Simplify Your Life Month, Day 17: Unsubscribe

For Simplify Your Life Month, Day 17, I’m unsubscribing.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires business who send emails to include a way to opt-out of receiving future messages. The act specifies several things they must include in their commercial (marketing) and transactional emails.

This means that it’s pretty easy to unsubscribe to all those junk emails you get.

I’ll admit I’ve been less than vigilant about keeping my email inbox neat. Today I’m exploring some easy ways to simplify my inbox.

Cleaning up your email inbox by unsubscribing is like taking bags of clothing you don’t wear anymore to be donated. Even though those messages don’t take up any physical space, by bombarding you with advertising appeals they are sneakily taking up space in your brain.

I don’t know about you, but I HATE HATE HATE commercials and advertising. Those video screens at the gas pumps? The worst. I’m the first one to mute the screen in the taxi. Even the NPR pledge drive makes me bonkers (I love you but sorry, NPR).

We are exposed to thousands of marketing images and appeals a day and there’s plenty of criticism about that.

One main concern is that there’s just too much.

Ya think?

You can’t control all of the marketing messages that are vying for your attention, but you can cut down on the ones that appear in your email inbox.

Use “Unsubscribe” to Get Rid of Unwanted Email

Gmail in particular makes this easy by including an unsubscribe link at the top of the message. One click and you’re automatically off the list. For some messages, you’ll have to use the link the business provides somewhere else in the message (usually in the footer).

Some mailing lists want you to take an additional step like clicking a box to indicate you’re really really sure you don’t want mail from Poshmark every day, or marking the reason why you want off the list. (Why isn’t “because I want off the list” a good enough reason?)

You can do this as messages come in, or you can go through a backlog by searching your mailbox for “unsubscribe.”

I just unsubscribed from 23 mailing lists in 10 minutes (yes, I timed it).. I can envision the serenity in my inbox already.

You might get a confirmation email after you have unsubscribed, and it might take some time for the unsubscription to take effect.

Use Filters to Eliminate Unwanted Messages

You can also set up a filter to keep certain types of messages out of your main inbox. Zapier suggests to forgo unsubscribing and just use the filters to stop them from clogging up your inbox.

I think this is a little bit like filling up a self-storage space and it’s a better arrangement to never receive the email in the first place. Filters can help you by funneling all of your newsletters and promo codes away from your inbox so you can look at them when you want to.

Gmail’s latest version allows you to categorize messages into tabs automatically (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums), and I’m pleased that I’ll be able to easily ignore promotional emails without even trying. Your email client may have similar features. If you haven’t explored filters, it’s worth the few minutes it takes to set some up.

Eliminate Unwanted Messages with an App is an app that uses an algorithm to search for all of the mailing lists you are subscribed to. I signed up to try it out and it returned 0 subscriptions for me after my initial pass through my inbox. Somehow I don’t believe that I really got them all, especially because I only went through a couple hundred messages and there are 14,808 messages in there. (They’re all read; don’t freak out.)

Unsubscriber lets you unsubscribe from unwanted emails by dragging the message to a folder. This is a little bit faster than using the “unsubscribe” link.


Of course it is simpler to not subscribe in the first place. For the month of August and beyond, my plan is to more regularly unsubscribe but also to perhaps forgo some of those 15% discounts in order to keep my inbox cleaner.

Who am I kidding? I can’t pass up a 15% discount.

Let’s talk email organizing–are you overwhelmed with messages? How do you keep your inbox lean?

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