I am trying to find idioms that could express "looking for something" and "trying to find something in a room full of mess". One that I could find was "hunt high and low," but for some reason I don't really feel satisfied using it. Can someone please suggest some other phrase?

I would like to use in a context like this:

"I tried to look for the pen in my dorm room (which was messy) but couldn't find it".

For e.g. I would want to tell someone that every time I want something, I have to search the place thoroughly to locate it.

  • 10
    "Like looking for a needle in a haystack", "I found it in the last place I looked".
    – Mitch
    Jun 18, 2013 at 17:21
  • 1
    "Searching in every nook and cranny" means to look in every possible place for something. It doesn't require the place where you are searching to be full of mess. Jun 18, 2013 at 17:24
  • There are several questions that already cover this idiom. Have you searched the site? Jun 18, 2013 at 17:48
  • I didn't know what to search for... and searching for something using the keyword "search" did not help much...
    – Codename
    Jun 18, 2013 at 17:51
  • 3
    @Dez so you have to turn the room upside down? Jun 18, 2013 at 21:16

7 Answers 7


These are not idioms, but they may be useful hyperboles:

You could say "Every time I need something from there, I need to call search-and-rescue to find it."

Or "Only a search dog can find what I need in there."

  • Yes, this seems to be a viable option.
    – Codename
    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:37

I think an expression that explains why you can't find an object might be more useful. You said you tried looking for a pen in your room, which was messy, and failed.

So you could say something similar to:

"I tried looking everywhere, but the room looked like a bomb had hit it!"

  • That's good but I was looking for something that would focus more on the act of searching rather than the mess in the room.
    – Codename
    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:36
  • @Dez Then Mitch's suggestion, like looking for a needle in a haystack, is the one I would opt for. If he had written it as an answer. I would not have proposed this alternative.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:42
  • The OD link is this: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 27, 2016 at 21:37

"Trying to find a needle in a haystack" would work efficiently in this scenario.

  • "needle in a haystack" was suggested in the first comment. It is OK to take a suggestion in a comment and expand on it in an answer, but your answer adds nothing to the comment.
    – ab2
    Jan 28, 2016 at 0:51

You might say,

I tried to look for the pen in my dorm room. I turned the room upside down, but never found the pen.


Ok, with some more reading, I now realise that the word I was looking for was "rummage". I rummaged through my room to find it.

  • -1 In your question you said you were looking for an idiom, but in your answer you accepted a verb.
    – haha
    Jan 27, 2016 at 21:58
  • Yes, you are right. Although "rummage" was the word I was originally looking for. I wont change the question though. Accepting another answer. Thanks for pointing out.
    – Codename
    Jan 28, 2016 at 5:49

I searched high and low; I left no stone unturned; I had to go over the place with a fine-tooth comb.


Run it to ground is one of the best ones I can come up with. it stands for looking for someone or something until its is found and resolved to your satisfaction

  • Run somebody/something to earth/ ground (BrE) means to succeed in finding someone or something after a long search.
    – haha
    Jan 28, 2016 at 11:07

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