How To Clean Up Gmail

How to quickly declutter your Gmail

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Last month my husband’s jaw hit the deck when he saw my gmail inbox totalled 8,303 emails. I did a panic clean up, but a few weeks on, it’s as bad as ever.

Truth be told, I’ve fallen out of love with email. Receiving emails used to be exciting, but over the years the sheer volume of them has become overwhelming.

And I’ve seriously cut back on the amount of time I spend going through emails. I’ve had to, I only have school hours to work, I can’t afford to spend hours going through emails.

But the result is a messy, under-managed inbox, that has me stressed every time I look at it.

So, after some research, I’ve come up with the following clean up gmail plan….

Clean Up Gmail – Remedial Work


Empty it once per week. Simply hop to the trash folder and click ‘delete forever’ every seven days.


Check and delete contents weekly. It’ll help ensure nothing nasty gets into your system and will keep the overall size of your gmail down.


Drafts build up over time. More than likely you won’t need them once they’re a week or so old, so get rid.

Gmail Search Filters

Make use of the Gmail Search Bar to delete a whole bunch of emails… click on the downward arrow at the righthand side of the Search Bar for filter options. Great ways to use include…

Size – search for large emails. Save off any attachments you need. Then delete.

Search ‘Unread’ + Date Within. A quick way to delete emails from yesteryear you’re never going to read.

Gmail Tabs

I’m not a huge fan of the Gmail Inbox Tabs. However, they’re great for a major clean up of your inbox. Use the tabs to divide up your inbox into Primary / Social / Promotional.

Quickly scan the contents of Social / Promotional and once you’re sure there’s nothing urgent… click ‘delete the whole lot’. Boom! They’re gone. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.


Unsubscribe from as many newsletters as you can bear… you probably don’t read the majority of them anyway, so why let them build up and take up your time cleaning them out?

Quick way to unsubscribe… open newsletters as they arrive, find the ‘unsubscribe’ link and DO IT! It may take a bit of extra time up front, but boy will your inbox become more svelte.

Don’t sign up in the first place! Use web browser bookmarks to keep track of websites you can’t bear to forget about. Or use tools like BlogLovin’ to keep track of your favourite blogs.

*Of course these tactics do not apply to the Mums Make Lists Newsletter… as you’ll know from reading this super useful post, our Newsletters are 100% worth reading every time…


The same ‘don’t sign up’ deal applies with notifications from social media networks and retail sites… make sure to uncheck all boxes for email reminders and updates… if you really want to keep up to date with what’s happening on a social network, give yourself a daily check in time.

And if you’re already signed up… every time you spy one in your inbox, take a moment to click through and change your settings, until you’re rid of the lot of them.

Stop Using Email As Task Management

I am SO guilty of using email to remind me to do stuff. Here’s my vow of email silence for task management…

Stop setting email reminders for events in calendar.

Stop sending myself reminder emails, because I’m worried I’ll ignore my calendar reminders– which I do. Frequently.

Start using a non-email based team organisation system – Alice and I use Asana. It’s early days, but it seems to be keeping us on track. I’ve trained myself to check in first thing and after lunch.

Stop skim-reading emails and marking them as ‘unread’ to remind me to action them… I now only allow myself to check email when I have time to action or add the action to Asana.

So now you’ve blitzed your gmail and got the number of emails down from several thousand… here’s a set of tactics for managing gmail to ensure that you don’t get inbox buildup all over again…

Clean Up Gmail – Inbox Management

Archive Messages

Why oh why I didn’t click about the wonders of archiving emails before I’ll never know… using Archive Messages removes them from your inbox, but still keeps them on the system.

Simply select an email / bunch of emails and click the Archive button – it’s got a folder with a downward arrow on it.

Send and Archive

You can even automate archiving by activating Send and Archive… go to Settings / General and select ‘Show Send and Archive Button In Reply’. Then every time you reply to an email you can opt to ‘Send and Reply’ automatically.


Use labels to file your emails… but don’t do what I did and go crazy creating a bunch of labels and never checking them. If you’ve gone label loopy too… first off delete the contents, and then label itself, of all old labels… ‘Christmas Shopping 2012’ can GO!

Start a fresh series of truly useful labels with sensible and logical names…

  • Online Shopping
  • Household Admin
  • Business
  • Kids Stuff


Filters allow you to automatically label, archive, delete, star, or forward your mail.

Only set up filters when you know you’ll want to read the emails at some point. There’s no point using filters to divert emails from your main inbox, only to have them build up somewhere else for months on end.

Use filters wisely and you can give yourself daily or weekly check-in read times. Use them for things like emails from readers of your blog or website, emails from the few newsletters that you genuinely do want to receive.

Make use of Gmail Features and Plug-Ins

Priority Inbox – Go to Settings / Inbox – this splits your inbox up into Important / Starred / Everything Else.

At the very least the ‘Everything Else’ section gives you a pretty clear picture of the volume of emails that you could just as easily live without.

Do note you can’t have the Gmail Tabs and Priority Inbox in use at the same time. So use Priority Inbox as your default setting, but switch to using Tabs to have a big old clear out.

Boomerang Plug-in – Install this plugin on Firefox or Chrome… it allows you to schedule emails to send, bring back emails into your inbox (flight itineraries for example), return an email, that hasn’t yet been replied to by the recipient, into your inbox as a reminder to chase up.

So there you have it – and there I have it. A clean up gmail plan of action. If you’ve got any super gmail clean up tips do share them with us below.

How to quickly declutter your Gmail

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Hello, I'm Luci, Editor of Mums Make Lists. MML is full of creative tips I’ve put together to bring calm and balance to the lives of busy mums and their families.

4 thoughts on “How To Clean Up Gmail”

  1. Gmail is my favorite email service and I totally understand the dilemma of building up email. One way I weed out emails that do not need to be archived is to search for the email source and 99% of the time the only emails that show up in the search are from them. So, let’s say I get emails from Google Alerts. I search “Google Alerts” then select all and trash them. Quick and easy!

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