*Click to read the affiliate disclaimer*

(Last Updated On: February 5, 2019)

Why Declutter?

Email inboxes are sacred places. They should be reserved for communication that matters. Anything that doesn’t fall into that category needs to fall back. We lose so much time by checking and responding to non-urgent emails.

Marketing and promotional emails probably take up most people’s inboxes, but even if you’re an entrepreneur that uses a separate email for all of the business stuff, you’ll still get sent masses of emails that you simply don’t need in your life. Here are the steps I recently took to get my main email accounts under control.


Take a Minute

Figure out what you actually want to be emailed about. There’s so much going in that we may have cared about in one time in our lives that no longer means anything to us.

Let me break down an example for you. I decided I was academic in 2011. No idea where it came from, but I really wanted to learn lots of things from lots of global institutions. Coursera had gassed me up and made me want to learn about the most random things from some of the most prestigious (mainly American) universities). Not any more.

You have to actually take a step back with this. I have hoarder tendencies and the things I was subscribed to was a reflection of that.




Now you’ve decided what you want and what you don’t, it’s time to start unsubscribing from the things you don’t want around any more. While you should be able to do this by clicking the ‘Unsubscribe’ button on emails, it’s not always that easy. (I swear the button on the Lidl emails just doesn’t work).

I went about this a very long-winded way once and only unsubscribed from emails when I got new ones. The best way to do it is to find out how many email lists you’re subscribed to and then. So how do you find out what you’re subscribed to? Unroll.Me is the answer.

Unroll.Me Subscriptions - Probably Busy

Once you give Unroll.Me access to your emails, they’ll identify all of the things you’ve signed up to (including the many you’ve probably forgotten about) and give you the ability to easily sever your ties with them. Have them all in front of you make it much easier to sculpt what you would prefer your inbox to look like in the future.


Create Folders

It’s never too late to make folders for your email. If you haven’t done it before now, just crack on with it. Figure out what emails you tend to keep and how best to group them all together. I don’t know how anyone manages without these, but it’s a prerequisite for the next part.

Not sure where to start with folders? For my personal emails (a Gmail account), I have one for Home, one for Finance, one for Tickets and so on. With my main company one, I have folders for each business and subfolders within them. (eg Amazon > Sourcing > Stock Orders / Amazon > Sourcing > Search Results).

An important note for Gmail users is that it’s best to prefix each folder name with a number, so they display in an order that suits you. The left-hand display is in alphabetical order by default and it can’t be changed, so this is the best way to deal with it.


Set Up Filters

The final part may seem a little fiddly at first, but you’ll quickly get your head around it. We’re talking about filters. The filters ensure that when you receive emails that fit particular criteria, they automatically go where they belong. Once it’s all set up, you probably won’t have to revisit these very often afterwards.

For instance, I know that all of my communication from the Amazon Seller email accounts (of which there are plenty) should always be attributed to a particular folder.

I use them to:

  1. Delete spam on sight
  2. Send non-priority to a folder, skipping the inbox

The latter of the two has completely changed how I work. As I keep an unread-email-free email inbox, I’ve got a tendency to check every time the Gmail tab shows that I’ve got a new email in my inbox. This completely disrupts my workflow.

The fact that all of my non-urgent ones go straight into their respective folders means that I don’t have to get distracted by things that don’t need my attention at that very moment in time. Now I know that if I’ve got an email in my inbox, it probably deserves my attention.


27 / Nottingham, UK. Trying these things since 2007. Writing about these things since 2014. Doing this full-time since 2018.