The Insult of the Missing Piece

The way that we constantly lose things at our house grates on me. Of course, with two children some of this is to be expected. I understand that. I don’t sweat it too much when we lose a hair clip or an itty bitty sock. I realize that the magnetic alphabet stuck to the fridge will be down 3 letters in the first 24 hours. I don’t expect that every item we own will always be accounted for.

Not every item we lose is all that small, though. Many of them are far too large to fit under the dryer or get shoved down a heating vent. And yet they just up and vanish. We regularly lose things like CD cases, board books, phones and toddler puzzle pieces with giant wooden knobs. Often, I know I have seen these things. I have some recollection of viewing the item in question. And yet, try as I might, I can’t quite resolve when or where. The chaos of my life has combined with my sketchy memory, and I am out a vacuum brush.

A puzzle with a missing piece
The fish piece with the giant knob went missing over a year ago

I am just neurotic enough to take it personally when a puzzle is missing a piece or a CD is missing its case. It peeves me to think of it sitting there, incomplete. I would love nothing more than to have it all back together as its maker intended. I rip apart toy boxes and utility closets in pursuit of that misplaced thing that would make the world right. I rarely find it.

Occasionally, I do manage to uncover some long-lost item in the most unexpected place. I joke with my husband Jon, and say things like, “I can’t believe I didn’t check for the Wiggles DVD in the shoe cupboard! What was I thinking?” Then I glare at the children, because I’m pretty sure I didn’t put the DVD in the shoe cupboard. And the cat is lacking the necessary opposable thumbs. Process of elimination, kiddos.

My Dyson is missing one of its brush attachments
Jon’s favourite vacuum brush has gone on walkabout

I am the only one in my house who takes it personally when a toy is missing a part. The kids did the disassembling in the first place. Jon doesn’t like it when he can’t find something he needs, but he’s completely unconcerned if the Fisher Price ring stacker has only 4 of the original 5 rings. When a ring turns up, he’s just as likely to throw it into a drawer as re-assemble the ring stacker. I feel this is 15 different kinds of wrong, but he disagrees. He believes that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and a clean floor trumps all. But in my soul I need that ring stacker to proudly display its rings in perfection.

I can see that my desire to know where every puzzle piece is at all times does not enhance my life. As things are right now, puzzles will miss pieces in spite of my best efforts. Accepting it and moving on would be the smart thing to do. I could join Jon in throwing toys into the toy box and preserve my sanity. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Failing to reunite all pieces of a toy just saddens me too much.

Tell me, how do you handle missing stuff? How do you view a missing puzzle piece? Are you able to shrug and move on, or do you take it as personally as I do?

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  1. I’ve solved the mystery of the alphabet fridge magnets – they get shoved down to the bottom of the fridge door and stick to the metal bottom of the fridge! Eureka!

    As for the puzzle pieces – yes – so annoying. I have a similar puzzle at home that’s missing a piece. In fact, I tend to hold onto these items for far too long after they’ve become displaced because inevitably – as soon as I throw it out – I will find that missing piece. On the other side of it, I find it extremely gratifiying to finally find these items. One of the things I’ve learned to do better since becoming a mother is how to “keep, donate, toss” – you know – when I find the time.
    Tanya’s last post … On the lack of timeMy Profile

  2. Amber, we own a puzzle shop. Missing pieces plague me.

    But even if we didn’t, its just the asymmetricity (yes, made that word up) of it that offends my asthetic sensibility.

    I’ve put puzzles with missing pieces away in a box for garage sale, because I can’t bear to look at or have anyone play with it sans piece, lest the asymmetric-ness of it rubs off as “normal” on my kids.

