Gather All Ye Rosebuds

I LOVE a clean inbox almost as much as I love a clean office space. It brings a great energy to my work feeling unencumbered by all of the excess “stuff” that crowds the important messages that need my attention. I’ve played with a few strategies on cleaning out the email subscriptions and junk, but the one that I currently love the most of .

About a year ago, I went in search of a tool that would help me mass-unsubscribe to the plethora of feeds and email lists that I was being added to by virtue of being a parent of three athletes and small business owner. It seems I ended up on more lists that I ever could tackle in a timely fashion. My old-school strategy of separate emails for work, home and school was merging on more ends that I cared to admit, and I needed to “fish or cut bait” (In other words - do something or abandon certain email addresses and grab a new one?!).

For a month, I used and compared SaneBox and While both were fantastic at helping me keep a tidy inbox, SaneBox has requires a payment of $7-36/mo depending on the number of email addresses you want to clean up. is free, and for a basic aggregator it has done a clean job for me thus far.

What do these tools do for you? aggregates all of the email subscriptions that I want to keep into a single daily email, so that they are all captured in one message and delivered to my inbox each day. The subscriptions or e-news lists that I want to unsubscribe from are moved into the unsubscribe list, which I can put back into my inbox or daily roll-up at any point. It also helps me avoid the wasteful task of unsubscribing from several email lists and hoping that the emails actually cease. The rest simply remain in my inbox unless I move then into the unsubscribe or roll-up category, so my urgent doctor emails, bills, and messages from friends, colleagues, and clients are less likely to get lost in the mix.

While it isn’t the only thing I do to contain the digital mail, it is a big part of making my life simpler with respect to emails and the first place I start when I am decluttering my inbox. Here are a few key tips that many of us in the coaching and organizing world preach and practice. Hopefully they will resonate with you, too.

  1. Set Boundaries: Limit the times of day and/or amount of time you dedicate to emails. This one is a game-changer for those of us who get distracted by technology. I love Tim Ferris’ tip of adding an auto-reply to your email account that communicates your email availability. Ferris goes another step and limits email checking to twice a day.

  2. Turn off the notifications: turning off notifications for emails on my phone was a huge help. I only keep my work email in that loop, flagging what I will respond to when I am indeed responding to emails later that day or week. In fact, I turned off ALL nonessential phone notifications - it was life-altering to remove that constant dings and alerts for apps and emails that were eating into my daily productivity.

  3. Unsubscribe: this is where came into play. It seems that it was becoming harder and harder to keep up with all of the unsubscribe requests, and occasionally I would unsubscribe to a fake list, which added my email to several more lists that didn’t always get caught in my SPAM filter. With the trend these days requiring subscriptions to email lists in order to access “free” content, this is one of the more critical tasks for removing email clutter. Organizing my inbox was mission critical to finding and responding to the important emails. I typically unsubscribe to email lists quarterly.

  4. Flag and Move On: Once I address an email, it is moved into one of three places: (1)the Trash if I don’t need to hold the record of the communication, (2)the Archives if I don’t need to touch it again, (3)“DONE” folder if I need it out of the inbox to signify it was dealt with but I’m not ready to archive or delete the thread. David Allen, of the famed Getting Things Done has some great tips as well. You can find several posts on email management on his blog. This one on his system addressing emails in waiting might speak to this bullet point best:

Not all of these work for differently wired humans. but one thing that is universal is the need for a system that you can at least partially automate and schedule to contain the email beast. What do you do to tame the emails?