It took me a long time to get a handle on my inbox. I tolerated many things I wouldn’t stand for now. The reality is I may not have realized I could do anything about it. Or that decluttering my email would make checking my messages a much more pleasant experience.

Now, on a fairly routine basis, my inbox is empty. Primarily because I consistently unsubscribe from spam and mailing lists I no longer wish to receive. Admittedly, unsubscribing takes time. But it’s the best way to keep my inbox empty.

The engineers at Google have put a little effort into the message for empty inboxes on mobile devices. There’s an image of a man sunbathing on the beach with the caption: “Enjoy your day!”

It’s as if they’re permitting you to put your phone down. If you’ve spent that much time unsubscribing from email campaigns, you deserve it because the early stages of this process can take a good deal of work.

I avoid signing up for updates or newsletters from most companies or blogs, but somehow I still find myself receiving emails from groups who have obtained my email address one way or another.

For example, I recently sent some holiday e-cards. I didn’t anticipate receiving their newsletter, but I did, and they came every day. Sometimes twice a day. It didn’t take long for me to unsubscribe from all their lists.

On the other hand, there is some mail I do want. I use folders for important emails that are necessary for reference at a later date. I delete everything else. Everything. Most emails are fluff.

This level of structure for an inbox may be overly extreme, but I’ve found that using my email in this way makes checking mail faster and much less frustrating. When it comes down to it, I want to spend more time composing emails than sifting through them.

Photo: Host Sorter