Tumbleweeds rolling through my newly-cleared-out inbox

by | Mar 17, 2009 | Julie | 8 comments

The clutter in my email inbox has been bugging me since my massive decluttering, but I’ve only made sad minor stabs at it, until now. I got all inspired by an article in the New York Times, and finally cleared it all out once and for all.

When I started, I had 1000 messages in my inbox. I resorted them by sender, so I could more easily delete blocks of email from one sender (like all those messages from Facebook saying someone had written on my wall, or whatever). That, plus some other one-at-a-time deleting got me down to 240 messages. Then I made a few folders, one for school-related messages, one for website-related messages (like login information), and one for Ideal Bite messages that I want to refer to later. Putting messages in those folders got me down to 100 messages. Then I highlighted all those and moved them into a folder called “archive.”

And there it was. My empty inbox. Right after I did it, my first thought was, “Oh my goodness, something’s broken! Something’s wrong with my email!” even though I had just emptied it out myself seconds before. It just looked so…blank. And then, when an email shows up, and there it is, seemingly your only email…well, it’s enough to make you feel a little unpopular.

But after having an empty inbox for over a week now, I love it. I remember once when my desk was in horribly cluttered shape, and I finally just dove in and cleaned it all up. And then I panicked. What would I do with my time now, now that my desk was cleaned up? It meant I had to do something productive or something. A scary feeling, but a good one. It’s the same with my inbox. The rules put forth in the NYT article are that if you can deal with a message in two minutes, just do it and get it over with. Otherwise, deal with it at the end of the day.

When the goal is to have your inbox be empty, you are not at all tempted to leave messages in there to deal with later. You want it out of there. You also don’t leave worthless emails in there that by all rights should be deleted, but just get lost in the clutter. Try it! It’s great, really.


  1. Anne

    I keep meaning to do this. I have something like 10,000 emails though, so it’s daunting.

  2. Julie

    I’d recommend just moving all those emails to an “archive” folder, and then tackling them later. And sit down to do the tackling all at once, in an hour. Don’t try to do it in fits and starts, because it will never get done, since more emails keep coming in (which is the reason you’re supposed to just move everything out of your inbox as a first step).

  3. Anne

    What I really need to figure out how to do is to save them in an appropriate way. Many of them are emails that I do want to save. (e.g., all my wedding-planning messages) I guess I could just archive them in a folder on Yahoo or wherever, but there has to be a better way to stash them away somewhere. I just haven’t found it yet.

  4. Julie

    I think you should just make a folder in your email box called “wedding” and put all the emails in there. But yeah, I guess you could figure out how to back it all up on an external hard drive, and keep them all there.

  5. Tracy

    Just did it. Amazing! Thanks Julie!

  6. Julie

    Yay Tracy!

  7. Elizabeth

    You inspired me. I took an hour and returned all of my e-mails. The only problem: my really on-the-ball friends e-mailed back immediately and then the in-box is no longer empty. Sigh.


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