How to Keep Your Inbox Clean

Washing machine overload poster applied to email
Most users would probably agree that Microsoft’s webmail provider holds its own against the king of the email mountain, Gmail.

One of the reasons is great is the cleanup and sorting features it offers to help you keep your inbox neat and orderly. This is no small thing, as the average user receives over 10,000 personal emails per year, with 80% of those being newsletters and spam.

Once you know how to use these cleanup features, keeping your inbox empty is simple. Check out the 5 tips below on how to clean out your inbox. If you’re not an user, now may be time to make the change and start using these features.

1. Use Sweep

Sweep is a feature in Outlook that allows you to bulk-move emails in a new way. Sweep lets you move or delete all emails from a specific user.

This means that instead of hunting through a huge list to see all the emails from your previous boss, you can find one, check it, and will sweep all other emails by that person into a specific folder of your choosing or the trash.

To use Sweep, check the box of at least one email in a folder or inbox and click the Sweep menu. Next, choose whether you want to move or delete emails from that user. Sweep drop-down menu

A confirmation window will come up. Choose the folder or OK the delete. Then click Move all or Delete all and you’re done. Delete confirmation window

2. File Emails Automatically

You can also use the Sweep feature to easily create a rule that automatically moves all emails from a specific user to a folder. If you routinely receive emails that you want to keep but don’t need to read, such as receipts from an online vendor, you can archive them automatically with this tool.

Check the box next to the email you want filed, click the Sweep button, and then select Move all from

You’ll get the same warning box as before, but now you can check the Also move future messages box. Select the folder you want them moved to and then click Move all. Move confirmation window

Now emails from that sender will be filed in that folder from now on.

If you ever want to change this, click on the Settings gear icon at the top of the window, then choose More mail settings. Under “Customizing Outlook,” click on Rules for sorting new messages. Any rules or automatic filing settings will be listed here.

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3. Use Categories

Once you’ve archived, deleted, and set up rules for future handling of email, it’s time to deal with the email you receive on a daily basis that you can’t handle right away. allows you to assign categories to email messages so that a group of them can be linked together even if they’ve come from multiple senders. A good way of thinking about categories is having one for each major type of email you get. Those could include:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Social Media
  • Newsletters

Once emails have a category, you can sort folders as well as your inbox by category, so reading and moving emails in a category is easy.

To set a category, just click the grayed-out Categories link in line with every email in your inbox. You can choose one of the existing categories or make a new one.

When assigning a category to an email, you can assign that category to every email from that sender with an extra click. Just choose Apply to all from… and then click Apply. Categories drop-down menu

4. Find and Archive

Gmail introduced the idea of keeping all your emails so you can search them later, and is carrying this idea forward.

We’ve covered some great ways to keep fewer folders and still be able to find your emails, and works great with these ideas, too.

Keep all your email in a few key folders and then use the search feature in the upper left corner of the window to find what you’re looking for. Pair this with Categories and you’ve got a serious email-searching machine.

For more advanced features, click in the Search box and then click Advanced search. Advanced Search option

Here, you get detailed search criteria in a nice graphical layout that you’d have to hack together yourself in a Gmail search. You can search for all emails to or from a specific user, search the subject line only, or even look for emails between a specific set of dates or only emails with an attachment. Best of all, you can easily combine all these searches together for some powerful searching action. Advanced Search boxes

5. Set a Cleaning Schedule

The last tip is to set an automatic cleaning schedule. For example, if you get weekly updates from your favorite website, you can tell to automatically delete or move older messages when newer ones come in.

To access this, click the checkbox next to the email you wish to set up scheduled cleanup for and then click the Sweep menu. In the Sweep menu, choose Schedule cleanup. Sweep drop-down menu

In the window that appears, you can choose the specific settings for the scheduled cleanup. For newsletters a good option is to Only keep the latest message from this sender. For emails that you allow to pile up, choosing to Delete all messages older than 10 days might be good. There’s no right or wrong here; just choose what works best for you. Schedule Cleanup window


With these 5 tips you should be all set to have an inbox that’s as empty as possible while still having everything archived just in case. With the massive storage given to email users today, it’s a no-brainer to archive everything and search for it later.

Keep your inbox clean and your productivity should grow along with your archive folder.

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