Tales From An Accidental E-mail Hoarder
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?