5 Tips to Declutter your Email Inbox Fast

We’ve all been there… hundreds, sometimes thousands of email messages. How can anyone even BEGIN to keep on top of the never-ending flood of newsletters, spam, forwards of cute cat pictures and chain letters?

You wouldn’t want to miss that super-important personal email from your long-lost cousin (who is apparently now the King of Nigeria).

With the same personal email address since 2000, I’ve seen all the spam that ever existed. About 2 years ago, I decided I had better things to do than wade through all the sludge to find the “real” messages from real people I know. Then I got ruthless about making my email inbox useful and free from messages I don’t want – these 5 tips are the top methods that worked for me, and I want to share them with the world.

Note: These tips apply mainly to Gmail users. If you use another email provider, you could create folders or labels and adapt these tips to suit your needs.

TIP #1: Using Gmail? Switch to Inbox by Google.

This is by far the best email experience I have ever found, and I’ve converted several friends, colleagues, and clients to this streamlined and elegant Gmail reader.

Bundle it

Inbox by Google will start you out with Finance, Social, Trips and other pre-made bundles. From there, customizing your own bundles is quick and flexible. You can set up bundles to have certain messages skip the Inbox or automatically mark as “Done”. Examples of some bundle strategies: by project, by a person’s name, by a group such as work, home, kids, etc.

Snooze it

Hide a message until it you need it. Like magic, it will appear just when you told it to! Ticket confirmations, reminders you need later in the week/month/year, anything you can think of. You no longer need to keep these sort of reference message with your incoming email, cluttering things up and making it difficult to see what is new and important.

Reminders

To my surprise, I use this feature all the time. You can add standalone reminders or attach a reminder to a specific email message. Send future-you a reminder, or let a short-term reminder hang out in your inbox as a to-do item.

screenshot of Inbox by Google
My current Inbox for Intentional Spaces.

TIP #2: Too many subscriptions? Use Unroll.me

At one point, I had subscriptions to over 50 different newsletters! Some of these I had actually signed up for, but mostly they just clogged up my inbox and I never read them.
Then I found Unroll.me, a FREE service that allows you to quickly unsubscribe and roll-up the subscriptions you do want into ONE daily email. How sweet is that?

TIP #3: Don’t delete – Archive & Search!

When Gmail came on the scene in 2004, I found one of the greatest features was the Archive. This means you don’t need to delete any messages, just archive them and if you need the information later, you can search, just like the Google search engine. This article from Lifehacker has great instructions on how to search effectively in Gmail and Inbox by Google.

TIP #4: Declare email bankruptcy and reset instantly.

This is the nuclear option, but it definitely works. If you simply have TOO much email to even begin to sort through, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Create a new folder within your email program. Name this folder whatever you like – Archive, History, Old Messages, anything that works for you.
  2. Move ALL of the messages out of your inbox and into this folder.
  3. Start fresh and process only the incoming messages using the tips above.

If this sounds appealing but you have reservations, one thing to know is that if there is a truly urgent important thing you need to know about, it is most likely that you will not hear about it by email.

Chances are, no one will notice! If something is truly important, they will call you. But if you still feel trepidation, then send out a message to your most important contacts to give them a heads-up of your inbox clearing:

I just cleared out all the email messages in my inbox and it feels great! If there is a recent message you sent to me which needs a reply, please re-send.

TIP #5: Strive to reach Inbox Zero

Zero messages in the inbox? Yes, this really is possible using the techniques above. I love this concept because it is really relaxing to know that I have read any important messages and set reminders for non-urgent messages to come back when the content is relevant. Plus there is a cute screen to reward you for reaching the elusive Inbox Zero.

screenshot of empty email inbox
Ahh, a nice empty Inbox.

After you declutter your email, what’s next?

Check out my 7 Secrets to getting off JUNK mail lists

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Use what you have – save money & work with YOUR space

spice bottles in kitchen drawers

Intentional Spaces recommends making the existing storage space in your home work for you. If you do this, there is no need to purchase any expensive “storage solution” products.