    Perhaps I’m not so nutty afterall?
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Keeping Your CoolMy Profile

  3. Pain, pain, pain… really, it’s quite strange how these things disappear. I had three umbrellas, do you think I could find one on Tuesday when it rained like no one’s business. No. Bought a new one yesterday and now found 2 of the three stuck between kid’s bed and wall. I could go on forever. And ever.
    Mel’s last post … Thankful Friday or epiphanies ruleMy Profile

  4. I’m also bothered by missing pieces, and by kids constantly asking “mom, where did that go?”
    Francesca’s last post … summer bluesMy Profile

  5. I am right there with you! Although most of the “missing pieces” from our toys are the result of the dog–and not my 16 month old. Our three-piece handmade wooden train lasted all of two days in the house before the dog ate the middle out of it. And recently, the dog chewed up one of the boy’s favourite wooden stacking cups (and, yes, the dog has plenty of his own chew toys). Perhaps it’s time to switch to plastic? I’m pretty sure the dog wouldn’t find it nearly as appetizing.
    Sarah’s last post … This Past WeekendMy Profile

  6. Oh my gosh! I thought it was just me! It eats away at me when things go missing, and I, too, spend far too much time trying to reunite all the pieces of a set of toys. I was actually just lecturing my three-year-old on this not twenty minutes ago. I realize this is my OCD acting up, but that doesn’t make it any less aggravating. It’s gotten to where I dread my children receiving toys with lots of pieces. We have this one wooden puzzle that’s missing a piece and I was seriously just going to throw it away if it didn’t turn up, but now maybe I’ll reconsider. Like you said, the kids don’t care, and the puzzle is for them anyway.
    Jenny’s last post … Elephants on paradeMy Profile

  7. With wooden puzzles I don’t let pieces disappear. We have 6 puzzles, only 2 are allowed out at any time. The others are put in a place where only adults can get to them. I supervise all puzzle play as well to make sure pieces don’t disappear. When done I put them with the other 4. Yes I know it’s crazy, but it makes my life easier.

    For all other things when they disappear I usually check inside my husband’s computer, for some reason he hasn’t put a cover over the spot where the cd/dvd drives go. He built the thing two years ago. I’ve found several things inside the computer.

  8. You mean it’s not just me that needs the toys back together before putting them away? Holy cow! I thought it was my husbands Virgo tendencies rubbing off on me! HA! Except he is the one who will just toss toys in bins/baskets to clear the floor. It’s like that kink in my neck that I can’t get rid of. I can live with it but it feels so wrong!
    Sara’s last post … VitaminsMy Profile

  9. It was day of happiness when I discovered an online friend is also so upset by the asymmetry of eggs in an eggbox that she like me has to rearrange them symmetrically.

    I’m also now extremely happy to have found an entire community of like-minded lost things restorers here on your blog.

    My reasoning, apart from the whole aesthetically pleasing deal of reuniting and having a whole set, is that it’s much easier then to donate the said item with all pieces intact.
    pomomama aka ebbandflo’s last post … friday forte: SAHM, the myth vs realityMy Profile

  10. I try to be extra-careful with puzzles because having one missing piece drives me bonkers. Other things I’m not so careful with and bits and pieces wander off. I searched for days and days looking for the blue wooden ring out of the stacking toy, eventually gave up, and then found it when I pulled the living room furniture away from the wall to vaccum behind it (which I do once every, uh, year or so).

    What really REALLY bothers me is the hiking boot I lost. Somehow, I lost ONE of my very favourite hiking boots at a music festival three years ago. I still have the left one despite missing the right. I don’t know why I am keeping it, but I cannot bear to throw it away. How on earth I managed to lose one boot I will never know.
    michelle’s last post … Take a Hike! Natural Parenting and Hiking With Young ChildrenMy Profile

  11. It destroys my soul when I can’t find a piece of something. When the kids were little I would have to clean up all the toys and reassemble them after they went to bed. We had this dump truck with six shaped that fit in the side and the purple rectangle went missing and I died a little inside. Then one day it just showed up again. With a faintly guilty air, as if it had run off for a wild six months in Belize and then returned to take up its responsibilities. When Angus lost his Nintendo DS I was so devastated I kept looking for it even after it was already found.
    allison’s last post … ****************Variety is the Spice of Life. Except when it Blows Donkey Chunks.My Profile

  12. Hi, I’m new to your blog (been reading for a few days) and I just had to comment. This stuff drives me batty too!! I hate when things are missing pieces. I also like my 17 month old son’s toys put away in the correct bins. Thankfully my hubby knew about my slightly neurotic behaviour before having kids and he plays along, so now I just need to get the little guy on board 😉

    I do need to add that this is not a new behaviour for me. When I was a kid I hated toys that were missing pieces and puzzles with missing pieces would ensure a meltdown. Maybe it’s genetic? Hmm.

