Email clutter is hard to control


Patsy Pridgen


By Patsy Pridgen
Telegram Columnist

Sunday, February 11, 2018

“Patsy, do you realize you have 14,482 emails?” my friend asked. She was checking for Wi-Fi connection or something like that for tech-challenged me and had seen this number somewhere on my iPhone. “You know you can delete these.”

“Sure,” I said defensively. “I just haven’t gotten around to doing so.”

The truth of the matter is I am reluctant to delete most emails after I read them. Usually there’s some nugget of information I feel I may need, a time or place or the title of the next novel my book club has chosen. Message piles upon message, and before I know it, I’ve lost control. Kind of like the in-box on my desk, overflowing with papers I need to file. Or the closet in the home office, jammed with gift wrap, bows, craft supplies and old electronics. Or the attic, packed with ratty stuffed animals, broken toys, cast-off light fixtures and who knows what.

This clutter of email is broken down more clearly on my desktop computer, where, for some reason, messages deemed to be social or promotions are held under a separate tab. Someone other than me must have set up this system – or maybe the computer came that way? Currently, I have 3,123 social messages and 10,085 promotions. Occasionally, I’ll remember to click on these tabs and find Facebook notifications or news of a sale I’ve missed.

I lack the ruthless spirit needed to mass delete. That’s such a lot of information to let go of. Or maybe I’m afraid of sending some really important message into the blogosphere where it can never be retrieved – something like an email notifying me that I’ve won a writing contest or a trip to Italy. Even if I haven’t read this message, it could be lurking there, waiting to be discovered by me one day when I’m idly scrolling.

I know I tend to be a hoarder, holding on to far more things for far longer than I should. But isn’t one of the great features of computers the fact that lots of data can be easily stored? Maybe I’m naïve, but aren’t there data banks holding tons of information about all of us, for example? Is my keeping tons of email on my phone, laptop, and desk computer really a problem?

My husband thinks so. When I send pictures I’ve taken with my phone to my email and complain about the delay before they show up, he blames the slow speed on my extensive collection. “You need to delete that pile of email,” he loves to tell me.

When I used to teach, I had the same email clutter issue on my office computer. Occasionally, we employees would get a message from Tech Support reminding us to delete old email. I’d make a half-hearted attempt and then wait for one of the tech guys to come by the office. “While you’re here fixing that error message,” I’d say nonchalantly, “do you mind deleting my old email?”

In a flash, he’d wipe my slate clean. I didn’t even have to watch. Wonder if these guys make house calls?