Imagine what your actual snail mailbox at home would look like if you used it to store every piece of mail you receive. It would make the postal carrier’s job difficult, and could prevent you from finding or even receiving important letters and bills. Your neighbors probably wouldn’t like it either.

Keep that image in mind when handling your email. Increased productivity begins with a lean, organized mailbox. It’s springtime; start now with the following mailbox cleanup tips.

Mailbox Cleanup Tools

Cleaning Up Mail in Outlook 2010Keeping a tidy mailbox can be a challenge, but Outlook provides several tools that can help you keep your mail store at a manageable size.

Start by clicking the File tab, then Info, and click the down arrow next to Cleanup Tools. You will be presented with the following options:

  1. MAILBOX CLEANUP This dialog offers a handful of options: The View Mailbox Size button gives you a breakdown of which folders are taking up the most space. The next section enables you to search for items according to age and/or size. AutoArchive lets you store old items in a file on your computer. With the last two options, you can view the size of and empty your deleted items folder,Outlook 2010 Mailbox Cleanup and delete all conflicts, or alternate versions of items, in your mailbox. Outlook creates conflicts if the mailbox synchronizes while an item is in use. You can minimize the number of conflict items by closing any messages or other items you are not actively using. This is the second area to look at when you are over your mailbox quota.
  2. EMPTY DELETED ITEMS FOLDER This option enables you to do just that in one click.
  3. ARCHIVE This option brings up a dialog box where you can choose to archive as many or as few folders as you wish to quickly free up some space.

Cleaning up the Calendar

The calendar folder is often overlooked during cleanup. Unfortunately, it is also one of the largest and most difficult folders to clean.

The standard day/week/month view does not make it easy to delete old or expired appointments. You would have to view each month separately and click each individual appointment to delete them. However, using Outlook 2010’s List view enables you to see your appointments in a table layout, making removal much easier. This view is similar to how you view messages in the inbox, and deleting appointments is just as easy as deleting messages. Simply click on the appointment, or select multiple appointments using shift + click or ctrl + click, and then press the delete key.

To switch to List view, navigate to the calendar and select the View tab. In the Current View group, click on Change View and choose List view.

Understanding Mailbox Size

Do you get messages saying you are either approaching or have already exceeded your mail quota? In some cases, clearing the Sent and Inbox folders is all you need to do. Other times, it requires a little more time investment.

Keep in mind that everything in your mailbox, including subfolders of the inbox, counts against your quota. In most cases, Outlook automatically adds messages to the Sent and Deleted items folders, and, if it’s enabled, the Journal. These items can eat up considerable space. Calendar and Contacts also contribute to mailbox size.

If quota problems persist even after you have deleted or moved items and it seems as if there is nothing left in your folders, check your mailbox size to see which folders are causing the problem (see the first tip in this post for instructions).

Automatically Emptying Deleted Items

You’ve deleted a truckload of emails but your mailbox isn’t getting any leaner. You may have missed one important step – emptying your trash. Here’s how you set up Outlook 2010 to empty trash automatically when you close the application. It’s an efficient way of ensuring your trash is emptied on a regular basis.

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Options.
  3. On the Advanced tab, under Outlook Start and Exit, put a check in the box next to Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting.
  4. To be notified before the Deleted Items folder is emptied automatically, go to File, Options, Advanced tab, and place a check in the box next to Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items.

Permanently Deleting Email

It’s not out of the ordinary to receive hundreds of emails in a day. Some of those messages require attention, but many can be deleted outright.

To bypass the deleted items folder and permanently delete a selected email, hold down the Shift key while you press Delete. You will be asked if you are sure you want to permanently delete the e-mail; click Yes. Keep in mind that, in some cases, there is no way to recover these items.

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