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Get Rid Of Email Clutter In Your Inbox {15 Minute Mission}

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Today's decluttering mission is to get rid of email clutter in your email inbox.

This is one of the steps in the Manage & Organize Email & Other Digital Information Challenge, which is one of the weeks of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge.

Manage & Organize Email & Other Digital Information Challenge
Depending on how many emails you've got sitting in that inbox, and how many different email accounts you've got to deal with, this may take you more than 15 minutes to completely finish the task.

That's OK!

This is one of those tasks, kind of like decluttering your paper piles, that you may need to set your timer many times to deal with it, but every 15 minute session significantly whittles it down.

And the beauty of decluttering your email inbox is that it is as simple as getting very friendly with the delete button, and learning how to sort your emails in various ways to delete even more quickly.

You don't have to take time to shred paper, or carry things out to the trash or to a donation spot or anything when doing digital decluttering.

There are two parts to this mission, dealing with the large numbers of emails that have accumulated in the past, and then also learning new habits and routines for dealing with email clutter from now on so it doesn't ever get this bad again.

How to declutter your email inbox, including both a suggested routine to begin now to deal with emails as they come in, plus tips for deleting large amounts of emails that are backlogged in your account {on Home Storage Solutions 101} #EmailClutter #DeclutterEmails #Declutteringuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
We're actually going to talk about those issues in reverse though, first discussing some of the practices you should begin implementing, today, to deal with email clutter, and then we'll discuss how to deal with the email backlog.

How To Make Deleting Email Clutter A Part Of Your Daily Routine

Starting today I want you to make deleting email clutter part of your daily email checking routine, if it isn't already.

You'll know you have an issue with email clutter if you've got 500+ unopened emails in your inbox. Since emails come in constantly you've got to begin dealing with this stuff each day because even if you got rid of all the clutter today it would quickly re-accumulate otherwise.

Therefore, from now on you
need to commit to checking your email regularly. For most people this means checking it every single day, but for you it could be checking it less frequently, and that can work assuming you don't get huge amounts of email, none of which needs to be urgently responded to.

However, each time that you check your email you need to spend time at the very beginning of the session deleting any email that has come in since the last time you checked email that is obvious junk and stuff you don't want. (Hint, tomorrow's decluttering mission discusses how to get rid of a lot of this spam, so you can keep from having to do this daily at some point when you unsubscribe from certain lists, etc.)

After you've deleted the most obviously junky stuff you can begin the process of actually reading the real emails you wanted to focus on. However, as you read these email you will often come across additional emails that you thought you wanted, but then realize you don't. Delete those as well, immediately.

Similarly, some messages can be read and then you don't need them anymore, for reference or for any reason. Again, delete those.

This is not a hard thing to do, except to get in the habit of doing it. If you get a lot of email it can seem overwhelming to deal with it, especially if you choose times of the day to check your email that you really don't have enough time to do all the necessary steps to be managing it correctly. BUT doing that is setting yourself up for failure.

If you change this little habit of ignoring junk emails, and only cherry picking a few you want to read, but instead first deleting the clutter ones you'll actuallyl save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

Of course, doing this every single day does not get rid of all the previously accumulated email clutter you've already got, so below I've got more instructions on how to deal with those emails as well.

Top photo courtesy of David Bruce Jr.

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How To Declutter Huge Number Of Unopened Emails

How to declutter huge numbers of unopened emails from your email inbox quickly and efficiently {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Above we discussed the simple habits and routines you need to adopt to keep email clutter from accumulating in your email inbox from now on.

BUT, what about that huge backlog of unopened, or even opened emails you've got currently sitting in an unorganized mess in your email inbox?

The next part of this mission focuses on how to deal with the obvious email clutter, which is old unopened emails. (If you're looking for tips for organizing the relatively few important emails contained within this mess of mostly junk in your inbox right now check out the main email organization challenge article here.)

Get Yourself In The Right Mindset To Delete!

First, get yourself in the right mind set. Accept this truthful fact -- most of the stuff in your email inbox is junk, and should and could be deleted without you experiencing any negative consequences at all.

I know you're afraid of deleting something important. I get that. BUT you've lived this long so far without seeing whatever is in those unopened emails, and honestly, any benefit to you of the one or two slightly beneficial things you might accidentally delete will be insignificant compared to how much better you'll feel when you're free of most of the email junk.

