How to clean a full mailbox

How many emails are in your inbox right now...10? 100? 1,000? 5,000? A cluttered inbox is an incredible waste of time and productivity.

It's time to take control.  There are dozens of email laundering solutions out there, but here are a few basic ones that are touted by the pros:

  1. Check your current mailbox size:
    1. Begin by right-clicking your Inbox.
    2. Click Properties...
    3. Click Folder Size...
    4. View the size of each folder in KB; keeping in mind that your "Total size (including subfolders)" can not exceed 500,000 KB (equivalent to 500 MB).

folder size

After finding where the bulk of your space is being used you can decide how best to shrink your mailbox.

NOTE: Once you delete items from any of these folders it can take up to 2 hours for the server to register such changes.

Here are some suggestions for freeing up space:

  1. Clean out your RSS Feeds folder
  2. Empty your Deleted Items folder
  3. Clean out unneeded items in your Sent Items folder
  4. Archive old emails that you want to keep on your local computer
    Go here for instructions on archiving
  5. File Your Email into Folders
    1. Use whatever system works best for you. You can categorize your email folders by source (ie: clients, accounts, vendors); type (ie: projects, reference, waiting); or task (ie: follow-up, archive, on hold). As soon as you've read your email, file it in its appropriate folder.
  6. Use Rules and Filters to Manage Your Email for You
    1. Outlook has the ability to sort your incoming emails based on simple rules and filters that you set up. For example, you could create a rule that says anytime you receive an email from a specific email address, it's automatically moved into the folder you specify. Outlook can also be configured to filter your email and send your spam directly into the trash so you don't waste time reading and deleting it.
    2. Once you've emptied your inbox, keep it empty. Commit to making a decision about the fate of every read message on the spot. Never leave a read or answered message in your inbox. Delete it or file it.
  7. More Quick Email Tips
    1. If you can answer an email in one minute or less, do so immediately and check it off your list.
    2. Only keep email in your sent folder that involve some type of action by the receiver.
    3. Keep only the latest version of a thread of emails to cut down on volume.
      1. Learn how to "View Messages by Conversation Thread" at
    4. Unsubscribe from newsletters, special offers and feeds that you don't read or act upon regularly.
  8. Last Resort: Email Bankruptcy
    1. This is the act of deleting all messages older than a certain date due to an overwhelming receipt of garbage messages or as a result of email hoarding. During the act of declaring email bankruptcy, a message is usually sent to all senders explaining the problem, that their message has been deleted, and that if their message still requires a response they should resend it.Readers, what about you - do you keep a clean inbox? Share your tips for avoiding inbox clutter - or your email horror stories. Please post your tips in the comments area below.