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Clean up your inbox
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Tech tips

Have thousands of unread messages? How to get a handle on your inbox

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No matter which email provider you use, it’s most likely full. Get ready to declutter your inbox so fast that it will make Marie Kondo jealous. It’s time to wave goodbye to spammy marketing, unwanted newsletters, and expired office memos.

You will love logging into a clean inbox filled with actionable items. Keep reading for the skinny on how to whisk away potentially dangerous digital clutter.

Make unsubscribing a habit

It’s easy to let useless emails sit unopened in your inbox. You probably ended up on a marketing email list somehow. Instead of letting them pile up, take the extra few seconds to unsubscribe. This is a very easy way to instantly sort out what is important in your inbox and what isn’t.

If something has been in your inbox for more than 24 hours and it’s unread, get rid of it. If you needed it, you would have already opened it and taken action on it. 

By law, all email communication is required to have an unsubscribe link. This is usually found at the bottom of the email. Click unsubscribe and remove yourself from the list. Emails that do not contain unsubscribe links should be reported as spam. 

RELATED: How to find all your recurring subscriptions and stop paying for what you don’t need

Reporting spam helps protect others too

You should never click on links or open attachments found in emails that you think might be scams or phishing attempts. Just report these and your email provider will take it from there. When you take a few seconds to report the issue, it helps protect others.

Here’s how to report spam or a phishing attempt on Google: Open Gmail and select the email you want to remove. Click the Spam button. It looks like a stop sign with an exclamation point.

Here’s how to do it on Apple devices: Open your email app and swipe left on the message you want to get rid of. Tap More, then tap Move to Junk.

Use smart searches to filter out the junk

If you aren’t ready to delete all your unread emails, it’s OK to sort them out a little. The search bar is your friend here. Try searching for words like these:

  • Sale.
  • % off.
  • Reminder.
  • Invite.
  • no-reply@.

This should bring out most marketing emails so you can easily remove them. If you have some marketing emails that you want to keep, consider setting up a dedicated email address for them. This will get them out of your primary inbox and stop them from being a distraction.

If you enjoy sale shopping for clothes or makeup, create an email address just for fashion. If you’re into home improvement or gardening, set up a sale portal by giving your house its own email address.

When you really do need to keep it

Once you have sorted out what’s in your inbox, you can set up features to help keep it neat. The most popular email programs offer features like archiving, filters, and folders to help you out. If you need to keep something but want to clear it out of your inbox, you have options. 

Archive it

The Archive symbol looks like a little box with a downward arrow. Using the archive feature will save a copy of the email forever into a virtual “Archived” folder. It will also remove it from your inbox. To view it later, you can select the Archived files folder. You can also use the search bar with keywords or the sender’s name. 

You can also create personalized folders:

A unique folder is your best option if you want to keep certain emails together. You can move emails into specified folders as they come in to keep things organized. That way, you can quickly revisit them later.

How to create a folder in Gmail

NOTE: Gmail calls its folders labels. 

  1. Open Gmail. 
  2. Tap More
  3. Tap Create new label
  4. Name your label. 
  5. Click Create.

How to create a folder in Outlook

You can add folders to Mail, Contacts, and Calendar. 

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Right-click on the left window pane.
  3. Select Add folder.

You can combine folders with rules and filters. If you do this, any incoming email will go directly to the assigned folders as they arrive.

How to use rules and filters in Gmail:

  1. Select the email.
  2. Tap More.
  3. Select Filter messages like these.
  4. Choose the filter criteria.
  5. Tap Create filter.

How to use Rules and Filters in Outlook:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Select File.
  3. Select Manage Rules & Alerts.
  4. Select New Rule.
  5. Select a template.
  6. Edit the rule
  7. Select Next.
  8. Select the conditions.
  9. Select OK.
  10. Select Next.
  11. Select Finish.

You’re almost done after unsubscribing, reporting, archiving, and filtering emails. Dumping the junk and enjoying your fresh inbox is all left. You can delete your emails one by one, but that will take forever. Tap or click here to bulk delete thousands of emails all at once.

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