in its proper place, now, not only is it lost, but you have a file that claims it is where it isn't. The problem with records is they get stale. My method keeps my shop-vac bags wherever the shop-vac is. I could certainly see the sense of having a network drive directory where copies of all electronic manuals could be kept. In which case I'd know where to find all my electronic manuals and wouldn't need another file to tell me where to find each one.

    The bottom line is that your system works for you and mine works for me. Readers can adapt what works for them, which may be a combination or something neither of us have thought of.

    Remember that a searchable file like I suggested is not just for keeping track of manuals and spare parts, but also for key pieces of information unrelated to where an item is. These pieces of information could be related to a procedure used for something done only infrequently, etc.

    There are a lot of note taking apps like evernote that could be handy for this, since they do phone and computer... Either that or use a synch app like dropbox to modify the file on the fly...

    6 replies

    Anything that allows you to enter text and search it later would work. Thanks for your comment.

    One thing to consider: at the present time I may be using a particular digital device with its own relatively unique format. In a few years I may be using an entirely different digital device that is unable to open the files I generated on the device I am using now. It is important to select a program and file format that will have some permanence and universality.

    Also when i need to remember something i create a message on my phone about it but dont send it but save it to my draft folder! great instructable as always!

    That works. I sometimes send e-mails to myself for short term reminders. Is a phone message to yourself good way of remembering where something is that you may need three or five years from now, like a legal document or an insurance policy?

    Defo not but i find that most people have a "special place where they put things like documents" anywhere from underthe bed to behind sofa!

    When I was younger and had fewer responsibilities entailing less stuff I could remember just about everything I needed to know. But, life becomes more complicated and there are more things stored in more places. The time comes when you need to put your hands on something you have not seen or handled for five or ten years. Suddenly you are awash in a bad case of, "I have no idea!" For those times, a searchable document like this makes all of the difference between finding something in a few seconds and tearing your hair out for days on end.

    Very interesting, Phil, but I could forget where I put the computer...

    Jokes apart, it is a good idea!.

    Since around 30 years ago, I keep a diary where I record the daily personal and familiar events, and always thinked to load it in the computer, It would be a very good thing to have the possibility to find fastly when happened an event. But never dared to face that big work. I estimate each day is about 80 words in average, from 0 (a few ones) to more than 200.

    1 reply

    Thank you, Osvaldo. I have suggested this to many people. They are all amazed at how simple and basic it is, and by the power available in it to control the many different details in one's life. Somehow, I doubt that many have followed up and done it. We usually think we must buy some new device, but our computers already offer useful tools we have not considered.