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How to Clean and Organize Your Email Inbox

31 Days of Spring Cleaning: Purge and Organize Emails

The never-ending deluge of junk mail, spam, and sales alerts that is our email has us running for cover when the inbox is opened each morning. For our second installment in 31 Days of Spring Cleaning, we're purging the garbage and organizing every last email. Here's how to achieve the magic that is inbox zero.

  • Sort and delete — When an inbox approaches four-digit capacity, it's time to filter and delete all the newsletters, ancient correspondence, and chain letters. First, sort your inbox by sender. Know your email is stuffed with weekly sales reminders from a certain airline? Run a search for all messages sent by the airline and press "Delete." It feels good to remove hundreds of emails with a few quick clicks, huh? Follow the same rule as it applies to the habits of your inbox. If you must keep certain emails, use the next rule.

For more tips on organizing email, follow the break.

  • Inbox alternatives — Download an inbox alternative to your client email, with an app like Mailbox (free), which lets you scan through emails quickly. Swiping them into the trashcan or set a note for them to appear back at the top of the inbox later, rather than manually flagging it, only to forget about the message.
  • Create folders or labels — With a future of an organized inbox in mind, create categories of folders and labels to keep email tidy. For work email, you may consider folders for specific projects, while personal email would benefit from labeling of shopping- or travel-related news.
  • Make rules and filters — You don't have to bother sorting new emails into their folders by hand if you create a rule or filter telling your email server what to do with certain messages as they come in. Have an email from an ex always sent to the trash bin or ensure important notes from a family member are always in one folder.

A significant percentage of our email inboxes is made up of subscription lists we once thought were necessary. An upcoming service called Unroll.me will unsubscribe you from the flood of email lists and send the few you want to stay up-to-date on in one less bothersome email message.

How do you keep your email inbox organized?

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