Tales From An Accidental E-mail Hoarder

By Ashlee Gadd

In most aspects of life, I am the anti-hoarder. The Queen Purger. The minimalist. I don’t like dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, or clutter on the countertops. So how is it, exactly, that I keep 5,800 e-mails in my inbox?

What kind of e-mails, you ask? Oh, the usual. Blog comments, J. Crew sale notifications, anti-Obama spam from my Grandma, online purchase confirmations, notes from friends, invitations to events, responses from weird people about my Craigslist postings, etc. For every 50 e-mails I receive, there are probably two worth saving.

A few months ago I was getting so overwhelmed with my inbox that I spent an entire week unsubscribing from unnecessary e-mails (I’m looking at you, Living Social). It seemed like as soon as I unsubscribed from one list, I had somehow unintentionally subscribed to another. My inbox became a beast that desperately needed to be tamed and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

So, I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself: Get the inbox down from 5,800 to zero by the end of November. An hour later, I was down to 1,800 and going strong. If I can do it, you can do it!


  • Delete batches at a time. In Gmail, you can type in “from:________” or “subject:_________” and select all of the messages that fit that criteria. I found every e-mail from Living Social, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Shutterfly, Amazon, Baby Center, etc. and deleted them all at once.
  • Delete your unimportant history. For me, that meant deleting every e-mail before 2011. I know that probably sounds harsh and borderline crazy, but if I was going to really assess the content of my inbox, I decided to focus on the last two years to make it easier on myself. I sorted my inbox from oldest-newest, and deleted 25 e-mails at a time, skimming briefly to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important (I wasn’t).
  • Organize your folders and labels. I have folders set up for a mix of personal and professional categories (blog, photography, freelance, friends, travel, receipts, etc). If an e-mail didn’t fall into a folder but I knew I wanted to hold onto it, I archived it. The archive feature in Gmail is great because it allows you to keep e-mails without having them show up in your inbox.
  • Set an inbox cap. Moving forward, my new goal is to only keep 25 e-mails in my inbox at a time. Once an e-mail is taken care of, it gets a) moved to a folder, b) archived, or 3) trashed.

How do you manage your e-mail? Any tips and tricks to share?

Guest blogger Ashlee Gadd is a writer, photographer, and brand new momma to Everett Hudson. She blogs at Where My Heart Resides and is the Managing Editor of The Violet.

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1 Comment

  1. Christine says

    I love to delete emails just as much as I love to get rid of unnecessary clothes and clear up clutter! I pretty much delete any sale email/deal/brand outreach as soon as I know I’m not going to take advantage of it–and if I feel like I never take advantage of them, I unsubscribe. (The feeling of unsubscribing is even more joyous than deleting!) I also delete travel information–flight confirmations, hotel bookings, etc.–as soon as I’ve returned from a trip and/or paid off the charges. I also love the folders feature on gmail–I do keep a lot of my personal emails that are the modern-day equivalent of an email, but I don’t want them in my inbox. Proud of you for taking this on!

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