January 18, 2012 by CJ
I sat mindlessly watching one of those shows about hoarders the other night. I kept thinking to myself, why can’t they just get rid of their junk…I don’t understand. Then as the story unfolded I found myself getting “it”. I sat there and watched a man have an anxiety attack about getting rid of unopened boxes covered in rat feces and urine, I understood. No, my hoard wasn’t overflowing from my home, there were no rats or other vermin running a muck in my stacks. My hoard was hidden. Locked away in a pretty private place. My hoard…my shame…is my email. I can’t delete.
Acknowledging this problem is the first step. The next is doing something about it. I pulled out my laptop, opened my email account over 25,000 emails sat there. I took a deep breath and began deleting, one after the other, it seemed pretty simple. But just like on the show, it starts easy, then you hit that thing, that unopened box, covered in rat waste. Anyone with half a brain knows you needs to be tossed, but I found myself wavering. I decided I needed to make a few rules to help me through this clean-up process.
- Delete emails that you are keeping for memory sake
- Read it, then delete it
The first thing I did was to unsubscribe from the many newsletters, clothing companies and other random subscription services I belonged to. I hit my first of many snags here. One perfect example is I receive at least 2 emails daily from a company that recommends wine. To date, not one of the wines they have recommended can be shipped to Maryland. Knowing this, I still found myself not wanting to unsubscribe. I hemmed and I hawed and with shaky hands I finally was able to go through the process of ending my relationship with that company. I felt as if I was breaking up with a boyfriend who was begging to keep me. “Are you sure?” “What can we do to keep you?”, “Did we do something to upset you?” It was tough, but it had to be done. Rule to live by: If you are deleting an email before you ever read it, time to UNSUBSCRIBE
I have emails from friends that I see on a regular basis. Why am I keeping a record of a conversation we had in 2006? I had to ask myself that quite a few times as I skipped over emails. “Why was I holding onto this?” An email chain of “Yes.”, “No”, “LOL” and other silly comments, that I only read when I go back through my email to delete… I found myself thinking, “What would the therapist on one of the Hoarders show say?” As I asked myself the question, I already knew the answer. Rule to live by: If you haven’t needed the email in over a year, time to delete it. In all reality, I should have a shorter time-span then a year, but that is all that I can handle right now.
Once you do open an email and read it, take appropriate action then and there. Does it contain information you need, something you want to share, something you think you might need later? Don’t wait for tomorrow for what you can do today. Forward that picture to your friend, that article to your sister. Read the full review, take a few notes. Want to keep it, make a folder, label it properly (not just Important Stuff), then set a date that the folder will be purged. Rule to live by: Once you have forwarded, replied, or commented, delete that email.
These three steps have helped me, but everyday is a struggle. I want to hold on to that restaurant review, I want to keep that article and that funny picture of cats my great-aunt sent me. I have to force myself to live by my 3 rules. I must or I will quickly accumulate another 25,000 emails. Email hoarders out there, don’t be ashamed. It may be difficult at first, stay strong and keep it up You can do it, you can delete!!