In this photo, spice bottles fit nicely into a set of 2 drawers in the center island, directly behind the cooktop. Spices don’t have to be stored in a fancy (read: “expensive”) rotating carousel gadget – go with what works, using the existing available space.

spice bottles in kitchen drawers
Spices tucked into drawers for easier storage

A little creativity with your storage can result in a fun and joyful space! Do you have wall space but no drawers? Then you can put those walls to good use with some simple shelves.

10 Steps to Clear Clutter & Create YOUR Intentional Space

very messy bedroom
Do your rooms look like this?

When facing a cluttered room, it can feel overwhelming and anxious-making for many people. Where do I start? How do I figure out what to do with these seemingly random things? Which new show on Netflix could I binge-watch?

To combat your worries and turn clearing clutter from a chore into a JOYFUL activity, here are:

10 Steps to Clear Clutter &
Create YOUR Intentional Space

  1. Select a (small) space to focus on first.
    It doesn’t matter where, just pick a space to start. Perhaps one counter in the kitchen, a bathroom drawer, or a small table.
  2. Create your intention for the space.
    Ask yourself, “What is this space for? How do I want this space to look?” For a kitchen counter, you would likely want counter space and tools to chop vegetables and prepare meals.
  3. Set yourself up for success.
    Clearing a space can be an enjoyable activity, but much less if you have to keep stopping and starting in the middle.
    I highly recommend gathering the following before you start:

    • a water bottle and a snack
    • boxes and trash bags to put donations and garbage/recycling into as you sort
    • a basket or box for items which are not garbage or donations, but no longer belong in the space
      a table or other surface to place things while sorting – portable tables are great, but any flat surface works
  4. Make it fun.
    Put on some upbeat music and get excited! In my house, I put on fun dance music while I clear a space.
  5. Remember your intention.
    Before touching anything in the space, take a moment to remember your intention. Think about your ideals for the space and its purpose. Example: the kitchen counter need only have things related to the task (cutting board, knife block) and nothing else.
  6. Pull everything out of the space.
    IMPORTANT! Do not do any sorting in the space – we want to clear and bring in new energy, which means removing the things which do not serve a purpose in the space. Pull everything out and take it to the table or other surface from Step 3.
  7. Sort and purge.
    Go through each item and sort into one of the following categories:

    • Trash/Recycling – broken items, old magazines you’ll never read, junk mail, rotten fruit from the fruit bowl. (This is the easy part. Do it first!)
    • Donations box – things you no longer want but still have life left
    • Things which do not belong in the space – anything which does not match the purpose of the space
    • Things intended for the space – for our example, the best cutting board and the best knives
  8. Reintroduce selected items to the space with intention.
    Step back to admire your newly cleared space, then reintroduce only the special items you selected. Place the items carefully and take a moment to admire and appreciate them.
  9. Clean up.
    • take out the trash/recycling
    • box up any donations and put them in your car. Drop off the very next time you run errands.
    • Return items not belonging to the newly cleared space to the appropriate room
  10. Enjoy your new Intentional Space!
    Each time you use your space, feel the calm and peace of having an intentional space.  Pat yourself on the back for creating a new space full of purpose and beauty!

NEW! Click this link to download a PDF of 10 Steps to Clear Clutter.

Digital Decluttering

Digital Decluttering and why it matters

Too many tabs? Inbox overflowing? Tons of apps cluttering up your Home screen so you can’t focus?

Our digital spaces mirror our physical spaces in many ways and I encourage my clients to also review and streamline their computers and mobile devices as part of their decluttering process.

How can YOU achieve a decluttered digital space?

Check out my 5 Tips to Declutter your Email Inbox Fast.

More Resources

This comprehensive guide from Lifehack has many ideas and actionable ideas to get your digital life as clear as your home.

If you can’t get enough of this concept, check out these fantastic articles from simplicity bloggers.

The Little Guide to Digital Decluttering

KonMari Your Digital Life a comprehensive guide from Nuno Donato.

Cultivate a “Hotel room” mentality to create Intentional Spaces

hotel room

hotel room

Do you want calm and clutter-free space in YOUR house? Take a cue from the travel industry! When I travel, I absolutely love arriving at a new hotel and marveling at how clean and serene the space feels.

