What Happened When I Deleted All My Deleted Emails

My Outbox refused to release my emails.

It was taunting me.

Telling me that I had to clear some of my allocated space before it would let me send.


I went into my deleted folder and hand selected the old meeting invites, then scrolled to the bottom to carefully choose what else to delete…items that I clearly didn’t need. One-by-one, sometimes in batches of 20. I purged the old spam, and anything over a year old. In total, there were hundreds.

After selecting what needed to go, I hit delete.

Outlook seemed to freeze. It was taking forever.

I caught up on Slack messages, checked my personal email, and went and got a cup of coffee.

Still Outlook seemed to hang, its interface colors muted and only parts of the application were visible.

Finally, it returned to its normal state.


One thing.

My Deleted email folder held not one old email.

It was crystal clear. Bright white. Nothing.

Uh oh.

I began to panic.

What if I needed something that I had deleted?

What if an old conversation or old file was there, and one day…I might need to retrieve it?

But…then…a new thought started to creep in.

Like a wispy cloud it began to materialize. I chose to give it some space to develop.

What if…

Nothing happened?

What if I actually let go of that history?

After all, if I had deleted it, I had decided at some point that it wasn’t necessary. What if I could trust myself and believe in my judgement?

Suddenly, I felt lighter. 

The burden of all that email weight was gone. And the empowerment of trusting myself made me ebullient.

Whether it’s a tendency of my personality or simply the result of  ‘sunk cost bias‘, I get weighed down holding onto things I no longer need or doing things because I once made an investment in them.

Whether or not we recognize it, it takes energy when we muck up our existence with anything that does not belong in our present.

Margie Warrell wrote “Sunk-cost Bias: Is It Time to Call It Quits” for Forbes and it’s worth a read. She writes,

So let me ask you, where might you be investing – time, talent, money, energy or skills – in something primarily because of how much you’ve already put into it? And how might calling it a day free you to invest in something that could ultimately serve you (and the world) so much more?

What is it time to let go of? Clothes you never wear, a futon you haven’t used in years (this one is personal), an activity you used to love but don’t, a relationship that once was healthy but is no longer… 

Delete and delete again, my friends.

As Greg McKeown suggests in Essentialism, if you can’t make the full leap to purge the things you’ve invested in, take it in stages. For example, if you were cleaning your closet, take from your closet the clothes you rarely wear and put them out of sight. Give it a month. If you don’t miss the purged items, donate them. Now, apply this concept to other aspects of your life.

Then, enjoy the space, the freedom, the joy in filling your ‘spaces’ with the things you value today.


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