Digital Spring Cleaning : In-Box Makeover

I have declared April my spring cleaning month. A month to get things cleared out and my life in order. I need a clean slate before we start the dog days of summer. Though there will be plenty of the regular old hand and knees traditional scrubbing spring cleaning activities, I also wanted to take it to the place that I spend most of my time: online.

So I started today by tackling my inboxes. Over the weekend, I read my friend Tim Miles’ blog post on keeping his email in-box clean and got inspired to emulate him. I don’t know that I will ever be able to get down to zero every night but I know that there’s room to improve. Vastly.

The first step was to close down Twitter and Facebook, pour myself a cup of tea, and concentrate on the task at hand. Thanks to Tim’s advice, I had Instapaper and TeuxDeux open so I would have somewhere to transfer items to. It was on like Donkey Kong. I delved in and deleted at will, unsubscribed from almost every newsletter, and took care of all the niggling things that I had been avoiding.

The next step was to utilize the numerous Gmail hacks to make my in-box more efficient. Since I keep five separate email accounts, I decided to forward all of them, except my personal one, to one inbox. Then I spent some time creating labels and filters to speed up my email processing. If that doesn’t help, I may move up to multiple inboxes.

Now that I had my accounts streamlined, I set about streamlining Gmail itself. Gmail labs has several upgrades that make your inbox more efficient. My favorite? Auto Advance which “automatically shows the next conversation instead of your inbox after you delete, archive, or mute a conversation. You can select whether to advance to the next or previous conversation in the “General” Settings page.” How have I lived without this?

There are still kinks to be worked out but I think I am on the path to a clean(er) email box. Let me know if you have any tips to share!


  1. I need to do this. I just got my emails down to 90. It’s terrible. You’re inspiring me!

  2. I don’t always clear my inbox but I do keep up with my unread messages. I use all the features you listed but I also make use of the star function to mark items that I’ve read and maybe even responded too but that still need some attention in the near future.

  3. Seriously – the more you and Tim talk about this… the more I really need to put these tips into action. Ugh. Now to find time.

  4. Ok, ok, you’ve inspired me. I really need to do this with my personal email. I’ve worked hard to keep work clean but personal falls behind.

  5. Gosh, I really need to create some filters and labels in my gmail. I have 4 emails forwarded into one and my phone goes off all throughout the day – it’s a little overwhelming at times.

  6. holy resources batman! I need some of this stuff. My digital life is quickly getting out of hand…

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