A month or so ago I started reading into the idea of digital clutter. It’s not an area that I had particularly noticed to be an issue, until I started reading. I realised that my personal email inbox really did cause me some anxiety. I felt a little weighed down by all those random emails every time I logged in. In some ways they were becoming as burdensome as my physical filing inbox and my storage box full of sentimental letters and cards.
This article really helped me to prioritise my digital stuff, although the process is definitely ongoing. What I am most proud of is my inbox, which has stayed empty now for a month and a half. It has never looked like this before. I was even able to delete whole folders of old emails, mostly without reading a thing. My 2004 book club folder? Scratched. That friend I haven’t spoken to in 10 years? Deleted. University email folder? Gone!
It was really satisfying to see that junk disappear and encouraged me to realise how much digital stuff matters when it is cluttering up my life. I check my email every day. Every day I was confronted with pages and pages of irrelevant messages. Now I’m not. I decide what to do with those emails immediately.
The folders that are used most regularly are ‘Admin’ and ‘Tax’. Any receipts that come through go straight into the Tax folder. I generally rejig my tax spread sheet each year in a two hour session. This can only be done because I keep my paperwork handy. I don’t want to spend days gathering my tax information. A two hour session saves me a lot of anxiety. The Tax folder is one of my key tools for keeping taxation a stress free task. The Admin folder takes anything that I may need to access again for reference – mobile phone bills, Paypal payments, bank / super / frequent flyer etc statements. This should be periodically emptied, also.
Other handy folders are:
- ‘Old friends’, which takes those random emails that come through that you’re not ready to part with, but don’t want to create a whole folder for.
- ‘Work related’, which stores anything that comes in and needs to be kept for work.
- ‘Brothers’ which contains anything at all from my brothers and their partners.
- ‘Family History’ which stores any handy information for genealogy.
I try to avoid having too many individual folders for separate people. Grouping them works well for me –that’s an individual thing. The family history folder is relevant because that’s a hobby of mine. Everyone’s needs when it comes to email folders will be different, but I can’t recommend having some kind of email filing system highly enough.
The key to these systems, as with any form of decluttering, is doing it now. Read the email, file it. Don’t sit on it, don’t wait to decide where it goes. The article above recommends having a ‘to do’ email folder if you need to action something from a message but don’t have time to do it right now. Just get that message out of your inbox.
I also recommend exploring the idea of filtering your emails, if you haven’t already. I receive at least one email a day from my local Freecycle group. These go straight into a dedicated folder (and are usually deleted straight after reading). Ditto for any emails from Ebay. They are also deleted as soon as a sale is finalised and feedback is given / received.
There is something empowering about having at least this small part of my life organised and under control. It gives me hope for other areas of my life, like my actual filing.
Now, if only I was able to apply this same system to my professional inbox. Eeep.