Electronic Decluttering – Reducing Junk E-mail and Unnecessary Screen Time

Electronic Decluttering – Reducing Junk E-mail and Unnecessary Screen Time

I got a tremendous response to my post about de-cluttering last week, so I thought I’d continue this week.

How many e-mails do you get a day?

How much time to you spend online other than for actual work?

I’m sure you are getting an inkling about where I’m going with this: Online time clutters up your day and contributes to stress. Stress is an underlying cause of many physical ailments and it’s something each of us can address fairly easily.


I get 200-plus e-mails a day. Yes, some of them are important and related to business or are essential personal communications. But most of them—I’d estimate at least 80%–are junk. They come from companies where I once bought something but have no interest in daily e-mails. Or they come from political candidates or organizations or charities who have sold my name to the latest greatest candidate for Congress from West Podunk or who want to me to help keeping the two-toed sloth from extinction.

Do I care? Not much! Am I annoyed? Yes! One group actually sent me an e-mail that said they were “disappointed” in me for not sending them money. Not only did I unsubscribe from their mailings, I gave them a piece of my mind. I admit, it wasn’t very civil.

E-mail filters are only somewhat effective. An inordinate number managed to sneak past the electronic guardian. I never look at my spam folder. I’m sure there are thousands of e-mails there that are automatically deleted after a month.

I check my e-mail first thing in the morning to help plan my day. I respond as necessary and flag the ones that are essential. I can spend an hour or more a day just deleting the e-mails I don’t want. Occasionally I accidentally delete an e-mail that is important. My bad.

That’s between five and seven hours a week spent on a mindless task!  I can think of many things I can do better with the time.

In Week 2 of my de-cluttering rampage, I’ve started unsubscribing from at least five e-mail lists daily. If I never open their e-mails, why am I allowing them to clutter up my inbox and my life? Gone!

It is considered an e-mail marketing best practice to include an unsubscribe button at the bottom of all e-mails. Most e-mail mailing services (like Mailchimp and Constant Contact) require all e-mails to have an unsubscribe button. Use it!

Sometimes you’ll get a query about why you unsubscribed, which you can answer or not. Netiquette requires them to remove you from their lists. Fair enough, it may take as long as a week. But just a week into my de-cluttering strategy, I’m already noticing that my e-mail volume has decreased by at least 30%. My goal is to get no more than 50 e-mails a day, at least half of which will be necessary to business and personal communication and the other half from marketers that I actually want to hear from.

Other online time

Facebook is addictive. I am the first to admit it. Facebook has its upside—I get to stay in touch with old friends on a regular basis. I keep up with a variety of news feeds that interest me, look at cute kitten and puppy videos and get PO’ed about political nonsense. All of that is fine, but I have become well aware that Facebook in particular is a black hole. I can fall into it for hours at a time. I’m first to admit that I can go on FB in the morning to wish a friend “Happy Birthday” and emerge hours later, glassy-eyed and brain fogged.

Week 2 strategy: Ration my time and stick to it. I get 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. If I want more, it’s on my “down” time in the evening. One way of assuring that I don’t fall into the black hole is to set the alarm on my phone. It’s so freeing!

Another strategy is to keep my phone far away form me in the evening. Where I once kept is on a charger right by my place on the couch, now I keep it on its charger in the hallway, 25 feet away. I can hear it if it rings, but I don’t have to listen to the dings and the lure of every notification.

As an aside—Please, please please do not keep your phone next to your bed. It is immensely disrupting to your sleep and I’m sure you’ve all heard the warnings about the negative effects on your brain of keeping your phone near your ear or less than three feet away from your body. I also have an EMF blocker on my phone, which I consider a worthy precaution.

A positive ending

There’s one e-mail I gladly receive every day from the Animal Rescue site.

Just clicking there daily has become my starting ritual. I signed up for daily e-mail reminders years ago and I can, if I choose, support other related sites that translate clicks into cash for sites that target Alzheimer’s, hunger, literacy and more. Clicking on the sites I like takes less than a minute a day and focuses me for the rest of the battle against electronic clutter.

Be sure to check out Kathleen’s other articles on reducing clutter in your life both mentally and physically.

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