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.