I think it started with scissors. Or maybe it was scotch tape...or was it the stapler? A normal family has a pair of household scissors and a roll of tape, right? And occasionally they go missing and require a search of nooks and crannies, and eventually they're replaced in the "everything" drawer, safe and sound. Ah, but with each successive addition to the family, the possibilities for answers to "WHERE ARE THOSE SCISSORS THIS TIME?" just increase and become more challenging! And for a few years, that kind of challenge threatened to drive me to the insane asylum, or at least into anger management support groups.
First, I tried having the kids actually check out the scissors or the stapler, signing their names and requiring them to notify me when the item was returned. Not wanting to subject the Papa to this routine, however, gave the kids a convenient answer for the missing item: "Well, maybe Dad took it!" Suffice to say that the number of days a year that the scissors, tape, and stapler were all in their assigned places roughly corresponded to the number of appearances of Halley's Comet in my lifetime.
Next I tried just buying an extra pair of scissors. Surely, then, there'd always be one pair in the drawer even if one was "wandering," right? Those of you who are raising more than two children are already laughing, so I'll skip to my next idea.
How about if I keep the scissors in my room, and require that the user of the scissors come to me, use them in front of me, and hand them back to me before leaving my room! That's it! It's foolproof! Until the day that I came face to face with how long it takes to cut those 56 little half-inch wide strips that it takes to weave one of those great construction paper placemats. And she wanted to know if I wanted a matching set! For the whole family!
In one last, desperate attempt to avoid anti-psychotic medication, I finally hit on the answer that has saved my sanity in many areas: stock up with more than you can count. Yes, you read that right. Get a whole bunch, and DON'T EVER COUNT! Psychologists tell us that the average person can look at a collection of items and automatically know how many are there until the number reaches six, and then he has to count to make sure. I figured if I had more than six of everything, there would always be a few around and I'd never know just by glancing how many were missing! Friends, you can't imagine what wonders this has done in my life. Having nine children and a whole bunch of grandchildren, number increasing as we speak, has given me license to just buy stuff in bulk, and never stop to count. My first victory was with the scissors. I went and bought a bunch (no counting!) of child-size scissors and "strung" them on a round shower curtain ring. And there they are to this day! Are they all there? I don't know--I don't WANT to know, because then I would feel compelled to go and find the missing ones. I check every now and then, and if the ring looks reasonably full, I go back to bed with a smile on my face.
Flush with success, I transferred my concept to every conceivable trouble spot. I now have more forks, spoons, and knives of my two main sets than I can count at a glance, so I never know if or when a couple are missing. Seven rolls of scotch tape, three or four staplers, half a dozen hole punchers, five Phillips screwdrivers (but who's counting), at least two dozen cheap plastic rulers, seven waffle irons. (Oh wait--missing waffle irons were never a problem, that's just a hobby of mine, collecting vintage waffle irons.) If anyone questions my extravagance, I always have the comeback that I want to have enough of everything to pass one down to each of my children. The reading of the will is going to be so great: "And to Timothy I leave the purple ruler and the green scissors, smaller pair..."