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The Rolodex: To keep or toss?

Rolodex is a rotating file device used to store business contact information (the name is a portmanteau word of rolling and index). The Rolodex holds specially shaped index cards; the user writes the contact information for one person or company on each card. The cards are notched to be able to be snapped in and out of the rotating spindle. Many users avoid the effort of writing by taping the contact’s business card directly to the Rolodex index card. — Wikipedia

Hey, remember these? I am still unpacking boxes for my new office and pulled this baby out of a box last night.

As you can see, my three-year-old son is in the corner of the frame, wondering what the heck this thing is. It would seem that the Rolodex has gone the way of the do-do bird, or at least the Underwood typewriter and land-line phone. There was once a time when a businessperson’s Rolodex was their absolute most important possession. It was their network and as we all know, a network can also equate to your net worth.

But now? I just google anyone I’m looking for. Or I search for them on LinkedIn, or if they are so inclined, I just tweet with them. I really can’t remember the last time I ever used or referred to someone’s business card.

This wasn’t always the case. In 1995, as a newly minted account representative at a graphic design agency, business cards were like nuggets of gold to me. Gold, I tell you! When it wasn’t so easy to find people and all of their credentials on line, a business card gave you a verifiable connection with someone. You had exchanged cards in person somewhere, so it wasn’t like cold-calling someone out of the blue. The same applied for any kind of referrals. I always kept handy in my Rolodex the cards of excellent printing company reps, translators, and even hair stylists so that I could serve as a resource for others.

But alas, my Rolodex now only serves to make me feel dizzy at the changes that have taken place since then. And although I haven’t actually used the thing in years. Years, and years, actually. I did cart it from job to job for nearly a decade. And now, I’m torn — do I keep it for memory sake ( interesting dust collector?) or do I accept that those days are over and toss it?


  1. I do not have a Rolodex, but I have a collection of business cards in my desk drawer. I save the cards from tradesmen that I have used to do work in my home and yard, especially when they provide good service: tree trimmers, grass cutters, snow plowing, electricians, plumbers, window-cleaners and many others. I use Google when I need someone for something I need done for the first time, and if they are good, I save their cards for future use.

  2. Chuck it! Take the pic, there’s your memory and it’s dust free. As for tradespeople, scan or transfer their info to your contacts…says the woman trying to dispose of a billion pieces of paper.

  3. As a professional organizer (and one of your fellow Julie Club members), I think the key problem with a Rolodex is that it’s awkward, and only becomes more so as time goes on. You, yourself, say you haven’t searched for a business card in years, which means you haven’t updated the Rolodex in years. 

    It’s the format, not the content, that weighs you down, takes up prime horizontal real estate and, as you note, collects dust. You can easily scan the information into a business card scanner program, and even data entry, five cards at a time, would take almost no time, provided you gave yourself permission to let go of the names of people you’ve not needed to contact in years. You might come across a name or two with whom you’ll want to reconnect, but the actual Rolodex? Give yourself permission to set it free.Eileen’s point about tradespeople is apt, but a safer non-digital way to keep such cards at your fingertips is putting them in an empty business card box…it’s already the right size, and you can use tape flags or Post-It’s to divide categories.

  4. Maybe you can sell it to a museum and turn the profit into a nice new laptop!

  5. Jacqueline says:

    I hear ya – I don’t think I could juck out something that looks like it took years to build up.  Its almost like a statement of accomplishment……”Hmmm let me get out my rolodex and see if I have that contact”.  And then you bring out this massive wheel with a tone of contacts on display and makes a big clunk sound when it hits the desk….nothing screams importance and accomplished like a good, solid, heavy roladex.:)

    I say keep that bad boy and add to it….do you have my bus card in there?   If not, there is 1 more you can add!:)

    • Haha! You are the first person to not only say “keep it” — but to keep it active! I doubt I’ll do that, but pass me your business card anyways. It will make us both feel important! :)

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