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mailbox clean up

By December 16, 2014No Comments

How to clean up your inbox


There are a few reasons that people decide that they need to clean up their inbox.  At the top of the list is the administrator that blocks people from being able to send email when their inbox reaches a certain size.  Other times it’s a friendly email from your administrator asking you to thin it down some.  Sometimes Outlook becomes slow and you realize that you have over 10,000 items in your inbox.  Whatever your motivation you have a few different ways to solve your problem.

Email bankruptcy

The first method is what I call email bankruptcy.  This is where you go in your inbox highlight everything and press delete.  A slightly less destructive method is to create an archive file (also called a .pst file) and move all your email off the exchange server and in to that file.  The advantage of this method is it takes very little time and is very effective at getting the size of your inbox down.  Another variation of this is to generate an archive file for each year and put all the email for that year in that file.  The downside of this approach is that depending on where the .pst file is stored, it may not be backed up.  Also you can’t search the contents using Outlook web access.

Outlook 2007 will help you archive anything older than 6 months in two steps.  Do this by going to your main Outlook window and:

Click Tools -> Mailbox Cleanup…

Click the “AutoArchive” button.

Outlook will follow the rules under Tools -> Options -> Other Tab -> AutoArchive button.  By default it will create a folder in your Outlook called AutoArchive and move everything older than 6 months in to it.

Deleting the heavy hitters

This is a quick way to find the emails with large attachments so you can delete them or move them somewhere else.  The reason this is so effective is that a single email with photos attached can take up the same space as 2000 emails without attachments.  So by deleting that one email, you have gained the same amount of space back as if you deleted 2000 emails without attachments.

Outlook 2007 will help you do this by going to your main Outlook window and:

Click Tools -> Mailbox Cleanup…

Leave it selected on “Find items larger than 250 kilobytes” and click “Find…”


From there you will get the results displayed in a window.  Take a look down the list and if you don’t need those emails anymore, delete them.


Sort by sender

We all sign up for different lists that can send out a tremendous amount of email.  Many of them are time sensitive, so after a week or so, they are irrelevant.  Sort your inbox by sender and select the group and delete.


Where my name is not in the to or cc box

This could also be called the “getting rid of cake in the break room” emails.  Add the to field to your view and sort by that.  At the top you’ll see the emails where someone left the to box blank and then just blind carbon copied you on an email.  Most of these broadcast type emails can be deleted.  Then scroll until you get to the everyone group used in your organization.  A quick scan will probably reveal that most of these emails are not something you need to save.


In Outlook 2007, the steps are:

  1. In the main Outlook Window, click View -> Current View -> Customize Current View
  2. Click the Fields button
  3. Scroll down to “To” highlight it and click the “Add->” button
  4. Click OK until all the dialog boxes are closed
  5. Back in your outlook window, you will now have the To field all the way over to the left
  6. Click on “To” at the top to sort that Column
  7. Scan through the emails and delete at will


 Sort by subject

This typically isn’t as effective as other sorts, but is still better than deleting individual emails.  Just sort by subject and look for groups of emails (threads) that you don’t need any more.