Learn How To Use The Sorting Functions In Your Email Inbox

Second, learn how to use the sort functions in your email inbox. The beauty of your digital clutter, compared to your paper clutter, is that is much easier to sort digital clutter using technology, so you can delete large amounts of it at once instead of having to look at each file or email individually.

I suggest logging onto your email account using a laptop or desktop computer when you get serious about decluttering old emails, because I've found the sorting features in the desktop version of email programs to be more robust, generally, than the mobile versions you see when checking your email from your phone, or sometimes even your tablet.

You can choose to sort in all kinds of ways, which can help you declutter more quickly. I will discuss some of the best ways to sort your email below within your email inbox so you can delete large amounts of emails at once without worry.

Sorting Opened Versus Unopened Emails

Do you have a lot of unopened emails, much like a reader, Linda, who sent in the screenshot above, which showed she had over 23,000 unopened emails?

If so, you may currently be in the habit of opening emails you deem important, but then just ignoring, and not opening (nor deleting) the emails you know are junk. First, for the future, stop doing that! It is going to stress you out in the long run when you get over 23,000 emails accumulated!

But in addition, if that is your current habit one way to quickly delete a lot of emails is to decide to delete all the ones over x months old (I suggest 6 months) that you haven't even bothered to open.

If it is over 6 months old and you didn't ever open it, it most likely doesn't matter, in the slightest, now. Sales that are now over, information about events that have now passed, spam that never mattered even on the day it was sent, etc. Sort it and delete it, and say good bye.

Sorting By Sender

Another method for deleting lots of emails at once, or to keep yourself from deleting something you know you want to save before doing a mass delete, is to sort by sender.

You can, for example, find all the emails from your child or spouse, opened and unopened, and move those into a designated folder, out of your email inbox, and then you'll be sure not to delete those emails when you delete older stuff.

On the other hand, you can sort by sender and find all the emails from the store that has been sending you loads of sales emails, all of which are completely useless now that the sales are over, and delete all of them at once, and feel confident you've not deleted anything of importance.

Sorting By Date

You can also sort by date. In fact, most sorting systems have a way to sort by two criteria at once, such as opened or unopened, or by who sent it, and then sort within that group by date.

Sorting by date (I suggest sorting by oldest first) is one of the most important sorting functions you can use, because it allows you to confidently delete things that are quite old, and therefore are most likely not of any importance or relevance any longer.

Make sure to use all these different ways to sort your emails to help yourself delete more quickly. Once you've gotten rid of the majority of email clutter it is simpler (and less overwhelming) to go through a smaller number of emails that are left to organize and further declutter as you come across more that is junk.

Once You Delete Old Emails From Your Main Inbox Don't Forget To Also Declutter Your Email Folders

Once you've gone through your actual inbox I suggest also looking through your email folders. Often times many of these emails can also be deleted once they reach a certain age, or if they are no longer relevant.

It can feel really good to get rid of this digital clutter, because even though it isn't physical it does carry a certain mental weight. Once it is gone it feels so freeing!

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Don't Be Overwhelmed By Your Email Inbox, You Control It, Not The Other Way Around!

If you both get in the habit of deleting emails each time you check your emails, as well as use the tips above to deal with the large backlog of excess emails you can get your email inbox more under control.

So then you'll almost be done with this challenge, and you won't feel like a reader, Celeste, who sent in the photo above, showing how she had over 11,000 emails in her inbox.

After getting rid of the email clutter there's just a couple steps left, which are the topic of other articles here in the series.

Take Steps To Stop Unwanted Emails From Coming Into Your Email Inbox

stop unwanted emails by unsubscribing
One of the next steps is to stop unwanted email from coming into your email inbox in the first place.

This is important to keep you from having to hit delete as much in the future. To help you with this task I've written an article on how to stop unwanted emails by unsubscribing from them which can save you so much hassle in the future.

Take Steps To Organize The Emails You Don't Want To Delete

Finally, after deleting lots of junk emails you will have a much smaller amount of emails left that you do actually want to save.

I suggest creating folders and subfolders for emails you want to keep, so it's easier to find them when you need them. You can check out my article on organizing email with folders for more details.

