Let’s Talk About How to De-clutter your Email Inbox

de-clutter your email inbox. 

This week’s theme is spring cleaning your life. Because this is a natural time of year when we want to shake off the sludge of winter and feel fresh as a spring chick. And now that we’ve been living through a pandemic, that yearning for feeling cleansed is stronger than ever. Let’s capitalize on this unique spring to get rid of the stuff that no longer serves. Today’s big idea is that, since a big portion of our lives happens online, it’s certainly worth some of your time to de-clutter your email inbox. 

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I am not going to tell you that you need to get to inbox zero

Which is just a fancy way of saying no emails in your inbox at the end of the day. BUT, I can tell you that having thousands of emails in your inbox, as I fully confess to having had until just a few days ago, is weighing you down. Those emails are a looming presence every time you go into your inbox–and the average American adult checks their email 15 times a day. 15 times a DAY. AND, the kicker is, 98% of those emails that are lingering are emails you have no intention of ever reading. 

It’s like being in a bath tub that is slowly filling with more and more water. At some point, you will become less and less able to breathe. 

I can personally attest how very energizing it is to de-clutter your email inbox

I just weeded out 8,000 emails from my inbox. Of those, I ended up feeling like I needed to keep 71. And that’s before I really take a closer look at them. I’m sure I can download the photos that are attached and then get them out of my inbox. 

I’m guessing that part of the reason you haven’t taken the time to de-clutter your email inbox already is because it sounds like it’s going to involve a lot of thinking and a lot of decisions. Maybe you’ve heard that advice to only touch a piece of paper once, and decide if you need to act on it, recycle it, or file it, or some such. Let me tell you, it doesn’t require a lot of decisions. Once you get back to emails from a few days ago you will mostly only be thinking, I don’t need any of this!!! Which is a great feeling, to get rid of crap you don’t need. It’s also great perspective that can help you hit the delete button a lot more on the emails that will continue to come in to your inbox. Because we know they will. 

While you’re de-clutter your email inbox by deleting old things, it really helps to unsubscribe from many of newsletters you’re getting–particularly those ones that you can see that you never open. Listen, I love a newsletter as much as anyone else, but I unsubscribed from every store email I was receiving, because I really don’t need to be shopping everytime I open my inbox. You’re going to see ads from the stores whose websites you visit everywhere you go online, anyway, so why invite them into your email experience? 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to go into your most crowded inbox, and delete 500 emails. That probably sounds like a big number that will take a lot of time, but we’re talking 10 minutes or less. 

You can make this as easy as going into gmail, selecting all emails in your box, and clicking the trash icon. I mean, you truly COULD do that. I’ve heard it described as declaring email bankruptcy, a total do-over. I did not have the ovaries to do this. I felt like surely there was some gold in those 8,000 emails that I didn’t want to just throw out. So, I went through one screen at a time–which is 50 emails. I selected all those 50 emails, and then quickly looked through the senderes and subjects and de-selected any emails I wanted to keep. Then I hit the trash button and poof, those unwanted emails were gone. 500 emails means doing that 10 times, and it’s really only a minute for every 50 emails. 

For me, it was the perfect thing to do when I wanted to be productive but did not have the cognitive wherewithal to be creating anything. Now there are 71 emails in that inbox, and I don’t want to cry every time I open that email account anymore. It makes me feel like I can actually chip away at big things. It was super satisfying. And it helped me see that all these emails I thought were important and needed to keep just…weren’t that important. And, let me tell you it felt so GOOD to mash that trash button!! It was super cathartic, and just feels like it’s freeing up not only space on some server somewhere, but space in my own mind. 

If you need inspiration, “Your inbox is someone else’s to-do list for you.”

And if you already have very few emails in your inbox (ooh, good for you), or want more ways to detox your digital life, I did a week of episodes on this very topic in March of 2020. They start at episode 140 and run through episode 144, if you want to go back and check them out. I covered how to assess your digital clutter quotient, simple ways to make your phone less appealing to your brain, what’s possible when you check your phone less, how to figure out your top digital stressor so that you can remedy it, and talked you through how to take a tech vacation. Again, those start at episode 140 if you want to keep going. 

That’s it for today… come back tomorrow!

When I’m interviewing Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers on how to refresh your space in a day. Yes, one day. Lisa is great and always has great tips–one of her videos on organizing a tiny New York City apartment has over two million views! So come back and continue the spring cleaning your life momentum. 


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