I remember the first time I had this conversation with someone in one of my organizing classes. I’ve always written addresses in pencil, so I can easily update them when people move or get a new phone number. A woman in the front row shook her head and said, “You’ve got to be kidding”, she said. “My address book is the chronicle of my life!”

She went on to explain that her book contained the “stories” of her family and friends — their college years, marriages, divorces and moves across the country. She has entered the changes in their lives with colored pens and pencils, in the spaces provided and up and down in the margins. I smiled at her blankly. “Well, if that works for you…”

I have to confess that I didn’t really understand where she was coming from until my grandmother passed away. I needed a space in my address book for a new friend’s name that started with “P” and found that all of the “P” spaces were filled. I also noticed that I still had my grandmother’s address and phone number in there. I reached for an eraser, and immediately thought, “Oh no!” There’s no way I can erase her!” Of course, it wasn’t “her” that I would be erasing, but just the same — I couldn’t do it.

It’s now years since this happened. I still erase information, but not people. I’m sure that as time goes on, there will be many more listings for family and friends who are no longer with us. But they will live on…in my address book.

What about you? What kind of address book do you keep?

5 Responses to "Do You Erase Addresses in Your Address Book?"

  1. Jamie

    December 20, 2007

    Oh, that is so interesting. I never thought of an address book as a chronicle like that. My address information is kept in Outlook and I’d update that without hesitation. I think something changes when you move from paper.

    What’s more comparable is my daybook. At the back I have contact information for the people who I regularly need to contact. If I looked through a series of years, I would see those changes (as well as who is most present in my life that year).

    Another thing for me like that is birthday’s in my datebook. I try to keep a good record of those. When I no longer see someone, even if it’s been years, I find it difficult not to put their birthday in my new book.

  2. Lauren

    December 20, 2007

    I don’t keep a paper address book, but I have encountered the same hesitancy about erasing people from my cellphone. I have no problem changing a number, but taking someone out entirely is difficult. Grandma and grandpa are still in there even though they’ve passed. I never could bring myself to erase Brad either. I wonder why that is. I find it fascinating how we (most humans) associate things with people so strongly. I wonder how many/what percentage of the things we hold onto (surely different for every person), we do so not because of what it is (for it’s utility or perhaps even aesthetic appeal) but merely because of what represents and our desire to remember what it represents.

  3. sunny

    December 20, 2007

    No paper address book?? Lauren, where do you keep the family’s addresses? 😉
    It’s fascinating to me how comfortable you and Jamie are with trusting technology. I can really see an age gap here.
    And I agree that we leave people in or move their birthdays forward in order to hold on, in some way, to what was.

  4. June

    January 6, 2008

    About 20 years ago, a friend gave me an address book for helping in our sons’ Campfire group. Last summer she came to visit and when I went to look up a phone number, she was so pleased to see I still used the same book. (She had bought one for her at the same time so recognized it immediately..and she still uses hers). I am like the woman in the class. Myaddress book is precious. There are names I never use, but don’t get rid of because they are a memory of something in the past. Only good folks made it in my book, or for a reason. Like Bemidji Woolen Mills When I used to have time to spin.
    I have kept an even older one I transfered valid, current info from then. I had just read an article in the paper by a man who had just got a new address book and had such a time of reminiscing that he wrote an article. How it felt to leave off his deceased grandmother’s name in the new book, which acquaintences would not make it into the new book, etc. I was so touched by it and remembered his article when I started my transfer. I think I will write an article now, too! And start another transfer…. leaving my desceased grandmother out of the new book, but keeping the old book as a memory.

  5. sunny

    January 6, 2008

    June — I understand the sentiments perfectly. The only time you really have to make a decision about saving things is when space is tight, or you can’t function with so much stuff around you. Then you have to choose between all of the things that are “sentimental” by prioritizing. For example, if you number your sentimental favorites from 1 to 3, you should pass along/throw out the 3’s and find homes for all of the 1’s. If there’s any room left over you can save the 2’s.

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