Want To Do More Decluttering Missions? Get Started With Declutter 365 Today!

Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!

Click here to take me to this year's Declutter 365 calendar

Get This Digital Decluttering Checklist + 32 Other Decluttering Checklists For Your Home

Right now you're decluttering some variety of digital items around your home, since digital clutter, while it doesn't take much if any physical space, can still be clutter and cause you to lose time searching for what you want or need, or not have enough storage space on your devices.

Get your 2 page digital decluttering checklist, plus 32 other decluttering checklists, to help you declutter your entire home here.

Get this digital decluttering checklist and 32 other decluttering checklists for your home {on Home Storage Solutions 101}

I've done the hard work of breaking down these tasks into smaller more manageable steps for you, so you don't get overwhelmed or worry you're forgetting a task, and you can go at the pace you want, whether that's fast or slow.

In addition, you can tackle these decluttering tasks in whatever order you want when you use these checklists!

Click here to learn more about 33 Decluttering Checklists Pack

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Home Office & Technology Clutter Hall Of Fame

Go From Get Rid Of Email Clutter Mission To Home Page

Comments for Don't Be Overwhelmed By Your Email Inbox, You Control It, Not The Other Way Around!

Click here to add your own comments

first sort by sender
by: Anonymous

When I do this I always first sort it by sender. For me it makes it so much easier as some senders I can delete all of them and others I want to look at more carefully.

Delete vs unsubscribe
by: Renee

I've done the delete box and they continue to come back. I have to take the time to unsubscribe and sometimes more than once. This drives me crazy especially when I never even subscribe to the email.

Email files
by: Heidi

I thought this mission would teach me how to organize emails into files for future reference. (Such as bills, Declutter 365, upcoming events, etc.) I know how to delete and unsubscribe, just want to know how to ORGANIZE what I am holding on to.

response to Heidi re organizing emails
by: Taylor

I do have an article all about organizing emails. In fact, it is linked here in this article, because one of the steps of organizing emails is deleting the ones you don't even want to keep. You can do the whole Organize Email & Other Digital Information Challenge here, and this mission is just one of the steps of that process. :)

Inbox with Thousands of E-mails
by: Anonymous

I sort by sender, and with a quick scroll down you easily see subscriptions. For subscriptions I want to keep, such as airline mileage program updates, I highlight the oldest and keep only the newest e-mail. For subscriptions I no longer want, I click in the most recent e-mail and unsubscribe through the link at the bottom. Then I highlight all the e-mails from that sender and delete them. Do this as you can, and your inbox will only contain mail you want to see!

how do you delete with an I Pad?
by: Anonymous

How do I declutter using an I Pad? I have over 3500.00 and I don't know where to start. Please help!

by: H in MA

I get a large number (as much as half my messages some days) of spam messages that bypass my junk mail filters; multiple messages with the same title but from different random senders. Typically the title concerns life insurance, diet products, deals on printer ink, to name a few. Often but not always the "message" is a string of garbled words but always there is at least one link within the message. These I delete without clicking anything within the message. Blocking one does nothing to stop the same message from other sources.
Many apps require that you allow pop-ups. I have reduced the frequency or unsubscribed to emails from legitimate sources and I do clear my cookies often which helps somewhat. Not sure how else to stem the tide.

Deleting folders in Yahoo
by: Donna

Does anyone know how to delete folders on Yahoo? I know how to delete the messages, just wondering how to get rid of the file.

by: Anonymous

When I'm going through old emails, one thing I do is arrange them alphabetically before deleting. My emails can be arranged in three ways, alphabetically by sender, most recent first or oldest first. Alphabetically helps because it lets me see how many are being saved and may already be expired especially if they are regarding sales or deals that are only good for a short period of time. Living Social, Groupon and Zulily are three that are easy to delete under this guideline. Good luck!

Backing up emails
by: Jennifer

How can I find the files on my computer that are the email folders and their contents? What are the file extensions? I really don't want to back up everything, just the actual email folders and the contained email messages that I want to keep.

Also, how can I get emails off old computers to save on the same backup medium?

