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 '13 at 17:21
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    "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. – Kaiser Octavius Jun 18 '13 at 17:24
  • There are several questions that already cover this idiom. Have you searched the site? – Kristina Lopez Jun 18 '13 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 '13 at 17:51
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    @Dez so you have to turn the room upside down? – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 18 '13 at 21:16

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 '13 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 '13 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 '13 at 11:42
  • The OD link is this: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/… – Mari-Lou A Jan 27 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 at 11:07

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