There are two types of people in the world – holders and deleters. Deleters are those who read an email and then get rid of it via the delete button, or by processing it into a task or folder. Their email boxes contain a few dozen email at the most.  Holders save the email for future reference and are intimately familar with the “Search” feature of Outlook. As I write this, my work email box contains 4,270 items. I am obviously a “holder.”  Maybe even a hoarder. 


When I confessed my situation to my friend, the Duchess, she was appalled. (The Duchess is nothing if not organized and orderly.) “But your inbox is like your to-do list!  Don’t you feel overwhelmed with thousands of email sitting there?”

Why, yes. Yes, I do.

The problem seems to be an organizational one. Or perhaps it’s a prioritization issue. Or paranoia. (I seem like that type.) I’ve tried filing them in my “cabinet,” but then my cabinet is crowded with email I never reference. I spent one afternoon about 6 months cleaning out. I reduced to about 500 items and felt lighter than air. I walked around bragging about how I had “…just pressed delete.” Simple as that. My fellow hoarders were amazed and jealous. I preached, “Just pretend the server went down and you lost it all. Totally out of your control.” But here I sit, back up to 4,200+.

I don’t know how to explain the level of panic that sets in when I consider deleting thousands of email again.  It’s not as if I have regretted it for a second. No issue has arisen that required my searching through email to prove a string of communication, or vindicate myself. It’s just that every now and then I run across something I had forgotten to do, and it justifies holding onto these little electronic marching orders.

I practically dream about an inbox with a merely handful of emails.  As I complete each task, or respond to each request, I DELETE the email and move on to the next item of business. What does THAT feel like?

Maybe I’ve worked at my firm too long. There are ten years of communications involved. I receive probably 25+ emails a day, so when you look at it that way, it could be much worse. Haven’t you ever lived somewhere and accumulated so much STUFF – stashed in boxes or stuck in the back of closets – that you realized the only way you would ever go through all of it and clean out was if you moved? That’s how I feel about my electronic missives. Only quitting my job seems a drastic method of dealing with my inbox OCD.

I need a fresh start. It’s time. Spring cleaning and all that. I am taking a deep breath, envisioning a bright, shiny new inbox, devoid of content. I am stretching my fingers toward CTRL A and hitting DELETE.

Any minute now. Really.

2 thoughts on “ON THE OUTS WITH MY INBOX

  1. My oldest e-mail is from Nov. 3, 2000. I keep it so I can have a great belly laugh now and again. I just sent it to you, so you can do the same! I am also a holder/hoarder. 1,331 e-mails in my home e-mail. Course, lots of them are “junk mail.” Love your blog!

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