Cleaning out the inbox

By Bruce Stambaugh

I decided to begin this New Year with a clean sweep. I purged my email inbox.

The tidying was long overdue. The languishing emails had piled up into the thousands. Really. At one point I had nearly 4,000 opened and presumably read emails just sitting there. It was high time I did something about it.

Letting those electronic messages accumulate is pretty easy to do. You read it, respond if need be, and go on to the next email. It’s a process that millions of people around the world go through everyday. But I had to wonder if others let their inboxes become as full as mine.

It’s not that I don’t try to make sense of the many electronically generated communications that I receive on a daily basis. I do. I have created several folders in which to tuck the more important ones. Those electronic folders each have a particular purpose according to subject matter. Still, my mailbox remained cluttered.

I needed to rectify the situation, in part because I had actually lost some lingering emails when the mail server inexplicably malfunctioned. Imagine that. I have no idea if what I lost was important or not. They had been received so long ago that I couldn’t remember what was there.

To avoid a repetition of that situation, I decided to embark on my virtual housecleaning. It wasn’t an easy or quick process. In fact, it took me several fits and starts to complete the long overdue task.

I began with the most recent emails and worked backwards. That way my mind would be fresher about the subject matter. If I hadn’t replied and moved the email to the appropriate folder, I deleted it.

The problem was that for some of the legitimate emails, I had only opened them and not thoroughly read them. Before I could decide on each email’s demise, I had to reread it. Go figure.

Other emails required me to take some action that should have been completed long ago. I had to click through to a web page to check an account or open an enewsletter to which I had subscribed.

Some messages were offers, others required information to maintain an account or were simply communications on subjects in which I had an interest. In checking them out, some proved fruitful. Most were deemed useless. Which begs the question: Why didn’t I delete them as they arrived? I would have saved myself so much time.

Indeed, the entire effort took hours over a period of several days. I had good excuses for the irregular spurts of progress. The cyber sorting on my computer kept getting interrupted. New emails, phone calls, daydreaming, meals, naps and coffee breaks, which led to other breaks of necessity, all delayed the expunging considerably. Can you spell procrastination?

Nevertheless, I plodded along until the last forgotten email was either stored or discarded. I was actually embarrassed that I hadn’t replied to some of the rather important ones. I was equally appalled that I had left so much junk just lying around.

If these emails had been pieces of paper scattered about the office or stacked in unsightly piles, my wife would have never put up with it. Wait. Scratch that. Come to think of it, those are next on my list to do, right after I finish reading the email that just came in.

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