As the weekdays went by, I cleared every single work task with eagerness, making sure NOTHING got in the way of my grand weekend plan. By Friday night, all my work was finished and I was ready for the Big Day.
The agenda: digital decluttering
The time had come for a major session of sweeping junk from my inboxes and tossing unneeded online accounts into the abyss.
You know those houses in Hoarders — that’s what my digital life felt like.
And I had to get clean.
My Gmail app kept warning me that it would work best with 5 or fewer accounts.
I had 6 accounts (1 work, 3 personal, and 2 paid accounts).
So after much thought and deliberation, with the help of an excel sheet that listed down all my paid subscriptions, I decided to clean and close the 2 paid email accounts, taking $125 dollars off my yearly payments.
I closed a few subscription accounts as well, bringing the total saved to $600 in annual costs.
Freeing up some budget was great, but the freedom from mental clutter — that was worth even more. It felt like weights falling off my shoulders, and the beginning of a new life!
And so I spent the entire Saturday decluttering my inboxes, one of them an 8-year-old account that I never cleaned before. And suddenly the idea of “archiving” — which I have never used before except accidentally when pressing the wrong button — suddenly made sense.
But deleting was more fun.
And inside that 8-year-old account, many old marketing emails reminded me of accounts I forgot I had. One by one I deleted them.
Going way back into the olden days of my inbox was nostalgic too — remember 8tracks? Or Multiply?
May they rest in peace.
I deleted thousands of promotional marketing messages by batch.
There was one email account in particular that I opened only once a month, and each time I opened it, I had to catch up to hundreds of subscription emails!
And now, finally, I was getting rid of those thousands of subscription emails. Meanwhile assuring myself that, no no, you are not an over-subscriber. It’s over, it’s over.
And so of course, on that memorable day, I picked up a few lessons and insights.
1. One person’s precious work is another person’s junk
As a marketer, I work very thoughtfully (or at least I like to think so) on messages and emails I write to our target audience, revising endlessly until I can finally press “send” and release it to our beloved subscriber lists, excited about watching who will click what.
In reality, a lot of those emails sent will turn to junk, or accumulate, one day to be mass-deleted as somebody declutters their inbox.
2. Subscribe wisely
It’s a lesson to me as a consumer — every promo email and content email takes up my precious time as I read. If you spend even just 15 minutes a day going through emails, whether subscription, promotion, or whatever, that’s the equivalent of 90 hours in a year.
If you spend 30 minutes a day reading subscription emails, that’s 7.5 days. About a week of your year.
So, choose your subscriptions wisely. Make that time count. Unsubscribe when there’s no more value to you. The company won’t feel a thing. (But the highly emotional marketer might be crying inside).
3. Put value in everything you do
As a marketer, it gave me a picture of how much we as marketers, brands, and organizations, produce for people to consume. And emails are just a fraction of what resides online. If my inbox were physical, it would look like a dump! Mountains of papers. Thinking about how much letters we write can pile up and become junk in peoples’ inboxes is a disgusting thought. And a sobering picture of reality. How much value are we actually sharing as marketers?
The value of emails suddenly became clear as I saw the multitudes in my inbox.
Some were extremely pleasurable to delete.
Others reminded me of how much the emails helped me, and how valuable the information was.
It shifted my measure of value, the need to respect the consumers time, and the desire to give them high value emails that are difficult to delete, or that they will at least delete with a sense of gratitude for what they got from it.
4. An inbox is a mirror of your life
Decluttering my inbox showed me a lot of my blind spots and bad habits.
For example, bad spending habits I refused to acknowledge. How easily I would subscribe to services without counting the cost and how it would make a big dent in the long run. That was money I should have saved instead.
And the fact that I signed up so easily into different accounts and tried enterprising opportunities without a plan. My failed Creative Market store, in which I spent time scanning paint textures (while marathon-watching Star Wars), editing and packaging them, with no marketing plan or effort to follow-through and make sales.
But then there were also the successes. The pursuits that lasted, experiences I signed up for that changed me — workshops, events, trips, outreach, that changed me.
5. Digital mess can be invisible but still bears weight
Sometimes you aren’t directly aware of your digital clutter, but you sense it, like some ghost haunting you and you don’t know where or what it is.
What is digital can often be invisible. Yet emails and digital clutter take up brainspace somehow, because they’re connected to us, to our identity, and we have a sense of responsibility over them that we can’t shake off.
Or maybe it’s just me.
But whether you feel that way or not, it will do you good to limit your online accounts, to those you can manage to track, and that are beneficial or profitable. Even as I write this I start remembering more accounts I’d forgotten I have. Ugh.
Digital decluttering is a good thing to do regularly. It’s a simple routine that shaves off monthly expenses, and clears your mind.
(Not only do we have to clean our physical spaces, we have to clean our cyberspaces too. So parents, better teach your kids to digitally declutter at an early age!)
Declutter regularly, and you’ll find it refreshes and gives you increased focus and clarity, especially when most of what you do is online.
So go ahead and block out next Saturday. Have a bag of chips with you, and blast your favorite music on your speakers. And spend the day cleaning. It’s gonna be fun.