Drowning in Your Email Inbox?

Category: Email

Do you sometimes feel like you're slowly being buried under a pile of unread, unanswered email? Are you starting to run out of free storage space in your Gmail account? It's time to go on an email diet and shed a few gigabytes. Read on for my advice...

How to Declutter Your Email Inbox

Just as a diet involves eating less, de-cluttering your inbox starts with receiving less email. Most people can reduce their daily email loads significantly by simply unsubscribing from all the email newsletters, mailing lists, and other subscriptions they no longer read. Email notifications of Facebook posts, Twitter mentions, and other random events are unnecessary. Login to your account and turn that feature off.

If you order stuff online, you probably get regular emails from the companies with which you do business. You can unsubscribe from those as well, or at least see if they have the option to reduce the frequency. In my work, I get a lot of unsolicited press releases. When there is no unsubscribe link, I just reply and say "please remove from your list".

Oh, and tell that friend who forwards every Internet rumor, joke, and chain letter that you don't want to receive any more. Actually, you probably have several "friends" who regularly send you "amazing photos," boring Powerpoint slideshows, and riveting videos of some Norwegian farmer whose tractor got stuck in the mud. Expect them to be offended, but brush that off quickly, because these things can chew up hundreds of megabytes of email storage. If you receive too many of these inbox cloggers, it can even cause emails that you DO want to be rejected with a "mailbox full" error.

Here's another factor to consider: When I get an email with a link or attachment promising sensational or salacious content, I assume it's malicious and delete it. Even if such a message comes from someone you know, it could be a trap to get you to download malware.

Email Overload

Sorting and prioritizing email helps you work through it faster. Most desktop email programs have tools to help you sort email manually or automatically. Click the column header for Sender, Subject, or Date to sort your messages quickly and you may find a group of emails you wish to delete.

Using Filters to Find Large Attachments

Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) – provide filters that operate automatically in the background. By filtering on the sender address, subject line, or text in the message body, you can automatically direct messages to a special folder, or send them to the trash. Each of these services also gives you the ability to fine-tune spam filtering manually when necessary.

Find and Zap Large Attachments

When your email collection starts eating up several gigabytes of storage space, it's time to clean house. Gmail and Outlook.com both provide 15 GB on free accounts, with the option to purchase more. Yahoo Mail is more generous, with a 1 TB (1000 GB) limit. I've experienced problems with Thunderbird when the inbox accumulates more than 5000 items.

The quickest way to shrink your email storage is to find and delete messages with large attachments. Some email services let you sort messages by size, so you can quickly identify the space hogs. Gmail doesn't let you sort, but you can still find large messages by enterin0 (for example) size:30MB to find all items larger than 30 MB. You can review these large messages first and delete whatever you can to reduce the size of your message database. Some email programs, notably the Mail app in Mac OS X, allow you to zap attachments, but still retain the email message.

Do you have any tips to declutter the inbox? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Drowning in Your Email Inbox?"

Posted by:

Lisa Bishop
16 Mar 2020

Don't forget to empty the trash!

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

I have a bundle of gmail emails that contain pictures only. Can Bob or someone suggest to me the best and simplest way to save emails/pictures? This will help me out immensely as I will be able to delete this emails and still save pictures. This will help me with the storage space. Thanks in advance.

Posted by:

Sharon Seiber
16 Mar 2020

I use Yahoo and have let it accumulate thousands of mail. I want to get rid of the majority of them! My son has been very sick for the last three years and just did not have time to delete so many of them. Can Yahoo do that for me? I sure hope so.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

You do not need to retain those pictures received in your emails if you simply save the important photos in a file on your computer Pictures folder. This gives you quick access to them and permits you to remove them from you emails.

I have found the easiest way to control junk and unwanted emails is to NOT provide anyone your personal email address. Create a 2nd or 3rd email address for the junk mail sources or places where you have to provide one. You can then set those address up to clean themselves every 30 days since you know it is going to only contain junk anyway. You don't even have to look at them!

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

I have been using this email filter program for years for outlook
Get any of the filters you want
Cuts way down on spam emails for me

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

I use unroll.Me

It stores mail you don't want cluttering your box, but still want to see, in a folder.

It also unsubscribes you from senders you don't want.

Sometimes, I'll clear out my unroll me folder, though, and mail comes back.

Trying to figure that out, if anyone has a suggestion.


Posted by:

Wild Bill
16 Mar 2020

As a caution, do not attempt to unsubscribe from junk mailings as most of them will not really take you off their list. Rather, by trying to do so, you verify that your address is a live one, making it even more valuable to the junk and spam/scam mailers. Some months back I made a sweep through the junk and attempted to unsubscribe from most. Some "unsubscribe" didn't work and, while perhaps a few actually removed me, I think it wound up doubling the junk mail coming in. Best to just ignore and delete.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

To P.Dhir: mike's answer is the way to go. Just be sure that you are backing up that picture folder (and of course any other folders on your system that you cannot afford to lose). And ensure the backups go to at least 2, if not 3, separate locations. Check out Bob's backup e-book.
He is also correct about having multiple email addresses that you only give to specific types of people or companies or organizations. I have my own domain and use the format of 'company [at] mydomain.com' So, if said company sends me something I can see they that did it. But if that email address gets email and it's not from them, then I know that it's not good and I will have to create a new address for them (and of course mark the bad one as sp*m).

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

Ever since I quit using my YahooMail account, and opened up my Hushmail account about 5 years ago and started using e-mail aliases, I maybe get 3 or 4 spam e-mails a year. Ironically, the most unread e-mails in my in-box are from Bob. ;)

Posted by:

Capt Patt Meara
16 Mar 2020

I've used IOLO's Mailwasher Pro for several years, it allows you to pre-sort you email before it leaves the server.
Allows you to presort to "Friend List", "Blacklist" and "Spam" or "Delete".

Posted by:

Dave H.
16 Mar 2020

Pet peeve: People who "Reply all" when there is no need to do so. To prevent this, (if feasible) ask the sender to use blind copies for the address list. Any addresses that are blind-copied do not receive replies.

Posted by:

David Baker
16 Mar 2020

There’s a website that will unsubscribe you from unwanted email lists and combine the subscriptions you actually want into one easy email.
When you sign up for this free service, it first goes through your inbox and finds every subscription you have — whether you realize you were subscribed or not!


Posted by:

Sarah L
16 Mar 2020

I use folders to save mail I receive after I read it. I did not realize I could save unread mail, that I will read when a current project that needs all my focus ends. I have a folder just for that sender and it works so well. If I have downtime, I can read it, if not it waits for me.
Putting pictures in the Pictures folders lets you name the folder in a useful way and even the image.

Posted by:

Geoff Dunstan
16 Mar 2020

Bob, I'm very disappointed that you've no sense of humour. I'd be lost without seeing my daily influx of jokes in my inbox.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2020

Sorry Bob, fine tuning spam filters on Gmail does not work. I regularly get genuine emails bunged in their spam, and they are deleted in thirty days unless I manually go into their godawful email site to check.
You cannot turn off their spam filtering - I would sooner receive the very few genuine spams they block than lose a genuine email bringing a time-limited offer of work. I tried filtering "allow anything coming from an address containing @ in sender address" but Gmail ignored that. Whoops, getting into a rant here - not against you Bob but very much against Gmail!

Posted by:

17 Mar 2020

I don't click on the unsubscribe link from unsolicited email because at times all your doing is confirming they reached a real email address & you end up getting more sent to you.

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