Refactoring Email

I have been using email for many years now. Over that time I have changed between mail clients, addresses, operating systems and spam filters. Whilst I have been able to keep on top of filtering mail into folders it finally reached the point today where the the mess of filtering and folders needed a clean up.

First of all were the mailing lists and subscriptions which seemed a good idea at the time but never get read these days. Due to the traffic on these mailing lists I had them all automatically filtered into individual folders. I had folders in folders sometimes 3-4 levels deep. Unsubscribing means I can delete the levels of folders and the extensive filtering rules for them.

The next stage was to have a think about the marketing emails I get from the likes of Amazon, Screwfix etc. I still like to receive them as they sometimes contain offers I am interested in. For each of the stores that I had ordered from there was a sub-folder with the past ordering history. Order emails I sort by hand as they don’t justify the need for their own filter. So the orders I want to keep but the general marketing is a read and discard affair. So why keep an individual folder for each marketing email? It makes it obvious where any new mail has come from but adds extra folders. So the decision was to group marketing mail into categories like ‘Electronics Components’. All the marketing mail from related suppliers goes into a single folder. Any order emails can be moved by hand into an order folder for storage whenever they arrive. Suddenly a huge number of extra folders disappear.

The next stage was to rename and move the remaining folders into a more structured arrangement. The result is a more easily navigable tree of folders.

The final stage was to redefine and cleanup the mail filters. Having scrapped a lot of folders many rules were not needed. Others could now be grouped together to put mail in a single folder rather than many.

The result is that I now have a much cleaner and easier to use email experience. It took a few hours to get it how I wanted but it has been worth the effort. If nothing else, when I need to add another folder or filtering rule its going to be easier to do so. I have also removed the stuff I never read any more, its less stuff to deal with when checking email. It might be another year or two before I do something like this again, but a periodic review of the setup can only help to keep it clean an manageable.