ADHD in College

I Lose, Therefore I Am

Strategies for holding on to keys, wallets, and cell phones — all tested by a busy and resourceful college student.

Man with ADHD shown with wallet sticking out of back pocket
Man with ADHD shown with wallet sticking out of back pocket

For an attention-challenged person like me, life is a never-ending game of hide-and-seek. This morning my phone was hiding; this afternoon I found it. Awhile back my keys were hiding, then my wallet and my cell phone. A game I loved as a child has followed me into adulthood, having morphed into something tedious and maddeningly repetitive.

I lose things on an almost daily basis. “What am I doing wrong?” I ask myself. The answer, I’m sorry to say, is that I’m not doing anything wrong. It’s just that people with ADHD are inclined to lose things — as they are to spelling errors, accidents, and foot-in-mouth disease.

Each time I leave my dorm, I pause before closing the door. I’ve forgotten something, I think. But what? If I spent 20 minutes trying, I might remember. But my friends won’t wait 20 minutes for me to find that CD, my professor won’t wait 20 minutes for me to find my homework, and — when I enter the “job world” — my boss won’t wait 20 minutes before removing me from the payroll. Better just to get going than to exasperate the people who matter to me.

Let’s examine some strategies I’ve developed for holding on to the things I lose most often. They don’t always work (obviously), but they’re better than nothing.


I’ve started wearing my keys on a lanyard. A lanyard, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a lasso… that you wear… around your neck. In other words, something that looks absolutely ridiculous, especially when you are decked out in a hot-red dress and matching heels. Thank goodness, I’m no fashionista.

Can’t bear the damage a lanyard will inflict on your image? Dial up your best (and geographically closest) buddy, and give her a copy of your keys.


I could tell you how many times I’ve lost my wallet, but you would never believe me. (Believe me.) In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on trying not to lose my wallet. Instead, I try not to carry much valuable stuff in it. Here’s what’s in my wallet right now:

  • Gift certificates. Actually, these things probably shouldn’t be in here — no warranties on a gift certificate.
  • Documents that people with ADHD really ought to copy and maintain separately: AAA card, health insurance card, driver’s license, and student ID.
  • One dollar, two dimes, and six pennies — plus about $25 in IOUs to friends who loaned me money. I ought to copy these and keep them at home, as a backup. You can replace money faster than you can replace friends. Incidentally, the $1.26 and IOUs in my wallet speak to me. They’re saying: “Get a job!”
  • A prayer to Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost and stolen items.

Cell Phone

Keeping track of my cell phone has been my biggest challenge. Just ask my parents. They’ll cry — I mean, they’ll tell you all about it. I’ll lose a phone, and then lose the replacement within hours.

The worst thing about losing my phone is losing all the phone numbers programmed into it. So now I keep a printout of all my contacts so that, when I lose my phone, I won’t lose my contacts — or my mind — again.

I’ve considered hanging my cell phone on my lanyard, but I don’t want to look like a total geek. I do have phone replacement insurance, which is worth the small cost per month. You should know, however, that the insurer will cancel the policy if you lose too many phones in a calendar year. I speak from experience.

I’m sure there are many other things you and I should keep better track of. But for now, be vigilant. And recite that prayer to St. Anthony of Padua.