That Was the Sound of 13,000 E-Mails Being Deleted

How could it be that I have managed to store 13,000 e-mails in my earthlink inbox? The reason I know I have that many e-mails is because every week or so, a little icon next to my e-mail inbox goes into red, danger territory.  That’s how earthlink tells you that you have to pay them $10 more a month so you can store all your spam in case, you know, you suddenly wake up and decide you DO in fact want to buy cheap pharm, and enlarge  the penis you don’t happen to have and maybe, who knows, send the entire contents of your IRA to some guy in Nigeria who really, really needs it. 

When I glance at that red line hovering in the dangerous-you-have-too-much-crap-in-here territory, I feel like I’m sitting on a nuclear reactor.  Except I’m not Homer Simpson, and I actually DO feel kind of bad knowing the whole thing’s going to go up in a big mushroom cloud. 

Every once in a while, I try to delete some of those e-mails.  But the whole effort is very lame.  I search on things like “cooks illustrated” and “publishers lunch” and “amazon” and delete three or four pages of e-mails at a time.   My inbox goes from 13,000 e-mails to 12, 937 e-mails.  A day and a few visits from energetic spammers later, I’m back at 13,000.  It’s a little like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.

The whole thing was making me feel bad.  

So, this morning I took a deep breath, and figured out how you delete the whole inbox at once.  That’s when I discovered that if they ever need someone to push a button that blows stuff up, I’m their woman.  I LIKED it.  Steely eyed, I sat with my finger hovering over the “enter” button.   And then I just tapped it sort of lightly, in a carefree manner.  I didn’t for even a second feel worried that there might be something in that in box that mattered, some e-mail so precious I had saved it to re-read to my children or pass on to my literary executor, or an e-mail with good news that might sustain me on a bad day, or a gift certificate you can only get if you have the proper number, or the details of the bus that picks kids up from skatecamp, or the confirmation number for my trip to New England tomorrow, or litlove’s e-mail address….

Oh my god.  Tell me this wasn’t a huge, huge mistake. 


PS:  To the person who found my blog today by googling “how to be smart, organized and look beautiful”:  I hope you got here in time to see that the way to accomplish these not inconsiderable goals is to delete your e-mails.  It takes years off your life, pounds off whereever you don’t want them, and generally gives you an aura of invincibility.  Until you need the skate camp bus schedule, of course.  Then you’re on your own. 

and one more PS.  Obviously, my method of inbox decluttering is a little extreme.  My friend Debby, who was once my co-worker, and used to pretty regularly inform me that my shoes and outfit didn’t quite work and was always right about that, e-mailed this far more helpful decluttering routine, which I reproduce in its entirety.  Debby (who is not my college friend Debbie, although I’m guessing that Debbie doesn’t have 13,000 e-mails either) has many skills and talents, not least of which is her ability to pull off something like this: 

On my yahoo account, I empty the spam folder every, single day.  And I delete all unnwanted emails every single day.On my work account, I delete all non-work “sent items” emails every day and delete all non-work emails in my inbox every day.  I then delete all deleted items every day.  After I’ve finished doing my timesheets, I delete all the unnecessary emails for that time period and move the important ones over into the appropriate folders.I also delete all my cookies and browsing history every day before I leave the office.

This is probably the only thing I do religiously.  I have almost no emails in my inboxes. 


26 thoughts on “That Was the Sound of 13,000 E-Mails Being Deleted

  1. I need to steel myself and nuke my own Yahoo Mail inbox. I only use it for political digests, surveys, and friends who tend to send stupid email forwards. Your post has given me courage!

  2. Welcome, Jennifer. I like it that you have a special address for just that kind of mail. When I get e-mails from Al Gore in my earthlink inbox, I always think, for a moment, that he wants to know if I liked Kung Fu Panda and what I’m reading. Just for example, I mean. Alas, as literary agents like to say, it’s not to be. If I just had a different place for him to send me his announcements, I’d know better than to get excited.

    Anyway, you have my official permission to get all steely and Margaret Thatcher-like with regard to your inbox. It will do you good, I know it. Yours in inbox aggression, BL

  3. ooooooo, i do like “or pass on to my literary executor”…

    pounds off? anywhere?…next time your emails stack up, give me a call and I’ll tap…anybody else have some I can take off your hands?


