You've Got {Too Much} Email! | From Overwhelmed to Organized: You've Got {Too Much} Email!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

You've Got {Too Much} Email!

How many emails do you have in your inbox?  Are you overwhelmed by the number?   Is your number growing daily?

Then welcome to the You've Got {Too Much} Mail! challenge.

Why do a challenge to reduce the number of emails in your inbox?

  1. Email clutter can be just as overwhelming as physical clutter.  And now that I've experienced the freedom that comes from a clutter-free environment in my home, it makes sense to declutter my email inbox.
  2. Increased productivity.  How much can we really accomplish when we see 1000's of emails every time we open our inbox?
  3. Important emails can "fall through the cracks" when there are too many other less important emails in your inbox.
  4. It's tough to complete big tasks on our own so doing this one alongside other people will help keep us all motivated and accountable.

Can you relate?  

To set the stage, here's where I'm starting out.  As of last week, my personal email account had over 500 emails in my inbox, 6000 in my sent folder, and nearly 8000 emails filed in various folders!   That's over 14,000 emails.  And that was after I'd already started to clean it up.  Yikes!

I know I have unlimited storage and it shouldn't bother me to have so many emails, but they're just always there... taunting me... overwhelming me.

Do these reasons for keeping emails sound familiar?
  • I need to follow up on this later.
  • I want to share this with someone.  
  • I might want to read this again some day.

I've been accumulating emails for years, but, if I'm honest with myself, I'll probably never need anything I've saved in the folders I set up.  Or even if I did need something, I could find the same thing somewhere else.  And obviously I'm not staying on top of following up on emails or sharing them with people.

So, I decided to do something about it a couple of months ago.  I read some great advice on a few blogs (see yesterday's Organizing Ideas For The Weekend post for links to some of them) and then jumped in.

I started with my blog's email account which I've had for less than a year.  I don't remember the numbers but I think I deleted about 1000 emails in a couple of hours.  It was so great to have only a few emails in my inbox!


{Thought you needed a picture to break up all this text :)  Wasn't this a great movie?!}

OK, back to the challenge.

After I cleaned up my blog's email inbox, I started tackling my personal email account, which I've had for nearly 15 years.  I did a little bit at a time.  It worked for a little while but I didn't stick with it consistently enough.  In the meantime, emails kept accumulating... and accumulating.

So, last week, when my friend Adele from Arrange My Place challenged her Facebook followers to clean up their in-boxes with her, I knew it was just what I needed.  Checking in each week with an update on my progress will give me the accountability to actually do it.

I also put the challenge out there on Facebook to my readers last week and a few of you joined in.  But I know many of you don't see all my Facebook updates.  And I wanted to make it easier for everyone to check in with weekly updates.

So here I am today, officially challenging all of you to clean up your in-boxes with us :)  The more the merrier!

Here's how the You've Got {Too Much} Mail! challenge will work:

  1. Determine how many emails you're starting with (include all folders, tags, and bins).
  2. Use one of the tracking options below (or any method you'd like) to record your starting numbers.
  3. Set a goal for how many emails you'd like to delete each week.  {Adele and I have set a goal for at least 250 emails deleted each week but you can choose whatever goal you'd like}.  
  4. Comment below (or on Facebook) to let us know you're participating and tell us what your starting numbers are and what your weekly goal is.  {Note:  if you comment as Anonymous (if you don't have a blog or any other sign-in options), please leave your name or initials in your comment so we can all encourage you each week and so you'll be more accountable.}
  5. Start deleting!
  6. Keep track of how many emails you've deleted each week.
  7. Every Monday evening I'll write a new blog post to update my progress and you can leave a comment with your progress to help you stay accountable.  Don't worry... no judging here!  Only encouragement :)

Simple right?!

If you're feeling overwhelmed, here are a few tips to help you get started:
  • Just do 5-10 minutes every day.  You'll be surprised at how quickly those minutes will add up!
  • Start by deleting "easy" emails:  very old emails, subscriptions you no longer care about, clubs/organizations you're no longer part of, etc. 
  • Sort by sender to do a batch delete from specific people or organizations.

    You can modify the spreadsheet to suit your own needs (folder names, dates, number of columns, colours, etc.).  You don't need to include your Spam and Trash folders if you regularly empty them, since the numbers change in these folders all the time.

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like something changed in either the printable or the spreadsheet (organizerhilda {at} gmail {dot} com).  

