I’ve been doing a little housecleaning of my inbox recently, and it has been eye-opening.

I suspect I’ve un-subcribed from 150 email lists in the past 3 weeks or so. Here are a couple things I’ve learned.

Why Unsubscribe?

For me, I found myself wasting time checking my email, and many times I ended up deleting a bunch of junk mail and feeling productive, but having accomplished nothing.

I would rather check my email less frequently and not spend the time deleting unwanted emails.

I have also noticed a tidy work environment and home leads to a calmer and more productive state of mind, and I wanted to apply that feeling to my digital home and digital office as well. The biggest room in my digital office is my inbox, so it seems like a good place to start.

Marketing without End

It’s incredible how many companies have my email address. As I said above, I think I unsubscribed from 150 lists in the past few weeks. I have And it can be easily sold to get me on to someone else’s list, as you can see in this screenshot.

What’s more, I looked in to a few services to unsubscribe for me, and it turns out that they collect data for marketing purposes as well! I’m trying to opt out from marketing, and, while I’m doing that, I’m getting opted in to more marketing! For example this is the message from the popular unsubscribe service Unroll.me:

I give Unroll.me a lot of credit for being upfront about what they do with your data. A lot of companies would have made this hard to find.

I think this is fine as long as the user knows the kind of bargain they’re getting into, and Unroll.me is pretty up front about it

However, I am intentionally trying to not get more marketing, so I decided not to make this bargain.

How to Unsubscribe

If you have looked, you’ll realize it’s pretty easy. There is often an ‘unsubscribe’ link right at the top of the email:

In other cases, you have to scroll to the bottom of the email:

There are laws that require marketers to allow this unsubscribe option. They’re described here.

Ask for a Little Help

After unsubscribing manually from a few emails, I decided I would jumpstart the unsubscribe process.

I hired a Virtual Assistant for $5 an hour to unsubscribe me from as many lists as she could manage for a week.

I let junk mail accumulate for a couple days and wrote down a list of email lists to unsubscribe from to get her started, and then I gave her a free hand to unsubscribe from other lists as well, checking with me if she wasn’t sure. I also gave her a list of newsletters and lists that I definitely wanted to keep.

It might seem risky to give someone access to your inbox, but I figured a well reviewed and seemingly trustworthy VA was less of a risk than giving access to unroll.me, who actively told me they would harvest my data. Plus, you can easily revoke access after the job is done.

After a week, my inbox was notably emptier, and more of a joy to look at. Only messages from clients, friends and a curated selection of newsletters remained.

Are You Saying Email Marketing is Bad?

Definitely not.

I remained subscribed to email lists I wanted to be on, and unsubscribed from email that I found useless. The act of unsubscribing was probably a valuable signal to the marketers on the other end that the emails weren’t working anyway and will allow them to adjust their approach.

The point of this whole project is to intentionally keep email relationships with people and companies I want to work with, and not to pretend with those that I don’t.

The end result is the email marketers on the other end will be able to focus more on better customers, and I will have a better email experience when I log in to Gmail.

Thanks for reading!

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