  4. Like Ben, if I could push a button and get rid of all the cra p in my garage I’d be happy. And then I’d move on to the closets, the baseement, the bedrooms, …..

    Like your former collegue, I try to empty my spam folder every single day in my personal email accounts. I didn’t log on for a few days and I couldn’t believe how many were in there. In my work inbox, I check each email complete that I don’t need to look at again, and set colored flags based on priorities for those that need followup. All checked email gets deleted at the end of the month. That may sound obsessive but I get over a 100 emails a day and I’d never be able to keep up if I didn’t. I love to have all the flags cleared by the end of the week!

    If only I could be so good about decluttering other things in my life!

  5. Wait till I tell you how I’m going to clean out my closet Sandi. You’ll need an inhaler and a guy to whack you on the back at the same time.

    Cam, It’s not obsessive in the least. You and Debby are sensible women. I admire you, salute you, and don’t quite understand how you could be friends with someone like me. But I’m grateful you are.


    Tap. Boom!

    And then we’ll head out for a nice cup of tea. I’ll be sure to let you know when it next gets out of hand. Actually, I have a nice yahoo account you could take care of for me next time you, I and my lap top are in the same room.

  6. Unless you are volunteering for that job, Ms. Gauthier, I must answer no to your inquiry and tell you that your incredulous tone cracked me up.

    As it happens, the fact that no one has stepped forward to execute my literary efforts, is one of the many reasons why I’m fine deleting all my e-mails. It’s not like the Beinecke Library (see Poetry at the Beinecke Library on my blogroll– how cool is that orange background they’re using?) is trying to get its hands on my earthlink account.

  7. I love the idea of someone googling,”how to be smart, organised and look beautiful” and getting to this post. And I wonder if the pharmaceutical companies and Nigerian 419 scammers get thousands of spam emails too.

  8. Hello Diana — So nice to see you here. I’m going to assume from your comment that the wholesale destruction of e-mail doesn’t bother you.

    Pete, Me too! If only I had a better answer than, “blow up your inbox.” It would be only just if they did get a lot of spam, so I’m going with yes, as an answer to your second question.

    Well, Pauline, better me than the guys who’re in charge now, don’t you think? I’m relatively benign, never act in anger, and, well, I read books. They don’t.

  9. Hello, I like your blogname; cute!
    I am impressed at your courage!
    I REALLY know the feeling; that PERHAPS an email might contain some crucial info..
    I used to have an email account through a company called bluebottle. It was FABULOUS as no emails came into your inbox UNLESS you approved the sender!!
    It had a, “pending”, folder where all the spam
    But NOW bluebottle wants payment rather than offering a free version so I deleted that account and am trying out others.

  10. I never receive more than 20 spam entries at a time.

    My trick? I check regularly, but always unsubscribe if I notice someone’s getting a bit too overzealous from a certain spam address.

    My only real spam problem is that I keep receiving ones that are written in Chinese characters and being that I do not understand it – have no way of figuring out how to unsubscribe from those.

    Those spammers are really sneaky sometimes.

    This was a great post.

  11. I do *try* not to have too many emails in my inbox, mainly because if I do the ones at the bottom will just get lost. At work, I try to have under 50 emails in my inbox at any one time and I flag things so that I remember to do them. I like the flags! I don’t bother emptying my junk mail folder for my work email very often. However, the opposite is true for my home email. I have more emails in that inbox, although I do delete unwanted ones when I’ve read them but I empty the spam ever day. I don’t really know why!

    I don’t think I would be brave enough to delete 13,000 emails all at once! *Impressed!*

  12. Its amusing that I should come across your blog entry today just hours after doing what you’ve described here! Seriously though, it makes you feel so much better to be rid of that stuff – granted I have entirely too many email accounts so it has more time to gather up and start shaping itself into some monstrous bunny shape that wants to sneak up behind me and eat me. Anyways what was my point? oh yeah, I’m waiting for tv producers to start a show “when email in boxes attack”.

