I’ve been deleting hundreds of emails for the past hour. Not for any criminal reason. I hoarded thousands of emails over the past ten years and part of the downsizing process involves really figuring out your priorities. If you’re in the US, search your inbox for your social security number, and delete every instance immediately. Otherwise, for me, everything has been about tending to fields. Saying goodbye to certain thoughts so the rest are clearer.
I’ve moved most everything to my inbox of now 890.
I have some emails queued up to publish as articles. My current focus is sorting through all the junk. I kept every notification I ever received of every transaction that had ever happened on multiple websites. I don’t care if someone liked a tweet of mine two years ago. When we connected professionally isn’t a concern. Most receipts are irrelevant. I’ve kept everything nostalgic or useful. I’m doing the same as when I de-hoarded my previous residence: I focused first on taking out the trash, packed away things that I needed to address later, and only now, almost a year after packing, beginning to unpack sentimental items.
Email is not a storage system.
When I’m digging through old emails, I’m deciding whether I want to reach back out to distant contacts. The ones I don’t… I’m being brave and deleting immediately. Maybe they have their side of the correspondence or maybe they’ve deleted it themselves? That’s not saying goodbye to the person or burning that bridge. You can always reconnect later. It’s just how many times do you need to reread the same email where you had said something embarrassing to someone you don’t want to communicate with anymore?
We hold onto too much.
My goal for my inboxes, for both my career email and the one listed here, is to have them all cleared out completely. I’ll still have some folders with emails saved, of course, but the inbox should be zero and the folders should be minimal. I can save emails as PDFs and store them “off-site.” Emails can be hacked easier than, say, two hard-drives that are only plugged in once a quarter.
It’s been nice deleting all this junk, but also tiring.
For a hoarder like myself, it takes time to unravel the addictions one has to certain things. I once liked the idea of going into my email and browsing through my old history. Now, I hacked away at emails that reminded me of bad memories, like shady recruiters and ugly contracts, and feel lighter because of it. Sure, I won’t be able to dig into those emails for juicy content to write fiction about later, but sometimes it’s OK just to let those memories fade out into the oblivion they deserve to be in.
I can find new things to write about, anyways. The past should be remembered fondly.
Delete old emails, shred old paystubs, recycle last week’s bad news, and close the books on any lingering doubts about yourself.
|Sources: My personal and professional experiences.|
|Inspirations: I’ve focused on removing physical clutter, but now it’s time to focus on the digital clutter, too. Part of that is seeing an email and thinking “oh, I should respond to that…” – do it, or delete it – and part of it is the idea that ideally, my mailbox would be almost empty. Except for things I might need to forward. Ideally, though, everything should be deleted so there would be a layer of privacy when email servers are hacked, as mine had been broadly hacked along with millions of other people years ago.|
|Related: Other Downsizing Zeal essays.|
|Picture: Screenshots during my email deletions.|
|Written On: October 13th [18 minutes, from midnight to 12:18am, Wordcounter]|
|Last Edited: October 13th [Second draft: from 12:19am to 12:25am, Wordcounter]|