Inbox Zero: Part 2 – Decluttering Tips For Your Email

Last Updated on April 3, 2022 by Stephanie

Person typing on computer; inbox zero Part 2 - how to clean out that inbox; decluttering tips for your inbox

I already explained the idea of Inbox zero and why it is important, and here we are with the next step.  This is the ultimate set of email decluttering tips. If you haven’t already read my first post about inbox zero, check it out here.  Let’s get started changing your email life forever!

Today’s focus is going to be on getting your inbox to zero and filtering through everything.  In my last post in this series, I will go through what to do to maintain this and feel so much freedom from doing so!

Cleaning Out Your Inbox: Practical Decluttering Tips

This is a big-picture task, and you are going to get so much satisfaction out of this part.  You need to look at your inbox in chunks and process things all together to get this done.  So, let’s look at the first page of your inbox.  I want you to just look at the following things:

  1. What emails have you already read?
  2. Are there emails you have not read?
  3. What stores/newsletters/ads pop up more than once on that first page?
  4. What emails have you not read because you are trying to save them (typically receipts and confirmations)?

Here’s an example of my first-page inbox.  I actually had to not process my emails for a few days to have this for you!

Screenshot of an email inbox. Image one for decluttering tips.
51 emails in my inbox… this NEVER happens now!

Know Your Type

After this initial look-through, you should have an idea of what is in your inbox.  Things usually fall into a few categories:

  • Emails that are direct to me about something that is important (emails from school, emails from family, emails from your boss about work)
  • Receipts or confirmations from purchases
  • Store emails promoting sales
  • Store emails you get because you ordered something from them a while ago
  • Newsletters that you willingly or unwillingly signed up for
  • Other

The bulk of your email is probably not in the first two categories.  Email totally follows the 80/20 rule in most cases. Only 20% of what is in your inbox is stuff that you actually need and care about.  The other 80% is not necessary. One of the best decluttering tips I can give is to understand what you’ve got before processing it!

My Process

Person with phone and computer. Inbox Zero part 2; decluttering tips for email

I like to do this in a way that helps you start seeing instant success and seeing that number go down like crazy, so bear with me and read everything here and then come back and reread pieces if you have to.  You are never going to move away from the first page of your inbox during this process!

Starting with the bold, unread emails, you are going to weed through these first since chances are because it is unread, it isn’t necessary.  Follow the action steps below and keep going until the first page of your inbox is full of emails that have all been read (not bold).  This means they are most likely important to you because you actually read them.

Tip: Use your email’s search bar to make this process go more quickly.  

For example, if you realize that you need to unsubscribe from a list, open the first email and click the unsubscribe.  After that, type the beginning of the email or store in the search bar with “from:”.  In my picture below, I’m using my emails from Canva as an example.

Email search bar at top of inbox with from: canva in it.; image two for decluttering tips.
The search bar is invaluable for this process!

All the emails from that store or person will show up and you can delete all of them or move them into a folder quickly!

Picture of selected emails from inbox.

Sort through all of those read emails on page one until you get through all of them!  Repeat the process with the unread emails, processing them until that first page of your inbox is full of emails that have been read.  Keep going!  

Don’t go away from this first page, just tackle it and keep doing it until you have an inbox with nothing.  I say this because it could take hours for some people to do, and some might break this up. It is better to stay on your first page so you can process anything new that comes in as well!

To review the process:

  1. Process all unread (usually bold) emails on the first page of your inbox.
  2. Process all the read emails on the first page of your inbox.
  3. Repeat until there aren’t any emails!

Now that you know the process, let’s dig into how you should process each email!

How to Process Each Email

Remember when I said that one of the best decluttering tips is understanding what you’ve got? Now that we know, we process! For this, I’m going to list out those types and tell you what the most efficient options are for the processing of these emails:

Newsletters You Willingly or Unwillingly Subscribed To

If you don’t read it the majority of the time it hits your inbox, scroll to the bottom and hit unsubscribe!  Then delete ALL of them!

Google will sometimes have an unsubscribe button for certain emails near the top.  Otherwise, you will have to scroll to the bottom to unsubscribe.

