Keep a Canonical Address Book

OMG!!! Google and Siri know SO! MANY! PEOPLE! They know all the people my husband and I have ever exchanged a message with!

I have hundreds of contacts on my phone.

My husband has hundreds of contacts on HIS phone.

Between us, we have literally thousands of contacts that our phones have automagically, indiscriminately synced with various accounts, over, well, decades by now. The party never ends! I still have contacts from people in grad school. He has contact information from people he worked with over a decade ago. (And probably, they’re not on hotmail any more…)

And yet, we still kept asking each other for emails, phone numbers, addresses. He had a family friend’s information. I did not.

I kept track of our kids’ ever-changing email addresses. He did not.

So I keep what we call the Canonical Household Address book. It is a physical, paper address book but we only keep critical contacts there:

  • family members (ours, his, and mine)
  • close friends (ditto)
  • next-door neighbors
  • contact info for people like the vet, the plumber, the electrician, the accountant

I just counted up the number of entries. It’s about thirty. No wonder that didn’t take long to set up. But maybe you know more people than we do!

I told the kids if we both meet our maker on the local interstate (it could happen! lots of accidents there), to go through the Canonical Address Book and they would know everyone to inform.

I used a bright red Moleskine address book, because as soon as I saw it, I was itching to write in it. Havron’s First Law of Personal Information Management: Use Tools You Love to Use. Then you have half a chance of actually keeping up with it.

To cut through the digital clutter, consider keeping a paper household contact list.

If you have a printer, you could use a three-ring binder or report cover, and print important contact information out. I used to do that, but I found it simpler just to hand-copy the information I wanted, instead of fiddling with apps and muttering about duplicates.

Behold the Canonical Address Book. I’m showing a blank page for privacy reasons, and also… how come we aren’t close to anybody whose last name begins with “A”?


a paper address book lies open, with a pen placed on top of a blank page with a tab on its side for the letter A

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