    Congrats on hitting that “delete” button on 13,000 emails!!! you rock!

  13. Ever hear of the term “email bankruptcy”? Someone I know does this every month. Whatever emails that are not answered, deleted, or filed by the end of the month get deleted and they start over again the next month. It intrigues me. I never would have been able to do it at work but for my personal email…very tempting.

  14. Sassymonkey, What a good idea. Some of my e-mails were from 2005. It would certainly be a lot easier to get in there every month and clean them out than to wait three years.

    Hi Corina and welcome. And congrats to you. That bunny shape sounds like the kind of thing you’d see in your dreams the night you decided it was a good idea to have a dinner made up entirely of sweet tarts and french fries. I’m glad to hear you’re combating THAT scourge.

    Lilian, I’ve never used the flag key before. What a good idea. I mean, what a good idea that WOULD have been at one time, when I had some e-mails to flag. I’m going to try that at work, though, where, unfortunately my inbox is in the same shape as my earthlink e-mail.

    Hi Rae — First, welcome! Second, I’m always afraid to reply to spam in any way, thinking it’ll alert them to the fact that there’s a living person here (albeit one who doesn’t need to buy pills or potions….). For a while, I was getting stuff from Greece, which I sort of liked, because at least I couldn’t understand it. The chinese ones have not yet made their way to me.

    Hello Merri, Free is good, I agree. I have to PAY for earthlink, although come to think of it, I don’t know why I do. Maybe it’s because I need the address, maybe they do something else for us… I need to check that out. And welcome!

  15. Many people do torture themselves going through every piece of junk mail or every old receipt or everything in a bin of old clothes before the ultimate dump. Not that I ever did that. But watching others agonize has cured me. I am a Master Dumper, but as someone said earlier, it unfortunately takes more than a Delete Click when you’ve saved old junk in the real but finite space of your house.

  16. I have done that massive email deleting thing before and it felt GOOOOOOOOOD. However, I do file a lot of emails into specific folders to keep, since some people I interview respond by email. I don’t like reporting that way, but, well, we’re living in an age where people don’t want to talk to one another on the phone or in person.

    And speaking of Spam: I have been getting some from people claiming I still owe payment for an eBay item I purchased. I haven’t used eBay in over a year. I took a chance and clicked on one of these messages and found that I allegedly owe $13,000 for a John Deere tractor.

    I check my spam folder everyday and mass delete everything in their everyday. Unless someone has a better suggestion, I think it’s the only way to deal with that stuff.

  17. Hi Lily. Thanks for sharing my OCD tendencies with the virtual world ;-). Keeping up with this kind of stuff just makes my life a little simpler. If there’s something I really need to save, I still have to move it out of the general in-box or it drives me nuts seeing it every day. Like the others, however, I too wish I could just click a button to delete the physical clutter around the house. I wonder if the baby boomers are the first generation to accumulate so much stuff? xo Debs

  18. No, that was a GOOD thing. Don’t they have an option that automatically empties it on a rolling 30 day basis?

    My problem is a work intray with 6000 mails. Perhaps I should adopt the same approach. (Though it’s only a problem because I keep running out of space. If they’d let me have as much space as I need, the problem would go away…)

  19. 6,000! Wow, that’s impressive, u-dad. More space sounds good to me. But when does it stop??!! (Oh. Right. Never.)

    Dark Orpheus, She lives in Santa Barbara, where the residents are very calm, very cool, very meditative. Plus, she has four great dogs. So, you know, I always follow Debby’s advice.

    Debby, That’s a good question — I think it has to do with the availability of cheap stuff, and with the way incomes have risen, and with a change in expectations about what’s our due, materially-speaking. Someone should write a big article about this for the New Yorker. But it’s not going to be me.

    And thank you for being your OCD self. What would I do without your help in all things design, fashion, punctuation and life-related?

    Mari, that is actually incredibly funny, the $13,000 John Deere tractor. In LA, they could become the new chic car of the moment — sort of a middle America thing.

    WR, I like hearing that watching others agonize can have the salutary effect of curing a person of doing a similar kind of thing. I’m going to keep my eye on that around here.

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