Picture of part of inbox with an email address and an unsubscribe link.
Check out the Unsubscribe button provided by Google near the top address.

If you do read the majority of them, then create a folder or label for them.  That way you can easily find them when you want to read them again!

Top menu of inbox from Gmail with Label as: Books to create new label.; Image five in decluttering tips.
I LOVE labels for my emails!

Store Emails You Get Because of That One Thing You Ordered a Year Ago

Unless you are going to purchase something from here in the next month, scroll to the bottom and hit unsubscribe!  Then delete ALL of them!

Store Emails You Get With Promotions and Coupons

If you frequent the store and want the emails but don’t want the clutter in your inbox, create a filter so they skip the inbox!  In Gmail, select all the emails and click on the three dots like the picture below and select “filter messages like these”.  That way, when you actually WANT to go to that store or need something, you can see what their latest sales are.  This is actually a great way to save money as well because you aren’t tempted to buy just because something is on sale.

Three dot menu in email with Mark as read, mark as not important, add star, filter messages like these, mute, and forward as attachment. Image six in decluttering tips.
Use this menu to create filters for emails from lists.

If you haven’t been to the store in the last couple of months, scroll to the bottom and hit unsubscribe!   Then delete ALL of them!

Are you sensing a theme here?  Unsubscribe and delete!

But… but… what if I delete something important?

If someone wants to get ahold of you, they will find a way!  Delete the email!

Receipts or Confirmations of Purchases

These can totally be important, so I have a label/folder that is called “orders” in my Gmail for these.  Create the label and then you know where to put it and where you can find it later!

Emails That Are Actually For You and Important

These are rare… and should be grouped and filed.  As you are going through your read emails, you will notice a few categories that will pop up.  Here are some of mine:

  • Credit Cards
  • Bank Statements
  • Kids (each kid separate)
  • Orders
  • Stores
  • Crafting
  • CrossFit
  • Events

Create folders/labels and use them to organize your emails!  Again, it is super easy to find them again when you put them into categories that make sense to you.  When you find an email that fits one of your categories, hit that move button and move it to your label and out of the inbox.

Move button with folder and arrow.
The move button in Gmail.


Use one of the above for anything that falls into this “other” category, because honestly, those are the main actions that you will need for anything.


As you are using these decluttering tips and going through this process, you will see a lot of emails.  Some may look like they are from stores but actually be phishing or virus-containing emails. If you have not ever been to a store or aren’t shopping around for something (auto insurance, cars, finance help, etc.), assume that it is a scam and delete it.  I’ve included an image of an email from a definite phishing scam below:

Spam email image.

If you are questioning it at all, just delete it.  Again, if it is important, someone will get ahold of you.  A good way to tell if it is phishing is when there are grammar or spelling mistakes in the email, the to section has odd email addresses or variations of your name (like the above), and the whole email is an image.

Most email services will have a report spam button like this one from Gmail:

Octagon with exclamation point button. Image nine in decluttering tips.
Report SPAM button in Gmail.

Again, when in doubt, just delete it! If you want to know more about how to better identify these types of images, learn more with this FTC article.

In Review – I’m done with all the decluttering tips.

That was a LOT of information, and I’m so proud of you for sticking with me for this.  I’m hoping that all of these email decluttering tips help you achieve the greatness that is inbox zero. If you ever have any questions, please reach out and let me help you!  This was a great amount to read, so here are your main ideas in summary:

  • Unsubscribe from things that you are not planning on engaging with in the next month.
  • Delete, delete, delete (If someone wants to get ahold of you, they will.)
  • Create folders/labels that make sense to you and file all of your read emails into there.

I know you can do this… so grab some coffee (or something stronger), and get to work!

Click on the image below to sign up for the newsletter and freebie section and grab the cheat sheet for this post. One page of what to do with each email type!

Inbox Zero; cheat sheet for processing your email inbox; picture of keyboard and computer screen

Let me know in the comments how you did!

Our next post is about how to maintain the inbox zero, and it really has a lot to do with the process you just went through, so get excited about being free from your inbox!

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