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Let’s talk about your email inbox. If you have several thousand unread messages and that little red number on your phone keeps getting higher and higher, you are not alone. There’s no cause for embarrassment nor is this a reflection on your character. Most people have no control over their email and feel completely overwhelmed by it all.

As a professional organizer, clients often hire me because they have tens of thousands of emails in their inbox and no idea how to manage the volume. Can you relate? Have you been struggling with your email inbox?  If so, read on!

Email, whether we like it or not, is the main mode of communication used today, both for personal and business correspondence. In working with clients, I have found that many people use their email server as a place to store photos, documents and other information they wish to keep. When receiving an attachment by email, whether it’s an important business contract or a cute photo of the grandkids, they’re in the habit of saving the email so they can find the attachment later. While this might seem like a logical plan at first, over time this practice can overload your email inbox and ultimately slow down your computer.

I recall one client who had over 20GB of data stored in her Outlook email client. The emails were very nicely organized into folders, but the amount of data made her Outlook program grind almost to a halt! You can reduce the load on your email server by downloading important attachments and storing them on your computer or, better yet, in a cloud storage provider such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you want to get control of your email inbox, once and for all, try these tips:

1) Unsubscribe from junk email
Monitoring your email inbox is as important as keeping tabs on the mail delivered daily by the post office. Think about this way — if you left every piece of junk mail in your mailbox on the sidewalk, it would soon fill to overflowing, leaving no room for the mail carrier to deliver the mail you do want. Similarly, leaving unwanted emails and junk in your email inbox will slow down your computer and make it harder for it to do its job. By taking a few extra moments and clicking “Unsubscribe” on the emails you no longer want to receive, you can prevent hundreds more of them coming in later. Take 30 seconds and go to the “mail preferences” or “unsubscribe” link (often hidden at the bottom of the email) and just get off that list!

2) Delete liberally
Clear out the junk in your email inbox. Delete old coupons if you don’t plan to purchase the item or when they expire. Companies will send you plenty of reminder emails so you won’t miss out on anything. You can delete a group of unwanted emails by first sorting them by Sender, rather than by Date.  Then use the short cut “Command A” for Macs and “Control A” for PCs to select all, and hit that delete key!

3) Sign up for an email filtering program
Email filtering programs like Sanebox can automatically route your junk and unimportant emails to a separate “sanebox” inbox. This puts them in a designated pending folder until you choose to view them. Sanebox will also remind you of emails from people you consider important. If you use Gmail, setting up filters can help you label, archive, delete, star, or automatically forward your mail. 

4) Assign an action to your email quickly
Use labels in Google and other programs to flag or star important emails you want to revisit. Create a 
To Do and move actionable emails into it. Then delete them once you have taken action. Move emails you want to save and archive to an appropriately named folder.

5) Download your attachments, then delete the email
Make sure to download all the documents associated with an email if you need to keep them for any reason. Once you open attachments, they automatically go into your Downloads folder. To avoid cluttering up your downloads folder, save the attachment to a designated location on your computer or delete it.

Following through with any of the steps described above will make your email inbox much more manageable. If you need guidance with any kind of digital decluttering, either in person or remotely, my team and I are ready to help!