The Tell-All Planner

I just came across a new book, The Address Book by Sophie Calle.  I am not familiar with this author, nor have I read the book in its entirety; I only skimmed it.  I bring it up because of the premise.  Apparently, the author came across someone’s address book in Paris.  According to the author’s foreword, before anonymously returning the book to its rightful owner, she photocopied the contents and decided to call the people listed to see if they would give some insight as to the type of person the owner is.  Some people refused, but some people complied.  So the book is actually a collection of stories and tidbits from the people who accepted Calle’s invitation to discuss the owner.  She also decided that she would only reveal the owner’s name if he/she agreed to meet with her.  The owner is referred to as “Pierre D.”

If you click on the link above, you can see that the book’s cover is similar to a Moleskine in that it has the band that keeps the book closed—I thought this was a clever addition, and I have to admit, what caused me to pick up the book in the first place (well that and the fact that I overheard our head cataloger say that she didn’t know what call number to assign to it, for a variety of factors—she decided on 848.914, French Miscellaneous Writings, for anyone who might be interested).  Amazon’s review states this book as being “controversial.”  I can see why—if I were the owner of the address book, I might be insulted by author’s idea to begin with, not to mention any “friends” who agreed to give insight into my personality without my knowledge and/or permission.  I mean, a stranger is copying my personal collection of information, not to mention my friends’ addresses!

And once I moved past my initial reaction, my next thought of course was, What if this were me?  What is this were my planner someone found???  What would it reveal?

I don’t keep an extensive list of phone numbers in my compact binder; rather I have a full address book in my household personal Malden.  My compact holds only those very important phone numbers—emergency contacts and doctors and services—and I would like to think that no one on any of those lists knows me well enough or would divulge any kind of information about me, either because they legally can’t (in the case of the doctors) or ethically wouldn’t (in the case of my emergency contacts).  However, I’m sure someone could devise some kind of outline of my life based on the information they would find.

This is what they would see:
  • They would know approximately where I live based on the phone numbers that are listed.
  • They would know approximately what ailments I have based on the type of doctors listed and the current notes about any health issues I keep for reference purposes.
  • They would know I have a blog based on the topics ideas I have listed, as well as the name of the blog since that too is listed.
  • They would know that I’m an avid journal keeper since I also have writing topics for that.
  • They would know that I keep details of my current projects with me at all times, and they might devise some idea or another about my hobbies and plans based on what is there at any given time.
  • They would know that I’m a huge list-maker, and maybe just a little OCD.
  • They would know that I have a thing for Post-its (but really, who can blame me for that?).
  • They would be able to see when I work and where I like to vacation based on the diary inserts, past, present, and future.
  • They might not know where work, but they could probably figure out what I do and the details to such since I keep my work to-dos listed here.
  • They would probably be able to track me down based on my father’s funeral cards I always keep in there.

Hmm.  All of this makes me just a little nervous.  Most of us carry our planner around with us everywhere we go.  And while I have been known to leave my planner at work, I have never lost it (knocking on wood here).  But the thought leaves me uneasy—the information someone could gather about me based on my planner is more than a little overwhelming.  And unlike my smartphone, there’s no app that can shut it down and erase the contents if it ever is lost.

Does this mean I won’t carry it with me now?  Probably not.  But I will surely keep a sharper eye and a tighter grip on it at all times.  It has become more than just an extension of my brain—it’s an extension of who I am, much like Pierre’s address book became for him.  I just hope that if anyone happens to find a lost planner of mine, they won’t write a tell-all book about its personal contents.


  1. I frequently keep my planner in my car or in my purse. I've often thought about the possibility that someone might steal my car or grab my purse and then my planner would be gone. There's a LOT of info in that book. They could pretty much reconstruct my whole life from its pages. But I won't leave it at home. I'll just have to take that chance. Fortunately I haven't lost it yet. Hopefully that trend will continue!

    1. I'm pretty good about putting my planner in my bag, and when I'm out and about, I'm not that likely to take it out without putting it back right away. But the idea of losing it or leaving it somewhere is unsettling to me. I'll just have to be extra conscious about it now.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. They would indeed know all that...but so does every stranger reading your blog, so whats the worry?,

    1. I did think of that as I was writing the post. The difference is that while I talk about what's in my planner here on the blog, I don't give specific details, as in where I work or people's phone numbers, etc. I'm not REALLY worried. It's just unsettling to think about the kinds of things people can deduce just from your planner. But you're right -- with all the social media these days, no matter the privacy settings, it's out there, and it would probably be out there even if there was no blog.

  3. I immediately went to my purse to look inside my planner through a stranger's eyes. Well, I could say that most of people wouldn't understand what's going on because half of it is in English (I live in Russia).
    Also they would know names of my family's names, but not mine. BTW, I added in case of lost page, thanks to you!
    Also they would know that I am crazy about planners in general and that I'm creating my own now - there are notes and ideas about it.
    And my goals until the rest of my life and my daughter.
    And my routines, and telephones, and my shedule and my daughter's, and my affirmations, and expences. Wow, that is a lot!

    1. Ooo, a planner in code (or another language) -- I like it! Too bad I don't know a second language well enough to do that. ;-) It's funny -- as I was writing the post, I wondered if anyone who came across my planner wouldn't care so much about the information that's in it so much at be appalled by my anal retentive planning, with all the lists and projects and types of things I keep a record of. They'd probably laugh, chuck the planner, and move on. Thanks for your comment!


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