A Week of Email Newsletter Decluttering (Premium)

As part of my New Year decluttering efforts, I spent time each morning for the past week or so unsubscribing from email newsletters.

Surprise: This was a good use of my time.

I know. Many of you will read the following couple of sentences and ask why I didn't just use an automated service like Unroll Me or the spam fighting functionality that's built into my email service or client. Obviously, I've tried both approaches over time, and the former, in particular, is good to know about and use when you're trying to get rid of some of the more pernicious email newsletters. Especially those to which you never even subscribed.

But I went through this for a reason: Like many of you, I have, in fact, explicitly signed up for various email newsletters over the years. Or did, at least, sign-up for legitimate services of all kinds, triggering implicit subscriptions. I am referring here to legitimate email newsletters, not to outright spam.

That said, spam takes many forms. And even legitimate email newsletters from high-quality or highly-rated sources can have the same impact on us over, over time, as spam. This stuff is digital clutter, plain and simple.

Even if you're not familiar with the tenets of minimalism, you have almost certainly heard of the recent decluttering trend that was started by Marie Kondo. Called KonMari, the theory here is that you should evaluate your items one-by-one, determine whether each "sparks joy," and then only keep those that do. When done correctly, you will have decluttered and organized your life and will be better off, mentally.

I decided to apply this thinking to my email, which has been a constant source of irritation and unease for over two decades.

Spam is easy to spot and remove. Google Inbox, like every other email service or client, provides comprehensive spam tools. But I am a bit leery of this automation, too. Almost every time I look at my junk mail folder---granted, not something I do very often---I find legitimate emails that have been misjudged by the cloud overlords. My worry is that I may mark one newsletter as junk and that it will automatically remove similar newsletters that I may actually want to keep.

Newsletters and other unwanted emails are a bit trickier. Here, again, there are efficiencies which we can avail ourselves: In Google Inbox, the web and mobile email client I use, it is perhaps too easy to dismiss a message you don't want in your inbox anymore: Just click "Mark done" (or swipe in the mobile app) and it's gone forever. That approach can help you hit "Zero Inbox" each day, yes. But it is organizational and temporary in nature. It is not true decluttering since those emails will simply keep arriving.

Anyway, like many of you, I receive---or, received---a ton of email newsletters. They come from every hotel chain I've ever visited, every airline I've ever flown, every entertainment service I've ever consumed, every travel-related anything I've ever blinked at ...

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