It’s Time to Marie Kondo Your Inbox—Here Are 9 Proven Ways to Do It

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)

There’s always that friend. You know, the one with 76 unheard voicemails, 150 unread texts, and—gulp—15,964 unread emails in her inbox. (Or maybe that “friend” is you.) Either way, keeping your inbox uncluttered or even reaching Inbox Zero can feel like impossible feats of #adulting. But digitally cleaning house doesn’t have to be your least favorite chore.

Since everyone is applying the KonMari Method to their homes, we tapped a few productivity experts to provide some tips on how to bring the magical art of tidying up to your inbox.

Add a note workflow

For important emails like travel itineraries, coupons, and information from the landlord that you’d like to store for later, connect your account to a notes app like Evernote. “With the email into Evernote feature, you’ll be able to send these emails directly into notebooks like ‘Upcoming Travel,’ ‘Assignments,’ and ‘Deals,'” says Forrest Bryant, Editorial Director at Evernote.

Automatically sort emails

Hate wasting time filing incoming emails? Easy fix, says Bryant: “Set up smart labels in Gmail or rules in Outlook to automatically sort emails you receive based on sender or keywords so you aren’t wasting time filing incoming emails into the appropriate folders or digging around for that one message from your boss from a month ago.”

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

Unsubscribe already

If spam is bulking up your inbox, make a habit of unsubscribing regularly via an app like You can also manually unsubscribe by searching for the keyword “unsubscribe” in your email’s search box. “When I have five or 10 minutes before my next meeting or am on hold on the phone, I try to unsubscribe from five or so emails at a time, which keeps the task manageable,” says Shay Paulson, owner and media strategist at Merit Media.

Don’t go back and forth on scheduling meetings or calls via email

While a quick email to schedule a meeting seems convenient, these are exactly the types of threads that clog up our inboxes. Save yourself time and prevent inbox clutter by using an online calendar system like Accuity Scheduling or Calendly instead. “This way you can sync it with your Gmail or work calendar, and have people schedule a time to meet or chat when it is convenient for everyone,” says business coach Lindsey Anvik.

Use a project management system to collaborate on tasks

How annoying is it to manually search for that email with information you need to get something done at work? Anvik recommends cutting down on unnecessary email chains with project management systems like Asana or Basecamp. “Both have an app and notifications, allowing you to easily keep track of projects and clients in one space without the headache of sorting and searching through your inbox,” she says.

Try an outside chat app

If you’re currently using email to collaborate with groups or teams of people, Anvik says an outside chat app such as Skype or Slack can allow you to easily communicate questions and get immediate answers instead of having to wait on an email reply.

(Image credit: Sandra Rojo)

Make your email signature work for you

Natalie Wise, author of “The Self-Discipline Handbook,” has a genius trick to get as much mileage out of your signature as you can. “Instead of just putting your name and title, add active email-checking hours, common information you send in your emails, and the best way to contact you,” she says. “Try, ‘I prefer to talk via text. Feel free to text me at my number for a faster response.'”

Set up separate email accounts

Another way to keep a clean inbox? Compartmentalize by setting up four, separate email accounts that serve specific purposes. Professional organizer and productivity consultant Josephine Page suggests one for personal matters, one for work, one for marketing emails, and one for social media. “Each email address can be a derivative of the first one, such as ‘douglasP’ for personal or ‘douglasB’ for business,” she says. “It’s less overwhelming to review and execute an action plan for each email if you set up separate email addresses.”

Set a date with your inbox

Even if you prevent unnecessary emails from littering your inbox, you’re not out of the woods for maintenance. Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer for BeenVerified, says he sets a regular date to manage his emails. “Choose a time each week to maintain your inbox. During that time, block your calendar and silence your phone. Protect the time as you would any other important meeting, and get organized,” he says. “Sweep away the irrelevant, archive the complete, and prioritize the to-do list.”