Spring Cleaning My Inbox

-But What If I Ever Need It?-

I’m a little bit of a horder.  Not like an extreme horder that you see on TV, but I do collect odds and ends that I think might be useful someday.  I think part of it is because I’m an artist.  I have a whole drawer dedicated to odds and ends.  I keep small pieces of construction paper leftovers, charms that fall off necklaces, shiny material, ribbons too short to use to wrap a present, anything that I might be able to use on an art project someday.

I also have a slight obsession with keeping boxes 1) because I am an Amazon Prime addict and used to mail things to friends all the time and I never fell out of the habit of keeping boxes to ship things in and 2) because I’m saving them for the day I eventually get to move into my fixer-upper when it’s fixed up.  I love containers in general, and keep a few empty pill bottles, spice jars, and tiny boxes that had held rings or bracelets.  You never know when one would come in handy to use to keep something safe and organized.  You can fill them full of beads, coins, bottle caps, anything small and prone to scattering if not kept in a container.

-Everything in it's Place-

But I also love organizing, especially on a computer.  I have so many folders and sub-folders to keep things neat and organized.  For example, on my flashdrive where I keep a lot of my stories, to get to The Un-Life the path is Written Works>Fiction>Long.  I have categories for Non-Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories, Portfolios.  And the euphoric feeling of starting a system like that and moving everything into its appropriate folder.  Ahhh.

So it’s a little bit strange that I’m so bad at keeping my personal email in check.  It’s my inner horder conflicting with my computer organization.  What if I needed that ancient email where my grandma sent me some funny pictures?  What if I regret deleting that notification of package shipment from Amazon from four years ago?  I’ve been thinking for a while now that I need to get my emails under control when I happened upon an article on Pocket highlights that cited an argument that a cluttered inbox clutters your mind.  Whether that’s true or not, it was a good kick in the butt to try and get started.

A week ago I had over 900 unread emails and almost 5000 total emails just in my primary inbox.  As of writing this, I’ve managed to narrow that down to 300 unread and 2500 total.  It’s definitely a start.

-As Easily Said As Done-

And it really didn’t take all that long.  I started by just navigating the first few pages of my inbox to see what reoccurring unnecessary messages I get a lot.  There were notifications of sales from Steam, updates to jobs from Monster and LinkedIn, and a lot of shipping notifications I probably didn’t need.  To help me weave through this mess the best way possible, I found an example email and copied the email address from the sender (let’s say, shipment-tracking@amazon.com) and then searched my whole inbox for it.  This helps to eliminate accidentally deleting something important.  If I had just searched “Amazon” it would have come up with way too many results of a mixture of things I wanted to delete and things I didn’t.  Not only order confirmation emails from auto-confirm@amazon.com that I wanted to keep, but any non-Amazon email that happens to mention “Amazon” within its body or even its attachments.  I still tried to pick through the refined results just to make sure something didn’t somehow get sent by an address that I wanted to keep, then achieved the rest.

Anything I half way or more considered important, I achieved.  Anything that wasn’t important, I deleted.  Unimportant things included sale emails from Steam older than a few weeks because the sales were no longer relevant and things of that nature.  I also tried to clean out my Social and Promotion sections of my email this way too, and deleted old Dunham’s, Victoria’s Secret, and other sale notifications.  Though messing around in those folders doesn’t impact the primary email stats of unread and total, but they did help to take up less space.

I did try to go back and achieve some ancient stuff from the beginnings of my email account.  My account goes back to around 2008, and there was plenty of stuff from back then that isn’t important now.  I picked through around the oldest 500 emails by hand and achieved anything I wanted to keep but didn’t think I needed anymore.  I couldn’t bring myself to permanently delete anything this old simply because of nostalgia.  It was a time when email actually meant something and was still a valid form of communication.  I achieved emails my mom sent me when I was away at summer camp and chain emails from my grandma. 

-Am I Less Cluttered?-

I don’t feel like my every day not-email-related life feels less cluttered because I cleaned out a good chunk of my email, but I do feel good about it when I think about it.  Big numbers can look challenging, and even impossible, so you neglect them and the problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger and harder to tackle.  But if you just put your mind to it, you can make a bigger dent than you thought you could. 

And in some small way, I like the way that it makes me make a decision – move on, or hang on?  Decide what is important in your life, and what is not.  It’s almost a better feeling to hit “delete” on an email than it is to achieve it.  In my heart I know I’m probably never going to look at an achieved email in my entire life, so it might as well be gone.  But for it to truly be gone, that’s one less thing cluttering my life, even if it’s just a few bytes.  That release is a small, strange, and beautiful form of freedom. 

-Send Me An Email!-

Did you know I have a public email where you can write to me?  It’s danalockhart411(at)gmail(dot)com.  I’d love to hear from you and will do my best to respond.  Compliments or critiques or ideas are more than welcome!

-Dana Lockhart


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