    Please keep these for personal use only.  Thanks!

    So are you in?!  Don't forget to leave a comment below with your starting numbers and weekly goal!  And remember to check out yesterday's Organizing Ideas for the Weekend post for more motivation and tips!

    Check out the Challenges tab to see the rest of the posts in the series!

    I look forward to sharing this journey with you.  We're all in this together :)   Here's to a less overwhelming inbox!


    I link up at these great parties - Check them out!


    1. I love this challenge! My problem is that I mark emails as unread and then I never come back to them. I have 2 personal email accounts both with 250-350 unread emails. I usually keep my work email cleaned up but I still have a ton of emails in case I need them someday (as I teacher, I need paper/electronic trails and documentation) but it can be very suffocating!
      I'll try to keep up with you on this challenge but it'll definitely take some organization on my part to stick with it.
      Thanks for the inspiration. There's so many things that weigh on us without being obviously disorganized. It's great to chip away at them one by one.

      1. I mark emails unread too Beth. I do it so I'll come back to them and so they won't get buried... but then I often don't actually open them again. Clearly not a system that works for me :)

        Needing to keep paper trails is tough. Can you organize them in a way that they aren't quite as overwhelming? I've found Evernote helpful for keeping emails because you can tag them and everything's quite searchable. Just a thought.

        Glad you're going to participate in the challenge. No worries about keeping up... you can set whatever goal that you think will work for you!

    2. I regularly battle with my inbox!

      Please share your awesome challenge with us at Inspire Me Monday at

      Create With Joy

      1. Thanks for the invitation to your party. Just linked up! Good luck with your inbox battle :)

    3. Hi Hilda,

      This is something I really need to do. Thanks for the ideas for making it easier and for sharing with us at Transformed Tuesday.

      Peggy~PJH Designs

      1. You're welcome Peggy. Good luck with your inbox :)

    4. I recently read an article about "Power E-mailing" that inspired me to go through my email,create folders and tags and pay more attention. After a week or so I was less dedicated to it- but I like the idea of this challenge. I have at least 4 e-mail accounts. It is ridiculous. My problem is I can't keep up with which e-mail I care about organizing the most! Here from the One Project at a Time link up.

      1. That sounds like a great article Kelly! It's tough with multiple email accounts to keep them all under control but it's worth the effort. One step at a time :) Thanks for stopping by!

    5. Here from your #31Days series. Printed off two copies of the spreadsheet for my Gmail (which is bad enough) and my Yahoo (which could choke a horse if it was all on paper).

      1. LOL LuAnn! No choking allowed :) I think one of the main reasons emails get out of control is that they aren't printed and we don't realize how much email clutter we have. Good luck working through your emails! Keep me posted.

    6. Thanks Hilda! I have 3 email boxes and they are all the same plus they all go on my cell phone. Organized? and frustrating yes. I've been working on it but need to put more time into it. Enjoy the rest of your week :-)

      1. Do you need to have them all the same and all going to your phone Cathy? It sounds like a lot of overlap and extra maintenance. I like things simple :) Keep working at it though... it all adds up!

    7. Hilda there must be a way because I unsubscribed and blocked a lot of emails and thought I was doing good down to 142 or so. Well I'm drowning again. There must be a way to stop them from going to my cell phone but I don't know how. My work IT guy set my phone up so my home, gmail and work email all go on my phone. I didn't want them going on my iPad thank heavens or I'd really be bonkers.. lol. I'll get there but my solution might be to have my home email only go to my laptop. Too much to deal with right now but I'll keep working at it, I really don't like the overwhelming extra maintenance so I leave it go for too long rather than keep dealing with it... :-) Have a great weekend Hilda!

      1. Cathy, can you see if your work IT guy can remove some of those email addresses from your phone if you don't want them on there? But also, check if your accounts are sync-ing. When I delete something from my email on my phone it deletes it from the account so it doesn't show up when I go to my email on my computer. And vice versa. So there shouldn't be duplication on each device. If you can get that working then you won't have multiple places to maintain your inboxes. Good luck!


    I love hearing from my readers! This is a great place to ask questions, answer questions, and share your organizing tips. Thank you so much for commenting! I look forward to getting to know you better :)

    {Note: if you're using Safari, I probably won't see your comment since Safari and Blogger aren't playing well together :( Please comment with a different browser so I don't miss it. Thanks!}