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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cluttered In-Box? You Might Be an E-Hoarder

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 8:00 AM


My boyfriend never deletes anything. He saves texts, e-mails, videos, and pictures galore. The thing that annoys me most is the e-mails though. He has about 8,800 in his Gmail in-box, and they just pile up. He doesn't even read half of them. I realize this is kind of petty, but it drives me crazy. Why won't he delete e-mails he'll never look at again? I've asked him why he won't, and he just shrugs it off, saying he doesn't need to, so why bother. I should also say that he's generally clutter-free in other areas of his life, but not his digital one.

~Clutter Crazed

Remember that Einstein quote? "If a cluttered desk is a sign a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign"? Oh, snap! Einstein just brought down the hizzy and he's not even alive anymore!

Mathematical genius takedowns aside, I empathize with your plight. My ex-girlfriend never deleted anything, even useless or banal things like Facebook notifications and evites that had long since expired. It's basically is a difference in organizational preference. You like a clean and tidy in-box. Your boyfriend doesn't. Perhaps he might change his behavior if he started to develop anxiety about using all of Gmail's allotted storage space, which rarely ever happens, especially because Google is constantly acquiring more space.

I currently have about 4,000 e-mails in my in-box and am only using a measly 13 percent. I'm pretty sure the day Gmail runs out of space will be in concurrence with Armageddon. If you don't believe me, just check out this creepy press release from Google when it launched Gmail in 2004:

"Google believes people should be able to hold onto their mail forever." (Emphasis for dramatic effect mine)

Most of us don't think twice about just how much crap we send and receive electronically, either at home and at work. In fact, the collective consensus from people I asked on Facebook and Twitter was: "Who deletes e-mails?" Some people even said the delete button itself was a useless function, though "some people" clearly were not Anthony Weiner.

But is there an environmental cost to such e-hoarding? This stuff is consuming disk space, server space, and energy, after all. Kiera Butler tackled this topic over at Mother Jones not too long ago. Her assessment: Not so much.  

"As the New York Times noted, [Google's] datacenters continuously use enough energy to power 200,000 homes. That's considerable, but the company also claims that individual Gmail users' impact is minuscule: In a year, each Gmailer consumes 'less than the energy it takes to drink a bottle of wine ... stuff a message in the bottle and toss it in the ocean.'"

You might have a case with your boyfriend if his lack of organizational skills leads him to never be able to find anything, thus making his life far more stressful than it would be if he didn't insist on saving every Daily Groupon e-mail. Until that happens, though, I'm going to make a wild suggestion: Stop looking at and obsessing about his in-box.

As Einstein put it, "A person starts to live when he can live outside himself." Oh snap, Einstein's talkin' bout yo box!

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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