I just checked my Gmail inbox and, despite periodic clean-ups, it currently has 224 items. My sent mail folder is even more glutted, with 569 items.  These numbers bother me, and they make me wonder: have I become an e-hoarder?

In the days of snail mail, a person might save a piece of correspondence here and there.  Normal people would not save all of it.  And no one (lawyers and businesses excepted) would save a copy of what they sent.  So what has changed?

Some email retention is justified, such as one’s upcoming hotel reservation or the most recent note from a friend that has not yet been answered.  But these kind of emails are only a handful of the hundreds now in my inbox.

In some cases, I have saved emails to compensate for my poor (or lazy) social memory.  When friends share personal details with me, I don’t want to insult them — or embarrass myself — by forgetting what they said.  It could be the names and ages of children and/or grandchildren, or current health issues, or upcoming life events.  I worry that, if I don’t keep a mental/digital record of such items, I am disrespecting what has been shared.

In other cases, I am hanging onto information that — as every hoarder says — might be useful someday.  For instance, I once asked a friend about his experience with drum pads and drum software.  His responses, still in my inbox (and still un-acted upon), are nearly four years old.  This is the email equivalent of saving an AOL installation disk.

I also get overly attached to attachments.  The best way to ensure that I don’t erase your email to me is to attach something to it.  When I do cull my inbox, I rarely touch an item with an attachment — it is usually too much trouble to open the attachment to see if it is something important, which by default it is.

These are all habits that I have slipped into and can’t seem to break.  I would love to know how others deal with email management, and how many items are currently in your inbox and sent box.  This post will be a lot more interesting with some thoughts from readers.

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7 Responses to E-Hoarding

  1. Rob says:

    I’ve spent most of my Nashville-based professional life inundated with press releases and invitations, correspondence with editors and interview subjects, and much more, along with conversations with friends and relatives. I long ago decided not to worry about the detritus lying in those files. I do sweep through and delete the obvious junk from the last day or two, but with a minimum of 100 or so e-mails a day in each of two accounts, just making sure I deal with those that look important is a chore. I have a personal account and a business account, and they overlap quite a bit.
    BUSINESS: 15,786 in box; 5,800 sent
    PERSONAL: 32,869 in box; 63,356 sent

  2. Rick says:

    I have three email addresses (AOL, Yahoo and Gmail) and each one has folders for saved mail so the only things in my inboxes are important items needing attention. I keep a personal box for emails from you and other friends. I have another one for relatives. Some for insurance, etc.
    The Gmail is for business stuff, the AOL is for personal stuff, the Yahoo is for some more important personal stuff like vacation info plus it has the best spam filter. Each one has around 10 folders.

  3. Sue Collins says:

    Rob, Thank you for making me feel sssoooo much better. I have almost 900 saved emails. I am afraid of deleting times and moments from Peter and Emily and of course some love notes of Craig when we were apart. Surprisingly I have over 3,000 sent emails. Now what to do? I think that I shall relax until I get up into your counts. Best to you and Debby! XO

  4. Enrique says:

    Did someone say “email management”? I don’t even bother any more; just let them pile up … Merry Christmas!

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