I awoke on Monday morning with a deep yearning to de-clutter my inbox. The night before I’d cogitated on the moment I’d seen that I had 20 or so emails, which invoked that familiar rush of endorphins, a bit like when I used to come home from school and discover a letter had arrived in the post. But when I opened Mail, every single email was marketing. All those companies that I have bought one thing from back in 2014, which gives them a licence to bombard my inbox with offers, and exciting news! (Which isn’t often that exciting.)
I don’t even bother reading them most of the time, just highlight and delete, highlight and delete. But as the early autumn light of a Monday morning slipped around the edge of the window blind, I had a flash of how attenuated I have become to this. It doesn’t seem to take long, to delete a few emails, but they still need attention. What if, metaphorically speaking, I didn’t even let them near my front door? All I needed to do was scroll to the end of one of these emails and click ‘Unsubscribe’. And they would stop coming.
It’s such a little thing. Yet how often do we put these things off for when we have more time. My husband has over 14000 unread emails. Whenever I suggest even unsubscribing from one of the mailing lists he’s on, he gets bristly.
I’ll do it later, he says. I need to put a whole day aside to sort it all out. We all know that is never going to happen.
ONE DE-CLUTTER STEP AT A TIME
I started easy. I unsubscribed from Vision Direct, because they no longer sell my brand of contact lenses. Definitely no FOMO there. I felt a frisson of thrill run through me. I unsubscribed from another, and another. Then a couple of companies I like and will still buy from again. Because Lucy and Yak, I do not need a reminder of how wonderful you are and what social justice you are promoting every couple of days. Because however colourful, well thought out, community supporting, narrative building your emails are, you are still aiming to sell me something. You know it, and I know it. If I need another pair of dungarees, I’ll come and find you.
One by one, all the marketing emails disappeared from my inbox. Even Amazon and eBay, which I have diligently deleted daily for at least 15 years. The next day, in my inbox? Spaciousness. Five or Six emails max. Work queries, a lovely note from a friend who came for lunch at the weekend, a notification I’d been paid. Just like the post I used to get in my twenties. I felt calmer, more clear eyed as I looked at my daily to-do list. It’s like I could instantly see what was important, without wading through the energy sapping rubbish.
Look, there are people like Marie Kondo, and the Minimalists who write much more eruditely about this sort of thing than I can. And there is plenty more crap I need to clear out of my inbox. I’ve only stopped the increase. Now I need to go back and clear what I’ve kept for no good reason. And my inbox is only one item on the list of things in my office, house, life, that needs de-cluttering. But it’s a start, and it’s making my days feel much more doable.
Tina Sederholm is a poet, performer and editor. Her latest book, This is Not Therapy, is out now. Buy it here