Believe it or not, hotels carefully design guest rooms to provide just enough – not more, not less. Among the carefully selected simple furnishings:

  • a bed with simple linens
  • nightstands with a clock, lamp, and empty drawers
  • a closet with a few hangers
  • an empty set of drawers
  • a bathroom with towels and single serving toiletries
  • minimal and subtle decor

One more thing completes the guest experience, or rather, a lack of things. This nearly-imperceptible element provides the key to the serenity you experience: empty space. Open spaces comprise a vital part of the experience; leaving space open very much on purpose to allow room for YOU, plus the luggage you bring. You and your bags (hopefully packed with just the essentials) complete the room and now it is no longer feels so empty after all.

So if you feel overwhelmed by a cluttered home or office, desperately wishing for a calm and peaceful space… think about your last vacation and remember to leave some room yet unfilled. Imagine arriving home and feeling relaxed, just like on vacation.

Note, I’m not advocating styling your space exactly like a hotel room, unless you’re really into the idea. Think of this as a mental exercise.

7 Secrets to getting off JUNK mail lists

junk mail covering the floor
advertising mail
My house used to get flooded by junk mail, until I took action.
advertising mail
My house used to get flooded by junk mail, until I took action.

Junk Mail Taking Over Your Mailbox?

You’ve seen junk mail in many forms – slick, colorful and full of coupons promising savings… but actually luring you to buy something you don’t need.

Take advantage of my research and use these solid resources to get off the company lists for GOOD.

Coupons and bundled advertiser fliers

There are many companies with coupon mailers out there, but these 2 are the largest I have found.

Valpak coupons
These seem to multiply and show up every week at our house (who is “Current Resident” and why do they get so much junk mail?) Do yourself a favor and opt-out at the source.

Red Plum
You know those glossy, colorful mailers with all the inserts? One day I happened to notice a separate post card in my mailbox with a Red Plum logo next to the US Postage Paid mark. A quick Google search and I found this site, where I entered my home address address. They claim that in 5-6 weeks, the mailings should stop.
Update: as of July 8, 2018: Red Plum is now known as Retail Me Not, but the link above is still valid.

Phone Books – who even uses these?

Even though any business can be found online, somehow there are more phone books and specialized directories published than ever before. With the Internet and Yelp, do we really need to use phone books anymore? Yellow Pages Opt-out can get your address off several directories all at once.

Data Brokers – selling your address without your consent

LexisNexis is a data broker, which sells YOUR information to many other companies. They do remove consumers upon request. Their site claims opting out will prevent your name and address from being used in unsolicited communications from DirectLink and Market Magnifier and its customers (other marketing companies).

eBureau opt-out
Another data broker. There are probably even more out there, but eBureau and LexisNexis seem to be the 2 largest. Get yourself off their list today!

>Overwhelmed with junk mail? Start with DMA Choice.

If you are just beginning to attack the junk flooding your mailbox, DMAchoice is a great place to start. You can opt-out of a ton of direct-mailing companies who purchase names and addresses from the Direct Marketing Association.

Getting mail for a deceased family member? Print and mail this form to reduce junk mail arriving in their name.

For long-term maintenance, use Catalog Choice.

After setting up your free account, you can add multiple names/addresses to your Profile. You can search for almost ANY catalog or mass-mailing company and send a request to that company to remove you from their list.

I’ve been doing this for the past couple of months and the flood of catalogs has gone down drastically.

After you conquer junk mail, what’s next?

Check out my 5 Tips to Declutter your Email Inbox Fast.

Intentional Spaces is now on the NAPO site

National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals logo
National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals logo
National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals

The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals™ (NAPO®) has approximately 3,500 members dedicated to helping people and organizations bring order and efficiency to their lives. NAPO’s mission is to be the leading source for organizing and productivity professionals by providing exceptional education, enhancing business connections, advancing industry research, and increasing public awareness.

NAPO defines Professional Organizer as follows:

A Professional Organizer supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around objects, space, and data; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding function, order, and clarity.