Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?

Category: Email

Do you 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...

How to Reduce Your Email Inbox Storage

Just as a diet involves eating less, de-cluttering your inbox starts with receiving less email. Most people can reduce their daily email loads by 20 per cent 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.

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.
Email Overload

Sorting and prioritizing email helps you work through it faster. Most email programs have powerful tools to help you sort email automatically.

Microsoft Outlook, on its Tools menu, has a tool called Rules and Alerts. You can create rules to handle just about any email that arrives. For example, a rule may specify that any message from your boss should be flagged as "high importance." You can then sort messages in the view pane from high to low importance so you won't miss what really matters. Outlook's rule structures can be very complex, but there is an easy-to-follow wizard to help you create new rules. Play with it a bit to see what you can do.

In Outlook, you can right-click on any message to pull up a submenu that includes certain actions you can perform on the message. One of the most useful is "categorize." You can create categories such as "Personal," "XYZ Project," "Expenses," etc., and assign one or more categories to a message. Later, you can retrieve messages by specifying categories assigned to them.

Using Filters to Find Large Attachments

Gmail has a tool similar to Outlook Rules called "filters." Just click on "create a filter" at the top of your inbox reading frame to start making a new filter. First, you will specify what criteria the filter looks for (who a message is from or to, words it contains or doesn't contain, whether it has attachments, etc.). Then you will specify what action to take, such as deleting or archiving, marking a message as important, forwarding it to someone else, etc. Google also has "Labels" which work much like folders or categories in other email programs.

When your email collection starts eating up several gigabytes of storage space, it's time to clean house. Gmail imposes a limit of 7.6 GB on its free accounts, and 25 GB on paid accounts in the Google Apps for Business program. Outlook has no hard limit on the size of your email database, but searches and sorting operations will bog down when you get over about 20 GB. I've experienced problems with both Outlook Express and Thunderbird when the inbox accumulates more than 5000 items.

The quickest way to shrink your email database is to find and delete messages with large attachments. Outlook has "size" as a sorting criterion right on the view pane menu bar. Gmail's Advanced Search lets you find all files with attachments. A free service called will tag your Gmail attachments with Big, Really Big, and Ultra Big labels to make cleaning out the space hogs easier. 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. Microsoft Outlook has an Archive feature that is accessible from the File menu. It lets you select messages older than a specified date and move them to an archive file, where they are out of the main database but still available if you need them. You can also set the AutoArchive function to automatically archive old items at specified intervals.

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

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Most recent comments on "Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?"

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
08 Aug 2011

Bob, how thoroughly have you vetted I see they need access to my Gmail account to tell me what my big messages are. Gmail cautions I should only grant access if I trust the company, and I know nothing about them.

I'm not ready to grant access to someone, unless you say the company is trustworthy. So, what do you say?

EDITOR'S NOTE: See the FAQ here: -- It seems to address the privacy issues in a straightforward way. Of course, you can always use it and then change your password afterwards.

Posted by:

08 Aug 2011

I use MailWasher Pro, to see what emails are coming through. I will delete those, that I prefer not to see or have downloaded into my Inbox. I have found that MailWasher Pro, is not only a good program to help Spam, but, a great filter for my overall Outlook Express email account.

I rarely use any of my Web-based email accounts. I like having 'control' over my emails & I have found with Web-based email accounts, you don't. I guess, I got a real sour taste in my mouth, when I was using my Yahoo! email account. I set all the parameters, to filtering out SPAM & etc., yet, in 3 weeks time, I got over 3000 emails!!!! Maybe, 100 to 200 of those were legitimate, the rest was SPAM from Yahoo! no less.

Posted by:

D M Hunter
08 Aug 2011

I lost my entire Outlook Express Inbox about a year ago, and was told it must have been too full. No warning, it just froze, I closed it, reopened and it was completely empty.

Posted by:

19 Aug 2011

the powerpoint emails i get from my buds are of gorgeous, nekkid wimminz and i never want to stop receiving those!!! lol! what can i say...i love to look.

Posted by:

T Provence
22 Aug 2011

Download ActiveInBox to organize beyond labels and folders!

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