    Anyway, I really like your blog and I’m enjoying reading your thoughts. Thanks 🙂

  13. I hold onto those puzzles until I just can’t stand it anymore, knowing that at some point the piece will show up. Because once it did. After almost two years a missing piece appeared again. I don’t even know who found it – it just appeared. But now that we’re moving if something is missing a piece I am throwing it out. I feel like I have cleaned enough that I should have found it already. And of course since deciding this I have found some missing pieces of cardboard puzzles already at the recycling depot. I just can’t win!
    Melodie’s last post … Vegetarian Foodie Fridays: Cabbage and Beans Au GratinMy Profile

  14. Oh it just slays me! I hate throwing out perfectly good stuff, but you can’t really even pass on toys with missing pieces. Part of the reason we stopped even doing those younger kid puzzles.
    Hillary’s last post … hillaryboucher: @Preparing4Birth coming your way. #twitterbirthMy Profile

  15. For me it has only gotten worse. My preteen looses everything and the worst part is she doesn’t really care. For her it is no big deal it will turn up or we can just buy another one.

  16. I ‘try’ to remove clutter from our home, and ‘try’ not to let toys pile up too high, so those toys with missing pieces are sometimes the easiest ones for me to remove from our house. It is a win-win for me, less is more- the way I strive to live, and no more missing pieces to bother me. It is definitely a try though because it is not something I have conquered by any means! 😉
    Wendy Irene’s last post … Free Yourself From Junk Mail and Be Happier Doing It!My Profile

  17. Missing pieces drive me batty. We are currently missing a parrot piece to the bathtub matching game. And I am sure if I tried to put together the one puzzle left out to play it would be missing a few.

    We just have SO MUCH Stuff kicking around…I really need to purge but I also need the kids out of the house when I do so. It’s impossible to get rid of any toys when they are around.
    Carrie’s last post … Technology BabyMy Profile

  18. As soon as I read the title of this post, I knew it would resonate with me. I completely admit to being overly obsessed about missing puzzle pieces. In fact, last night I started a text file to enumerate the MIA items that are on my mind. On the list are my daughter’s Striderite mary janes, a very special book made by my mother-in-law for her granddaughter, a piece from the Winnie the Pooh puzzle, and much more!

    It doesn’t help that my daughter has taken to hiding things in obscure places. She’s started stuffing toys into socks that are lying around, so I’m having to be extra careful before doing the laundry to make sure I’m not washing any of those puzzle pieces! My special thread snips were missing for weeks before we went on a trip and I discovered the scissors hiding in the zippered handle compartment at the top of my suitcase!
    Holly’s last post … What I learned in May 2010My Profile

  19. Absolutely loathe missing pieces – I think it’s got to be a symptom of perfectionism – and a lesson in giving up some control 😉
    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama’s last post … The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler #10My Profile

  20. I don’t even try looking for stuff anymore. I figure it will turn up when they are 15. 🙂
    Capital Mom’s last post … Missing youMy Profile

  21. I used to get very upset over missing pieces. Very, very upset. Those damn alphabet magnets were usually the biggest culprit. Now, I’m just too lazy. LOL Apparently my desire to sit, and rest, and watch funny videos on YouTube has replaced my desire to crawl on the floor looking for the missing Q. Heh.
    Summer’s last post … Relationships Are HardMy Profile

  22. I am at least as particular about such things as you are. I take it to something of an extreme though in that I will get rid of toys that are missing pieces in a conspicuous way, rather than keep them in my home, shaming me the way they do. That’s a wee bit mental, isn’t it? I fight the fight with a basket that I chuck pieces of puzzles, games, and various toys into whenever I chance upon them. Then I sort through the basket every few days, returning the pieces to their proper locations. I also clean out my girls’ bedroom once a week and put everything in its place and everything WITH its place. My husband thinks I’m completely loony, and he’s probably right. Like your Jon, he believes “the perfect is the enemy of the good” (I love that line, by the way – brilliant).
    Kimberly’s last post … SnatchedMy Profile

  23. The soft puzzle box we got Buster for Christmas last year is missing the sailboat piece and it drives me UP THE WALL. You can extrapolate the rest of my attitude from there. 😉

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