If you have too much email in your Gmail account, it may finally be time to clean it up. This is not just to achieve the zen-like nirvana of “inbox zero”, but to address an impending threat: Starting June 1, 2021, Google will change its storage policy. Gmail users receive 15 GB of storage space by default, divided between Gmail, Drive and Photos. Some data, such as Photos, is currently exempt, but that will disappear in June. If your total data exceeds your free allotted amount, you will either have to delete data, pay Google for more storage, or risk losing the “extra” data that Google decides to delete.
Don’t let that happen! Here are some tactics for deleting a lot of email, pronto.
How to Delete Old Email in Gmail Quickly
About the only requirement for deleting old emails from Google Gmail is that you must be signed in to Gmail and use it in a browser from a Chrome, Mac or Windows PC, or an Android tablet or iPad. These commands may be available from a smartphone, but they are primarily designed for the web interface.
First of all, you need to know how much storage capacity your email takes up. If you scroll to the bottom of your Gmail page, you can see how much space all your data is taking up, not just Gmail! If you are a Google One subscriber, your Google One storage page will be split into Gmail, Photos and Drive. (Tip: You can block automatic Google Photos uploads to help manage your storage.)
Now let’s start removing.
The easiest way to remove junk email from Gmail is to use Google’s built-in section tabs in Gmail, which already filter email into several sections: your primary tab (your main inbox), followed by Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. The implied message here is that Google already considers the email stored in your Primary tab as the email you really needeverything else can probably be sacrificed.
I usually delete everything on the Promotions tab first – it’s almost but not really spam. Take another look through a few pages to make sure you want to do a full-scale purge. (If you want to delete email selectively, continue with the section below.)
To start the process, first click on it Promotions tab (the label is displayed as a color instead of gray). Then on the ribbon of icons above the tabs, click the little check box on the far left, like so:
This should highlight all the emails you can see on the first page of the Promotions tab – not all the emails you have in Gmail.
After you select the emails from that page, Google will confirm your selection – and will allow you to select all emails from the Promotions tab if you click on the message marked in blue, as shown below:
You can then click on it remove key or click the little trash can icon in the menu ribbon above to delete all email. You will receive a small popup titled “Confirm Bulk Action”, warning you that “this action will affect all … conversations in Inbox” and asking if you want to continue. If you do, click OK
Congratulations! All your promotional emails have been deleted … sort of. Yes, your e-mail is not completely gone yet. Gmail just moved it to the trash, another category accessible from the left navigation rail. (Scroll down and click Lake to display the Trash and Spam folders.) Click Garbage can to see all your deleted email, waiting to be deleted.
By default, Google gives you 30 days before it automatically deletes email that has been moved to the trash. That gives you 30 days to search for and save an email that you accidentally threw away, but your total Google One storage space remains unchanged. (You can highlight the email (or emails) and click the little “Move to” folder icon to move them back to the Inbox if you discover an email you want to save.)
If you want, you can click on it Empty the recycle bin now message at the top of your trash email list to delete all those emails once and for all. That will reduce your storage space, but there is no going back. (Unfortunately, you cannot see how much storage capacity all the collected email takes up in your Trash folder.) Once you manually delete those emails, they are gone forever!
Now you can decide if you want to delete email on other Gmail tabs as well. I usually consider email notifications in my “Forums” folder to be expendable, and I do the same with my Social tab. The Updates tab usually hides messages from apps and other services that I care about, so I don’t often delete those emails without some consideration and further filtering.
Filter emails in Gmail
Filter, you say? Yes definitely. The Gmail search box at the top of your screen does more than just search for keywords. You can use search filters for all sorts of things to remove unnecessary email, and Google puts some of them on Gmail’s search support page.
Here are a few commands especially helpful for reducing the storage space your inbox takes up, listed below. Just type the bold text in the Gmail search box.
- before: 18/04/2018 This will return all email in the folder sent before April 18, 2018.
- older than: 2m This will show all email older than two months. You can swap the “m” for “y” (year) or “d” (day). note that newer than can also be used.
- Has attachment Any email with attachments.
- filename: pdf Any email with a PDF file as an attachment.
- smaller: One of both size: or taller: can be used to find messages larger than a certain size in bytes. You can make use of this larger: 100 for a message larger than 100 bytes, or larger: 15M for a message larger than 15 megabytes.
Others like from: eliza (email from Eliza) or is important (for email listed as Important) may also be helpful.
Hopefully, these tools will help you keep your Gmail inbox to a manageable size. Good hunt!