[EMAIL] When I took a vacation last month I “unplugged” and didn’t look at my email for an entire week. I dreaded the volume of messages that I would be bombarded with the first day back in my office.

Some people are comfortable with hundreds of emails in their Inbox, but I’m one of those that feel overwhelmed if there’s only as many as 25 or 30.

How “full” do you let your Inbox get before you need to spend time whittling it down? 20, 50, 500 or 1000+ messages?

Before you feel like your Inbox is taking control of you, start incorporating some of these strategies to rein in the email overload. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can clean out your Inbox quickly by:

  1. Opting out of marketing emails that you don’t read regularly (using a secret search tip).
  2. Deleting by “chunking” emails from the same sender.
  3. Getting rid of huge emails taking up needed space

But first, just for fun, take a look at how big your Inbox is… so that you can see your “clean up” progress.

How Big Is Your Mailbox? 

Depending on what email platform you’re using, this process varies. In this article we’ll look at desktop Outlook and Gmail, as they are most widely used.

NOTE: You may use a mobile device to view/send email, but for the purpose of mass clean up, it’s more effective to do this on a desk or laptop computer.

Desktop Outlook (2019, 2016, 2013, 2010)

To see the total size of your mailbox (and individual folders):

  • Go to File, then click on the Tools button and select Mailbox Cleanup in the drop-down window.
  • In the first section, click on the View Mailbox Size
  • Make a note (or take a screenshot) of the Total size (including folders).

TIP: for Outlook 2007 and previous, find this option under Tools, then Mailbox Cleanup.

Gmail (Free Level and Google Apps)

Scroll down to the very bottom of your Inbox to see the percentage of space that you’re using for all folders.

Write down this amount for after you’ve done your big cleanup.

Now let’s get started deleting!

Opt Out Of Marketing Emails That You Don’t Read Regularly 

We all do it — give our email address to get an extra percentage off a sale, or to get access to some content we want. However, then the emails keep coming! These are unwanted messages, but they’re not spam since we “opted in.”

The best way to get rid of these is to unsubscribe as soon as you decide you’ll never read them.

But if you have a whole bunch in your Inbox, you can find them quickly and opt-out using a search method based on the typical language used in marketing emails (usually in fine print at the very bottom of the email).

In the search box at the top of your Inbox (this works in both Outlook and Gmail) copy and paste the following common keywords/phrases for marketing emails:

unsubscribe OR opt-out OR update your subscription OR manage your subscription

TIP: By putting “OR” in the search results, you can refine your search for any one of these phrases at the same time.

The search results will bring up all emails with any of these terms. Now you can follow the opt-out link (again, typically at the bottom of the email) to discontinue receiving them. You may have several emails from the same provider — you only need to opt-out once.

Delete by “Chunking”

We use the term “chunking” to refer to grouping all emails from one sender. Then you can delete a large group of email at one time.

For example, you may have worked on a project with “Phil” last month, but now it is complete. Your Inbox may have many straggling emails from Phil that are no longer needed. You can get rid of them all at once.

To sort by Sender in Outlook:

There are a few ways to find all emails form one sender in Outlook. You can

  • With your Inbox open, click on the “FROM” word in the toolbar. To highlight all of the email from one person, click on the first email, hold down the Shift key and then click on the last one. All will be highlighted, then you can Delete.
  • Or, use the Search box to key in a Sender’s name or email address.

Sort by Sender in Gmail:

If you want to find and delete all email from a particular contact:

  • Start typing in the contact’s name in the search box (Gmail will pre-populate choices for you).
  • When you’ve found an email from them, hover the mouse over their name to bring up a pop-up window, then click Emails. This will list all emails To and From that person.

  • Instead of going down the line and checking the box next to each email to delete them individually, you can highlight all displayed emails by clicking the select box at the top and choosing All.
  • Now you can delete all emails for that contact at once.

NOTE: If all is selected, and you find a few items you want to keep, just un-select those individual messages. Then delete.

Get Rid of Giant Emails

We often receive (and send) emails that have large files attached — like a PowerPoint file or images. If you’re short on storage space you can save the large attachments to your hard drive, and delete the email.

To find these larger emails, search by email Size.

In Outlook there are a few ways to find large files. The easiest is to click the Size button in the toolbar to sort by email total size.The largest emails will rise to the top of the list like cream on fresh milk. Now you can save the attachments and quickly delete the email.

In Gmail, in the search bar at the top of your Inbox:

  • Click the down
  • At the bottom is an option to search by Size.
  • Fill in an amount (like 5 MB) and click the blue search button.

This will bring up not only received emails in your Inbox and folders (categories), but in your Sent and Deleted boxes also.

Above all, create a process for handling email so your Inbox doesn’t become overwhelming. Set aside time each day and follow the FAT principle — File it, Act on it (then delete it), or Trash it. Be ruthless!