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9000 emails

9000 emails

I deleted over 9000 emails this past weekend.  I realize that may sound insane.  Maybe you too got sucked in by gmail’s infinite storage and amazing search functions?  There’s no need to delete anything!  So, I didn’t.  For four years.  And I didn’t think it was a problem.  I mean I was at about 13% usage (strangely, still at that number after my deleting escapade, hmmm) – nowhere near reaching full capacity.  And yet, even though it surprised me when I read about the energy required for digital storage, I must have known this on some level.   That some server farm is working hard to keep all my shipping notices and quick chats with friends alive and in “the cloud.”

The actual carbon footprint is debatable, but the collective load on data centers was not what inspired me to clean house.  It was the collective load on my soul.  All those intangible things and ideas just sitting around, mucking things up.   Ev Bogue wrote about this idea of digital baggage in a long-ago post.  I’d link to it, but it must have been weighing him down because he untethered from it.

So, I embarked on my project of getting my inbox down to one page and my total emails under 1000.  It took a long time.  I gave updates to my roommates and they encouraged me to keep going.  I’m down to 6000, I’d say, coming in to the kitchen for a glass of water.  2500, I’d announce as I passed them on the stairs.

I doubted whether it was useful as the hours went by.  Shouldn’t I be working on something else?  Am I just shaving the yak?  But I persisted. I’d search for chunks and delete hundreds at a time.  I wavered over some:  An exchange with a friend where we hashed out a disagreement.  Touching notes from old boyfriends.  It was a powerful feeling to be diligent about hitting delete, trusting that I wasn’t losing anything essential about myself.

And late Friday night I went to sleep with only 16 emails in my inbox and 923 archived.

I wasn’t expecting anything in particular, and yet, I am telling you, I woke up Saturday feeling great.  I felt lighter and happier and more creative, like I’d actually deleted chunks of waste from my own body and not just from googleland.

I know this may sound really unimportant.  I spent an afternoon deleting old emails.  Big deal.  But the effect was so powerful that I encourage you to try it!  Not a gmail freak like me?  No problem!  I’m sure you’ve got some digital debris lying around somewhere (or at the very least, some paper clutter).  Take a risk, and see what it feels like to let go and be more present for what’s in your life right now.  Tis the season and the world needs your creativity.

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The Nuin Center
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Pittsburgh, PA 15206
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