One more step - delete emails in trash folder
by: Anonymous

The next and last step is to DELETE the Emails in the Trash Folder. Once I was having trouble with my computer and was told to do that, and it took THREE DAYS to complete that. The emails will not really be gone until you delete those in the Trash.

response re delete emails in trash folder
by: Taylor

That's a good point. If your email system does not automatically delete the emails in the trash folder after a certain period of time you do need to do this periodically, especially when doing a mass delete of old emails.

how do you stop junk mail from coming?
by: Carol Sutton

Thanks but this is one area I can skip. I don't have clutter in my emails. I delete all unsolicited emails immediately or if one is questionable as coming from someone I know, I may open it and then get rid of it if needed. There are no unopened emails in my box. I do have a question though. How do you get junk mail to stop coming? I know some say you can unsubscribe, but then they ask for your email address--no way..straight to delete. Some I have marked phishing scan and that seems to help a little,but usually there are about 5 to 15 junk emails every day in my junk box which I automatically delete. I do use email folders too and clean them once in a while, but everything needs to have been opened.

Organizing my home and life
by: Jackie

I'm writing you in lieu of getting on my knees to thank you. To be honest, I have not taken your challenges in order. I stumbled upon your site to get my tax documents in order. I am in my early thirties and a full time ICU nurse. I am also the sole responsible person for my sick mother with a rare brain infection and because of my occupation, a vital component to her complicated recovery. I am now responsible for her and her husbands bookkeeping, medical information, bills, insuarnce etc. I am new to taking care of my own paperwork, and I'm a newlywed as well. I've been so overwhelmed with the paperwork of our two houses with social security, medicare, medicaid and the demands of the gov to keep things straight that I went in search of an organization system to help me get through all this. Your site has helped me sort through two houses and 10 years of papers. Over 20,000+ emails, receipts, warranties etc. Thank you so much for all that you've done here. I will continue to come back and get the rest of my life in order. I feel so much better and less overwhelmed. I can't thank you enough!

Response to Jackie
by: Taylor

Jackie, thank you so much for your comments, they truly mean the world to me. I'm so glad the site has been so helpful to you, that's what I try so very hard for it to be for everyone. You should take some of the credit though, because you had to DO IT, and you did. Way to go! I know you've got a lot of stressful situations going on in your life right now, so I'm glad the paper organization can help you relieve some of that stress.

Stopping Email from continued clutter
by: Anonymous

I went ahead and unsubscribed to a bunch of e-mails that I consider junk. Now, each day as part of my sorting, filing and deleting emails - I am taking the time to Unsubscribe from e-mails that have been sent to me by third parties or anything that doesn't interest me anymore. This has certainly helped with amount of e-mails I get each day!

Mark unsolicited as spam
by: Anonymous

If it is unsolicited emails then it is better to mark it as spam. Then delete because if you unsubscribe it tells them it is a legitimate email and they will keep sending and sharing your email with others. Also you can set your browser not to allow third party cookies in the settings and will get less spam.

Sent folder
by: Anonymous

This is a folder that’s easy to forget. I did a big clear-out of emails and most folders the first time I did this task (and had done so less systematically over the years) but I had totally overlooked my ‘sent items’ folder - it was horrendously full.

Amazing Progress
by: Sarah

I'd been feeling guilt after reading that storing emails affects the environment. So, when I saw your post on how to declutter emails I jumped on it. I had over 7000 when I started and now I'm down to 3.2K. (I think that took about 3 hours, but not sure because I took breaks.) Motivated to keep going when I finished this post. It's amazing how much easier and faster the process is when you sort by sender. Thanks!

by: Anonymous

I get a ton of unwanted mail and delete them daily or every other, and have tried to unsubscribe. Still get them. What do you mean, hit the spam button? These emails do not have a spam button or link. Do you mean click forward and "send to junk" which is an option?

(I also see block sender. I will be careful with that button.)

Too much to handle!
by: Elizebeth

I have over 166,000 unread messages in my inbox. I've had the email for several years. Most is junk or advertising. I don't feel I'll ever get it under control.

Create folders
by: Anonymous

If it looks like spam or it’s not important based on the subject line & first few words of the email just delete them. Create folder related to topics of home, friends, bill pay, medical, etc. this way they get out of your inbox and go into folders. Only keep emails that are important from friends. After a few months go back into the folders & delete what you don’t need.

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