How To Clean Your Gmail Inbox

If you've been using Gmail for a few years, you're probably pushing against the storage limit. Or if you signed up to lots of mailing lists, you're no doubt finding it impossible to look at your inbox.

Whatever the reason, a good spring clean feels great. A clearer mind and less stressful day awaits...

Learn how to bulk delete emails in Gmail

All of the techniques below rely on bulk deleting your emails.

Lets start by showing you how (and yes, you can delete more than 50 emails at once!).

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Make a list of the emails you want to delete. E.g. your Promotions tab. Or do a search.
  3. Click the square checkbox in the top left of your list, to the left of the Refresh button.
  4. (Or click the dropdown next to it, and choose All)
  5. A banner appears saying "X conversations are selected..."
  6. On the banner, click "Select all X conversations..."
  7. Click the trash icon at the top of the list.
  8. Scroll down the Gmail sidebar until you find "Trash" (you may need to click More)
  9. On the banner at the top of the trash, click "Empty Trash now".

Why is Gmail storage still saying full after deleting emails?

There's just a few things to check...

  • Did you empty your Trash? Gmail doesn't delete emails for 30 days otherwise.
  • Did you give it 10 minutes and refresh Gmail? It can take Google a few minutes to update.
  • Did you actually delete the largest emails? You can search for big emails to delete.

Find large emails in Gmail by sorting by size

Emails with big attachments quickly munch through your Gmail inbox space. Chances are, they're not even needed anymore.

The trick is to sort Gmail by size, to find the biggest emails. It just requires a bit of clever searching.

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. The trick is to search for the biggest files first, and work downwards
  3. Search for files over 50MB, by pasting has:attachment size:50mb into the search box
  4. Select each email to delete, then click the Trash icon.
  5. Try the next size down, e.g. search has:attachment size:25mb and delete those.
  6. To look for smaller files, use 'kb' instead of 'mb', e.g. has:attachment size:500kb. (There's 1000kb in 1mb.)
  7. When you're done, click Trash on Gmail's sidebar (you may need to click More), and then "Empty Trash now".

You can expand or develop your own search terms, using Google's help. E.g. to only include PDFs over 5MB, you'd search has:attachment size:5mb filename:pdf.

Delete all Promotions in Gmail, and other categories

Your Promotions tab is stuffed with things you'll no longer need.

But if you're wondering, "Is there a way to delete more than 50 promotions at once?", well yes there is!

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Click the Promotions tab above your inbox
  3. Click the square checkbox in the top left of your list, to the left of the Refresh button.
  4. A banner appears saying "X conversations are selected..."
  5. On the banner, click "Select all X conversations..."
  6. Click the trash icon at the top of the list.
  7. Scroll down the Gmail sidebar until you find "Trash" (you may need to click More)
  8. On the banner at the top of the trash, click "Empty Trash now".

Do you want to only do Promotions older than a certain date? Instead of clicking into the Promotions tab, search for category:promotions before:YYYY/MM/DD, where YYYY/MM/DD is 2 weeks ago. Then select all and delete them as you did above.

Delete older emails in bulk

Trashing old emails, ones that are no longer relevant, is about the easiest clean up you can do.

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Find older emails that you probably don't need:
  3. Search "before:YYYY/MM/DD" to see all emails before YYYY/MM/DD (e.g. 1st December 2022 is 2022/12/01)
  4. Search "before:YYYY/MM/DD -has:attachment" to emails before a date, without attachments
  5. Search "before:YYYY/MM/DD -(invoice OR receipt)" to emails before a date, that are not invoices or receipts
  6. Search "before:YYYY/MM/DD category:promotions" to emails before a date, that are in the Promotions tab
  7. Search "before:YYYY/MM/DD size:1mb" to emails before a date, that are quite large
  8. Then select all, and delete them all.

Don't forget you can delete all emails in your search results, not just the ones you see. All the steps are near the top of this article.

There's plenty more search operators you can use alongside before, to bulk delete emails you no longer need.

Delete all emails from one sender

It's really easy to filter Gmail to just one person, then delete all their emails.

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Find any message from the sender you wish to remove
  3. Right click it and click "Find emails from [sender name]"
  4. Select them all, and click the trash icon.

