When Should You Delete an Email?

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Many of us don’t like clutter. We therefore endeavor to delete emails as soon as possible. Yet we also hesitate – knowing that the emails we delete may be needed for future reference. It is that which brings us to the question as to when one should delete emails, that being a delicate balancing act between the need to get rid of clutter on your email inbox and the need to keep all the emails that may be needed for future reference.

It is worth noting that these days, there are really no space-related considerations that would force you delete an email. Even free web based email providers such as Yahoo (through its Yahoomail.com service and Google through its Gmail) have started offering their users hundreds of megabytes of storage space – the sort that an ordinary email user can never exhaust in a lifetime. So the question of deleting email is purely about the avoidance of clutter.

Of course, the simple answer to the question as to when you should delete an email is when you no longer have use for it. The problem with that answer, however, is in the fact that you can never know which emails are likely to be of consequence in the future and which ones you are not likely to need in the future.  That brings us to the point where a better question to ask would not be on when you should delete an email, but rather on which emails you should delete and which ones you should archive. Once you bring in this latter perspective into the question, we can say that all important (even remotely important) emails should be archived, whereas the unimportant emails can be deleted.

But if all you are keen on is de-cluttering your email account, instead of deleting email that you no longer need (but whose need may arise in the future), you can create a different folder where such emails can be stored. Email systems such as the one at gmail.com allows you to create other folders (known as ‘labels’ in Gmail parlance) where you can store mails you have already read but which may be needed for future reference.


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