The Road to Cleaning Gmail [Solution]

Matthew Gates 4m 1,047 #gmail

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Cleaning Gmail

Gmail Screenshot

When Gmail first came out in 2004, it was something completely different from all other email platforms before it, but you could not find out what it was, until you were invited. Gmail was an invitation only system. You either had to be invited by a friend, or Gmail would randomly pick you after you signed up to be informed. It was probably one of the best things Google could have done to instill that excitement and wonder into people. At the time, Gmail offered a whole 1 GB of data, far larger than any of its competitors. Therefore, the switch for anyone to make was very enticing.

A friend of mine excitedly told me he had just received Gmail and asked me if I wanted to be invited to register for it. I told him I definitely wanted a link. During this time, I’m not sure if people were making money off inviting others to Gmail, but Gmail allowed you to invite 100 friends, and then it kept refilling when you used it. Gmail allowed you to invite anyone you wanted and encouraged it. Inviting someone to Gmail and them accepting was like having them join the party.

Gmail was not like Google Plus when it first came out. People adapted to it very quickly and the concept of labels instead of folders and archiving your email instead of deleting it became the way of doing things. Over time, Gmail became prestige, knocking off AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo. Anyone who had an email address with those three email platforms were “not in the loop”. Gmail was advanced and showed the person was up to date with their emails.

Gmail also offered something very different that the other email systems seemed to have trouble with: It was and still is good at blocking out spam. Yahoo seemed to sell your email address and you would get endless spam. Despite the fact that they too, had a spam detector, it did not work very well, and it seemed that 90% of email was coming into Yahoo was just spam.

Gmail virtually eliminated all spam. In the time of having Gmail since late 2004, early 2005, I have received no more than 100 pieces of spam per year, other than the ones I accumulated myself — that is, subscribing to Amazon, Ebay, TigerDirect, Woot, and other e-commerce websites. Occasionally spam gets through, but a simple click of the spam button often strengthens the spam detector.

Create Gmail


Gmail has been increasing its space available to users since its inception in 2004. No user that has Gmail today has less than 7 GB available to them. Many users have much more space than that with at least 15 GB of space, which is a lot of space for storage.

Never having once deleted any of my email since 2005, believing that “Archiving” meant that email went away and I could search for it, my inbox was filling up. I was approaching 11 GB with nothing stopping it from advancing quite a few MB per day. In order to figure out a solution, I googled what to do.


The solution was to delete large emails by typing in 15M which would give me all files and emails 15 MB and greater. Next, I typed in 10M which showed me all files and emails 10MB and greater. After that, I typed in 5M which showed me all emails 5MB and greater. I quickly deleted all the emails that I have not seen or used in years, and had no use for, including the sent emails where I sent large files.

Next I started looking through Gmail to find emails that I knew I always got from companies. In order to narrow things down, I searched for exact email addresses from Ebay, Amazon, and other online stores that kept sending me unwanted daily emails that could be called spam. For the ones I still don’t mind receiving, I just hit archive or deleted those emails. For the ones I no longer wanted to receive, I opened at least one email and scrolled down to find the Unsubscribe link.

I also used labels in order to know what things were what, which helped me to discover emails quicker so I could delete them and free up storage space in my email account. From companies alone that I willingly signed up for, I was receiving tons of spam from them, so I chose only the ones I wanted to continue receiving email from, and all others were unsubscribed from.

Unfortunately, sometimes the request to unsubscribe from emails goes completely ignored, as if the page they take you to is completely fake and does nothing, as I still receive email from some of them. In this case, I had to block those email addresses or click the SPAM button in order to register the emails as spam and stop them from recurring.  I could have probably contacted someone and told them their unsubscribe page does not work, but at that point, it was only frustration and I feel there was no reason to even attempt to contact them since they disrespected the fact that I did not want to be subscribed to their mailing lists anymore.

After deleting almost 50,000 emails, I noticed the inbox storage space did not change. After going into Settings and Labels, and showing Spam and Trash, I deleted everything inside the trash. It took almost 5 minutes to delete 50,000 emails. Afterwards, my All Mail box had about 18,500 emails in it, far less than the near-70,000 I was approaching and my space went from 11 GB to 6 GB of 15 GB. I deleted about 5 GB of space from Gmail.


I learned a very valuable lesson: Gmail is great for archiving and holding on to your email forever, but archive only the things you really need, such as sentimental emails from family or friends. Everything else is really just garbage. After reading email, hit delete (the trash icon) instead of archive (the folder with a down arrow in it). It will save you hours of cleaning out your inbox.

I love Gmail and I am glad I have enough space to continue using it for the next many years to come.

Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.