If there's more than a page's worth of emails, you can delete them all in bulk.

Delete all emails with the same subject

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Search for subject:"[subject fragment]"
  3. E.g. for anything with 'invoice' in the subject, search for subject:"invoice"
  4. Select all emails, click delete (the trash icon)

You can bulk delete more than one page with these instructions.

Mute conversations that don't matter right now

If you're exhausted by notifications for co-worker/customer discussions that don't involve you, but you're cc'd on, you can just Mute them.

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Find the message to Mute
  3. Right click the email
  4. Click Mute

What does mute do in Gmail?

It automatically archive all future messages in the conversation, so they skip the inbox. But they're still in your Gmail, and still searchable.

Slow down replies

You know the feeling: you reply to everyone, and you feel GREAT... until they reply right back. Email is an endless hamster wheel of replies, causing interruptions and enormous stress.

An easy way to lower reactivity in email is to use Gmail's Scheduled Send. So you can write your reply straight away, but not send it until either the end of the day, or first thing tomorrow.

How to use Gmail's Scheduled Send

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Start composing an email
  3. When it's done, click the down arrow to the right of Send
  4. Click Schedule Send
  5. Pick a time from the list

Unsubscribe from emails

Now that you've begun clearing up space, you can stop your inbox refilling with more junk.

You just need to unsubscribe to all emails you don't really read any more.

  1. To find mailing lists that you don't read, type unsubscribe is:unread into your search box
  2. Alternatively, you'll find a lot by clicking Categories in Gmail's sidebar (e.g. Promotions)
  3. Open each email you wish to cancel, and click the Unsubscribe link.

Is there an easier way? Can you unsubscribe from multiple emails at once?

Gmail does make it quite hard. Instead you can try a paid app like

Or block senders in Gmail

So you want to permanently block someone? Perhaps they won't stop sending spam emails. Or it's an overly enthusiastic sales person. (Same thing, right!).

  1. Find an email from the sender you wish to block
  2. Open the message
  3. In the top right of the email, click the 3 dot menu icon
  4. Click Block X (where X is the sender)
  5. If you made a mistake, you can unblock them with the same steps

How to block a sender without opening an email

This is a little bit of a workaround, but if you don't want to even open their email, you can Filter them straight into the trash.

  1. Click Settings in the top right of Gmail
  2. Click 'See All Settings'
  3. Click the 'Filters and Blocked Addresses' tab
  4. Click 'Create New Filter'
  5. In the From field, enter the email address to block
  6. Click 'Create Filter'
  7. Choose to Delete it

What happens when you block someone on Gmail

When you block someone, their future messages go straight into Spam.

Turn on Send and Archive to clean as you go

Now that you've cleaned Gmail, and unsubscribed from mailing lists you don't want, keep your inbox clean by archiving conversation after you reply.

  1. Activate it by clicking the Settings cog icon in the top right of Gmail
  2. Then click 'See all settings'.
  3. Scroll down and select "Show Send and Archive button in reply"
  4. Save your changes and refresh Gmail
  5. Now when you reply to an email, click the 'Send and Archive' button.
  6. It comes back into your inbox when they reply back, but until then, keep it out of sight to keep a clear mind.

Use Gmail Filters to automate cleaning

Filters are only for power users, but if you are sure about your goals, they can really guard your inbox.

These are some top tips...

Automatically archive invoices into an Invoices folder

Filter subject:"invoice" OR subject:"receipt", tell it to Skip the Inbox, and give them a label called Invoices.

Labels are the same as folders, and you find them on the Gmail sidebar. Learn how to create folders.

Roll up newsletters to Read Later

Filter from:[newsletter sender's email address] or subject:"[newsletter's subject]", tell it to Skip the Inbox, and give them a label called Read Later.

Your Read Later folder will be on Gmail's sidebar.

Delete emails you definitely don't need after 6 months

This has to be really precise, because typically you want to check each email before you delete it. This will be automatic!

Filter older_than:6m subject:"Bob's Newsletter".

The key search term is older_than. You can swap the “m” for “y” (year) or “d” (day).

After that, pick a term that will precisely match the email you want.