I had always wanted to have a clean and sorted inbox. It was only a dream though. Till that moment. I needed some motivation. A kick to make me actually spend some hours of out my schedule to clean up the digital mess I have accumulated over 6 years. Reading this book on a fine Sunday afternoon delivered just that.
Getting my Hands Dirty
In spite of all the resistance, I sat down with my laptop, opened up Gmail and traveled back in time.
When I started, I had around 5,000 emails in my inbox. All read though. It made sense to me to start cleaning up from the oldest emails as I won’t have to think much about them. Most of them were irrelevant at this point of time. Also, since I recently made a habit of deleting emails which were vanilla bullshit, my recent email list was a lot clearer than what I had years ago.
Since Gmail displays a max of 100 emails per page, I had to process about 50 pages of junk and filter out the diamonds and rubies out of them. I followed this simple process,
- Select all email in a particular page
- Deselect the ones that seemed worthy to be kept
- Delete all the selected ones
- Archive the remaining emails in the page
- Also, open them and read if they seemed interesting or reminded me of something, before archiving
For the Social and Promotions tab, it took much less effort. I just selected all of the emails and deleted them. They were plain social media updates or some sort of advertising. No emotions or hesitations there. Just bulk delete.
As much as it seems a boring task, I enjoyed doing it. Not because I didn’t have anything else to do or I enjoy clicking buttons but due to the fact that I relieved a lot of my memories while cleaning up my shit. I am going to talk about all those memories in the next section. Before that, I want to end this section with a quote to motivate you to get your hands dirty.
“You can start with nothing and still succeed. However, if you don’t start you will never succeed.” – Oscar Bimpong
A Trip Down the Memory Lane
A cleanup like this is obviously a very mundane task for anybody, at least for me. What made it enjoyable is all the old emails that I got to read again and what they reminded me of.
As I started off with my cleaning gig, I stumbled upon emails that I exchanged with my friends back in high school. All the study notes that we exchanged before exams. Then came college assignments. Funny notes. Crazy stuff we shared with each other. All these reminded me of all the fun we used to have and my life back then.
Moving further up the pile, I came across emails of my first paid contribution to a very popular online blog called Hongkiat.com. Oh, that first PayPal invoice which I was so excited about. My first significant income from the internet. I bought my first Android phone with those incomes. I was so happy back then, it was a great achievement. It might seem little but it’s the little things that give you true happiness in life.
“Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.” – Georges Bernanos
Then came emails about a blog that I set up with one of my childhood buddies. All the posts that we had written. All the comments we had approved. The reviews that we had done. The giveaways we had done on that blog. All the hard work we had put into that little blog of ours. So satisfying. So many memories relived.
It was great to see my first job offer letter again. Although I left that job in a very early stage, still it will remain a special experience and that memory will always make me smile. Shortly after that, I came across my second offer letter which was for the job I am in presently at the time of writing this article. What a moment of relief it was receiving that offer letter when I left my first job without having another offer in hand.
And there were more. It was a wonderful hour spent of reliving memories rather than doing garbage cleanup work I would say. I loved it. On top of that, I got rewarded, which brings me to my next section.
“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” – Willa Cather
Fruits of my Labour
From this little exercise, I would say I got two significant rewards,
- a cleaner inbox and a happy and satisfied mind
- a chance to relive some of my best old memories which are priceless
However, there was a third reward which came in as a total surprise. Over time due to all the emails that I had accumulated, my 15GB of storage provided by Google was near exhaustion. In fact, I was actually considering buying an upgrade to 100GB storage within a few days when my storage would have been completely exhausted.
Surprisingly, due to all the garbage emails I deleted which were a total of 22,452 emails and took Gmail about 2-3 minutes to delete, I saved a whopping 2GB of space.
I never realized that all those junk emails took up so much space in my cloud storage. That gave me a good runway of a few more months before I actually need to purchase more storage. I had a good dinner with the money that I was going to spend on upgrading my cloud storage. I don’t need an upgrade anymore, not for a long time.
I felt happy that afternoon and had a feeling of accomplishment as well. I felt motivated. I will take some time again, sit down and go through my archives to clear that up as well.
“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk
What I am trying to say through this article is that we have many things accumulated around us which we don’t require. Getting rid of them and cleaning up our workplace or home or even something digital like an email inbox can declutter your life and reward you with a less burdened and sorted mind.
Take some time out of your busy schedule and clean up space around you, physically and digitally. Be assured the experience will be rewarding and totally worth it.
The next time you need something important, you will find it easily because there won’t be 100 feet of crap to cover that up.