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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published September 08 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Cleaning out email brings sense of freedom

I did it again.

I have only done this once before but after I do it I get a sense of freedom. I hit delete on my unread emails.

I should correct that by saying my husband hit delete on my unread emails. I had over 1,400 in one account alone. I even have filtered things to go into folders to help me better manage them. But even with those rules and filters in place, I still had too many unread emails.

My husband is pretty OCD about his email being neat and tidy and it drives him crazy when he sees my “messy” inbox. So he asked me if he could hit delete. This is called email bankruptcy. I quickly said yes.

Having him do it was painless, kind of like when people hire me to come in and help them. He wasn’t emotionally invested in my inbox clutter, just like I am not emotionally invested in my client’s clutter. I can see clearly how to help them and I am not waylaid by sentimental reasons.

He too could see how I was wasting time trying to get through my inbox and get it all organized. The obvious question: Wasn’t I worried about “important” emails? My reply: If it was that important I would have already have dealt with it.

I had gone back months ago and cleared out all the pictures I had been emailed over the years. Photos are really the only thing that I would regret deleting. And let’s be honest, if I deleted an important email, I can always email the person and ask for them to resend it.

So what are some strategies to help you keep your inbox clutter free?

E Instead of just hitting delete, hit unsubscribe if it is an e-blast that you are no longer interested in receiving. It takes an extra five seconds one time and then you never have to worry about it hitting your inbox again.

E Sort alphabetically if you feel you must go through every email before you hit delete and it is too overwhelming to even think about. Once sorted alphabetically, go through one letter a day until all cleaned out.

E Take important emails immediately out of your inbox and put them in a separate folder so that you can hit delete to clear out your inbox without fear of deleting an important email.

E Stop sending so many emails. Chances are people are responding to an email that you sent. Put words in like, “no need to reply” or “for your information” to help cut down on email replies.

E Turn on an auto responder when you go on vacation that says how long you will be gone and upon your return you will be deleting all messages. So if it is important and still pertinent, email me again after I return.

E Tell people to stop CCing you on stuff that you don’t need to be CC’d on. Or create a rule that if you are CC’d on an email that it goes into your junk folder immediately. People think they are being helpful in keeping you in the loop, but chances are you could care less about being kept “in the loop.”

E Sort by date and tell yourself that you are going to hit delete on anything that is older than 30 days. Be ruthless and just hit that delete button.

E Sort by week and go through a week at a time. Moving forward you can now have a rule that weekly all email will be purged and organized.

E If you get emails from your boss/mother/

father/sister/brother/friend and he/she tends to send a lot of email, have a rule that emails from this person get sorted into its own folder.

E If it is fear that you are losing an attachment, create a rule that anything with an attachment goes into a folder.

As we move more into a paperless society, it is more important than ever to get good email organizing skills down now. Put some good rules in place for yourself and avoid having to declare email bankruptcy like I did.

If you are wondering how to create automatic rules for your email, do an online search to see how to set them up for your particular email, be it Outlook, Hotmail or Gmail.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo and her website can be found at www.mssimplicity.com. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.