How to Clean Up Your Gmail

How many emails are sitting in your inbox right now? If the question alone makes your stress levels soar, you may have a problem.

Digital clutter is just as bad for our mental health as actual clutter. It's distracting, it's anxiety-producing, and it's exhausting. An overflowing inbox takes its toll on your peace of mind and productivity. 

Ignoring your steadily mounting messages isn't an option. Those emails won't stop coming, and without a system in place, you could find yourself missing meetings, overlooking important messages, failing to hit deadlines, and even experiencing burnout. 

Designed with productivity and collaboration in mind, Google Workspace has an extensive range of tools to tackle clutter. From filters to labels and sorting and snoozing, Gmail contains many easy-to-use hacks that will transform your inbox from a crazy-making nightmare to a streamlined hub of productivity. 

How to delete emails in Gmail

If you were cleaning the house, you'd start by throwing away everything you don't need. The same applies when doing a deep clean of your Gmail inbox. 

Don't be afraid to get aggressive with the delete button - once deleted, emails will still stay in your trash folder for 30 days, so there's a window in which you can recover them if needed. If you want to clear emails out of your inbox, but don't want to delete them you have two options:

  1. Archive them - hover your cursor over the message, click the icon of the box with a downward arrow to archive it
  2. Mute them - click into the email threat, click the three dots and select 'Mute' from the dropdown menu. The conversation will be archived from your inbox but reappear when a new message arrives

Deleting individual emails is easy. Click the trashcan icon in the top menu. If your inbox is particularly crowded, however, you'll likely need to delete many emails at once, and that requires a few more steps.

How to mass delete Gmail emails

If you're deleting emails from your inbox, you won't be able to delete everything at once. When mass deleting, users can only select 50 emails at a time. Do this by clicking on the small checkbox on the left side of the top menu to select emails and then clicking the trash icon.

Before doing this however, you may want to rifle through and make sure everything important is moved to the Important tab if you haven't done so already. Don't be tempted to just use the star label - this might star it so it's more noticeable but it won't remove it from your primary inbox and any mass deletion will still automatically select it.

Rather than deleting indiscriminately from your inbox, you can use Google's default inbox tabs to help you take a more strategic approach. These tabs, titled Primary, Promotions, Social, Updates, and Forums, act as a handy guide for knowing where to start with your decluttering. If you don't see those tabs, you may have too many emails to sort - categories are not enabled if there are more than 250,000 messages in your inbox.

The Promotions tab is the most obvious jumping off point for cleaning up as it's likely crammed with unimportant junk but have a look through first before starting to delete.

How to delete all promotions in Gmail

  1. Click into the Promotions tab
  2. Click the checkbox on the left in the top menu to select all messages on the first page
  3. Look for the blue notification 'Select all conversations in Promotions' and click it
  4. Click to confirm deletion

To mass delete emails from your other tabs or labels, simply follow the same steps once you're in those tabs.  

If you've worked in the same Gmail account for many years, you may find it helpful to delete according to date. To do this, type the date you want into the search bar using the command 'before: YYYY/MM/DD'.

Hit enter and this will display all emails received before that date. Then you can go ahead and delete as desired. To delete within a specific date range, just enter the search command 'after: YYYY/MM/DD before: YYYY/MM/DD'.

You can also use the search bar to delete according to who sent you the message - for example, if you no longer do business with a specific client and can delete their correspondence. Type the command 'from;" followed by the person's email address and delete away.

How to delete all unread emails in Gmail

When you've dozens of emails coming at you in a day, it's tempting to skim over the ones that are obviously unimportant, leaving them left unread but still taking up valuable space. 

If that sounds familiar, don't panic - it's easy to delete your unread messages. Again, this requires using the Gmail search bar. Type in 'is: unread' and all your unread emails will appear. From there, it's just a matter of selecting them all and deleting them as above. 

To mark all your emails as read, simply click the three dot icon in the top menu of your inbox and select 'Mark all as read'.

How to delete drafts in Gmail

If you click out of an email without sending it, Gmail will automatically save that unfinished and unsent message in your Drafts folder. That's great, until those draft emails pile up and start to eat into your storage.

The only way to delete these is manually - go into your Drafts folder, select 50 at a time and hit the trash icon. Be warned that if you're erasing them en masse, you'll also delete any conversation they were a part of. To keep conversations intact, you have to click into the draft itself and click the trashcan icon in the bottom right of the window to discard that draft individually.

Managing Gmail folders and tabs

Proper management of your Gmail folders will help clear clutter, and also prevent it from accumulating in the first place. 

Turning off messages in the Social tab

If it's been configured correctly, the Socials tab is where notifications from your social media accounts end up. Unfortunately, Google doesn't discern which of these are important, so these folders are likely brimming with redundant messages. You don't really need to know that a friend has posted a new photo of his cat, but you probably do want to know when a Facebook page you manage changes its name or a client comments on a post.

To make sure you only see the most critical updates, you have to go to the source - adjusting your notification settings in each social media account.

  • Facebook - Click the bell-shaped Notifications icon then the three-dot menu. Click through to 'Notification settings'. From the menu, select what you want to see from friends and the pages you manage. 
  • Instagram - Click 'More' in the left menu. Go to Settings > Email notifications and toggle on your preferences from the check box menu.
  • LinkedIn - Click your profile icon and select Settings & Privacy > Notifications. You can then adjust your notification preferences for pages, groups, and other activities.
  • Twitter/X - Select' Notifications' from the left menu, click the wheel icon to go to Settings > Preferences > Email notifications. From there you can select what type of emails you receive. 

Cleaning up the Promotions tab

It's not just the Social tab. The Promotions category can also become a chaotic black hole if left unmanaged. It's easy to let email subscriptions multiply without keeping track but if you're still getting emails about a product you bought five years ago, it's probably time to kill that subscription.

There are a few ways to delete multiple unwanted subscriptions in one go. You can use the Trimbox app which erases junk mail, unsubscribes you from mailing lists, and blocks spam. There are other Chrome extensions that provide a similar service but aren't as highly rated. These include Gmail Unsubscribe and Simplify Gmail.


If you're looking for something more substantial, the Unroll.Me app is a full-service unsubscribe tool that allows you to categorize, edit, and mass delete your email subscriptions - keeping them out of your inbox and organized within a single app interface.

Gmail cleaning solutions

Sometimes you can do your own spring cleaning, and sometimes you need to call the professionals. 

There are many Gmail cleaning solutions on the market and these are a solid option if your inbox has you feeling completely stressed-out and overwhelmed. There are, of course, security implications to using third party services like these so consider the data privacy and protection controls of your organization before signing up.

Some of the top rated Gmail cleaner apps include:

Before using any of these, it's a good idea to make sure you have a Gmail backup or Workspace backup. That way, if anything is lost in the shuffle you can easily recover it.

Take back your inbox

The average employee spends 8.8 hours a week reading and replying to emails. That's a lot of time in your inbox and if it's not tidy, much of that time will be spent frustratedly searching for what you need.

Managers should take time to train their team on good email etiquette. Bringing order inboxes helps improve time management and lower stress which, in turn, leads to better productivity, collaboration and employee engagement. 

Learn more about how to effectively use Workspace tools to power productivity, contact our team today. As a Google Cloud Premier Partner, UpCurve Cloud has helped hundreds of organizations create an IT infrastructure that works for them, tailoring Google's 100+ applications to their specific needs. Get in touch now to see how we can help!


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