Cleanup Your Email

If you have time on your hands during Lockdown, now might be a good time to cleanup your email. Read through this blog post and see how easy it can be to refresh your inbox using Microsoft Outlook.

Why Cleanup Your Mailbox ?

Why bother cleaning up your mailbox ? If your mailbox isn’t full or complaining of any issues then why bother ?

Well your mailbox is a computer file (or files). And just like any other computer file it occupies space on a storage device somewhere. Large files take up more space, take longer to open, take longer to search through, and are generally more unwieldy to deal with.

But it’s not just the size. The number of items in the mailbox also affects performance. The larger the number of items in a folder the slower Outlook will be to perform actions on that folder – actions like searching, changing the view, sorting.

So, reducing the size and number of items in your mailbox file will make Outlook run smoother.

Checking the Size of Specific Folders

Outlook has a method for displaying the size of your mailbox and each of your mailbox folders. This is especially useful if you have created subfolders.

Look at the leftmost pane of Outlook and scroll so that the top level folder (the one above your Inbox) is showing. This folder will often have the name of your actual email address and a down-pointing arrow to its left.

Checking the size of your Mailbox

RIGHT-click on this folder and select Data File Properties. Now click on the Folder Size button. You will now see a dialog showing your current folders and their sizes.

Mailbox folder sizes displayed

The “Total Size” shows the size of your mailbox file. This is displayed in Kilobytes (KB) so a size of 1,000,000 KB would actually represent 1 GBytes.


If you find you receive a lot of unwanted newsletters and sales offers by email you should consider unsubscribing from those. Many of these items may end up in your Spam folder (see below) so it worth unsubscribing before you delete the messages so that you will not receive further emails.

Any reputable organisation will have an Unsubscribe option in their emails. This is usually at the bottom of the email – look for link that says Unsubscribe or similar. When you click on this link you will be taken to a webpage that will either confirm your choice or ask for some more details before you unsubscribe.

The “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of an email

Note that the Unsubscribe option will NEVER ask you to enter a password. If you are prompted for a password,  close the webpage immediately and delete the email.

The Spam and Junk Mail Folders

These folders are used to hold emails that have been identified by your email or provider, or by Outlook itself, as spam. The folder will generally contain cold-call sales messages and other such items.

Occasionally a genuine message will be wrongly flagged as spam and be redirected to this folder. Have a look through the folder and delete and messages that you do not need. If you haven’t done this before then there may be a LOT of messages.

Tidying the Inbox

The Inbox is where the bulk of your email will arrive. This is likely to be one of the largest folders within your mailbox. There are two main philosophies for reducing Inbox size –

  • Reduce the number of items – usually by deleting the oldest messages
  • Delete the largest messages, regardless of the age of the message

The most effective strategy combines both approaches.

Tidying the Inbox – Delete Older Messages

Scroll down to the bottom of your Inbox and look at the oldest messages there. Ask yourself if you really need to keep these older messages or how many of them are now redundant. It is possible to Archive older messages but there is no point in archiving for the sake of it if the older messages are no longer required.

Perhaps set a “cut-off date” (e.g. 1st January 2018) and delete all messages older than this ?

If there are a few important messages that you would like to keep then create a new sub-folder and move those messages to that sub-folder.

You can delete messages in blocks – you don’t have to delete them one at a time. To select a block of messages

  • LEFT-click the mouse on the first message in the block
  • Scroll to the last message on the block
  • Hold down the SHIFT key on the keyboard
  • LEFT-click the mouse on the last message and release the SHIFT key
  • The entire block is now highlighted

To delete the marked block, RIGHT-click the mouse and select Delete. The items will now be moved to the Deleted Items folder.

If you make a mistake whilst marking the block, simply click the mouse on an unmarked message and that will deselect the block and allow you to start again.

Tidying the Inbox – Delete Largest Messages

In the central pane of Outlook, you will generally see your emails listed by order of date – newest first. But you can also change this view to list emails by order of size – largest first. This allows you to browse through the largest emails in your Inbox and delete as necessary.

To change this view click on the down arrow next to By Date then, under the Arrange by section select Size. Now scroll to the top of the mailbox to view the largest emails.

The “Filter” and “Sort” option for displaying the order of messages

To restore the original view, repeat the process but select Date instead of Size.

Outlook can also display all messages larger than a selected size. You can then go through this list and delete as required.

  • At the left of Outlook RIGHT-click on Search Folders, then New Search Folder
  • In the Organizing Mail section select Large mail
  • Select a message size for the search (click Choose to change size)
  • Click OK to search and display the results

The results of your search will in the main part of the Outlook window (to return to the “normal” Outlook view, simply click on the Inbox in the folder list to the left).

Once you have made one search, you will find that there will be a new search folder shown. Click on this if you wish to make the same search again.

Now you can view and delete the larger emails as you wish. Large emails will generally have attachments and it is those that makeup the large size.

Tidy the Sent Items

The other large folder will be your Sent Items folder, and it’s easy to forget this.  You can browse through this in exactly the same way as the Inbox – viewing items by Date or by Size and deleting as required.

The same rules apply – do you really need to keep email you have sent that is several years old ?

The Deleted Items Folder

Whenever you delete an email,  a contact, or a calendar item in Outlook it will be moved to the Deleted Items folder. There it will sit, still available, and still taking up space in your mailbox.

This is useful WHILE you are clearing out your mailbox since if you make a mistake and delete something accidentally, you can still retrieve it from the Deleted Items folder. Open the folder, RIGHT-click on the item you wish to restore, select Move, then Other Folder, then select the folder you want to move the item back into (e.g. Inbox).

However, when you are finished clearing out your mailbox you must also EMPTY the Deleted Items folder, otherwise all your work to reduce the mailbox size will have been wasted.

To do this, RIGHT-click the mouse on Deleted Items then select Empty Folder.

The Trash Folder

If your email account is connected to an Apple device (e.g. iPhone) as well as Outlook, then you may also have a Trash folder. This where items deleted on the Apple device will go. You should empty this folder too.

Keeping Your Mailbox Tidy

Now that your mailbox has been tidied up it will be easier to manage if you can keep it that way. By far the most effective way to do this is to delete unwanted messages as they come in. If you receive an email that you don’t need then delete it right away – don’t wait.

And once a month, look through recent messages and delete those you don’t need to keep. It’s easier to do this as you go along.

And remember to empty the Deleted Items folder regularly.

Author: Plus1Support

Owner of Plus 1 Computing - IT services for businesses and home users

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