Few months back, I’ve had around 30 thousand email messages in my mailbox. Things were hectic to say at least…

Every time I’ve opened up my email client, I wasn’t sure about importance of each particular item. There was also the fact that when setting up a new email client and letting it fetch all the headers (IMAP) or God fobid; whole messages, it would take hours to sync everything.

Also, whenever I migrated to another server (be it for change of OS, migrating to newer version or whatever) there was a huge number of files to copy around and keep track of. Alright, maybe my 30K isn’t a “huge number”, but it’s still something I had to keep in mind.

TL;DR: It just wasn’t sustainable to live in that mess so it was time to do something about it.

Journey: Inbox 0

Some months prior, as a part of “getting more focused” and “turning down the noise” effort (which has really become an ongoing effort for me - more on that on some other occasion perhaps), I’ve moved all old messages to “Archive” and kept only current and actionable things in my Inbox.

When I say actionable, I mean something among the lines:

New computer parts arrived to the store and are ready for pickup.

I would keep that message in my Inbox, until it was time to pick it up. Once done I would archive it.

As the time progressed I’ve noticed that Archive is just a graveyard for all the emails I will never look again, but am keeping them for whatever reason. Naturally, I decided it was time to let them go permanently.

Destination: Mailbox 0

Next step was obviously to perform the cleanup of things I’ve had in my Archive, Sent, and other folders.

I’ll not lie, it was a tedious task, taking few hours of my time, but hopefully for the long term benefit.

Using amazing Mu4e in Emacs I filtered the messages according to the criteria and deleted them bit by bit. At one point it has become manageable to go through the list one by one and just mark the messages and delete them. Important attachments were backed up and messages were deleted permanently.

To avoid getting my inbox all clutered again, I’ve unsubscribed from almost all email groups, newsletters and such. I prefer to follow them via RSS if it’s something I’m interested in.

These days I have around 10 messages in my mailbox in total, those mainly being licenses and some links which I am not sure what to do about and which will likely have the same faith as those with important attachments had.

As the message comes in, it goes through the following logic:

  • Is message actionable?
    • YES - take action
    • I DON’T HAVE TIME - leave it in inbox until you do
  • Is message important to keep?
    • YES - archive
    • NO (spam or something I’m not interested in, like “you have new message on LinkedIn” (I check those periodically anyways)) - permanently delete

There is very low number of messages I deem important to keep these days, so most of the messages get deleted immediately. The rest, that ends up in my Archive, is checked periodically and purged when no longer relevant.