Eliminate unwanted email subscriptions

One of the things I love to do in January is to unsubscribe from unwanted email lists, newsletters, digital sales fliers, and so on. After spending 11 months ignoring them whenever they show up, it’s time to get rid of them entirely. In this post I’ll explain a few ways to purge electronic mail lists from your email inbox, from one-at-a-time to bulk action.

It’s my fault for subscribing in the first place, of course. Often when I do, my intentions are good. I’ll find a new site or service that I’m interested in and think, “Yes, I do want to keep up to date with this company’s stuff.” Once I’ve done that a dozen times, I’m in trouble. Digital clutter is just as insidious as its real-world counterpart, so it’s time to make a change.

Identify likely candidates

I’m not opposed to email subscriptions. There are many that are quite useful (like the Unclutterer email subscriptions, obviously). Therefore, the first step in this process is to identify the ones you’ll get rid of in your purge versus the ones you wish to keep. I do this via a week of mindful email reading. Each day, I’ll make a mental note of the subscriptions I simply delete without reading. If you like, create a folder for these, mark them with a flag or otherwise tag them for future reference. When I did it, I just wrote a list on a piece of paper.

Let the culling begin!

There are a few ways to unsubscribe from unwanted email. If you’ve only got a few to jettison, you could go the manual route. If you look closely in the footer of the email you receive, you’ll see something along the lines of “click to unsubscribe” or simply “unsubscribe.” You might have to look closely, as it’s sometimes hard to find. The message’s sender wants to keep your attention, after all. Clicking this link will bring you to a webpage that likely has further instructions. Many will unsubscribe you then and there, while others will have you jump through additional hoops. It’s kind of a hassle, but worth it when the result is less junk mail. Of course, this method is too time-consuming if you’ve got a long list of unwanted subscriptions. In that case, consider one of the following:

Unroll.me. Not only does Unroll.me help you kill unwanted subscriptions, it makes the keepers more manageable by presenting them in a single, daily digest email. You can even roll things like messages from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube into that single message. Tidy!

Mailstrom. This is another service that lets you cull hundreds or thousands of messages at once and send them all to the big, virtual trash bin in the sky, while keeping the messages you want to see intact. Plus, it works with the email solution you’re probably already using, as it’s compatible with Gmail, Google Apps Email, Outlook, Apple, Aol, and Exchange IMAP.

A tip for Gmail users. If you’re using Gmail, take a close look at the top of a message. You’ll likely see an “Unsubscribe” link. Google has made this a uniform location for this link, which is great, as it saves you from scouring a message’s footer for the hard-to-find default link.

Unlistr. Finally, this is a service that does the dirty work for you. Simply identify the email senders you don’t want to hear from anymore, and Unlistr does the rest, unsubscribing for you. Thanks, Jeeves!

9 Comments for “Eliminate unwanted email subscriptions”

  1. posted by Meg on

    As junk emails come in, I create a rule to send these straight to deleted messages. I’m fairly good about double checking that new companies I deal with aren’t in the list. (ie I don’t have an account w Bank of America. If I should get one, then take out the rule to send things calling themselves B of A right to deleted.)

  2. posted by liz on

    With my email account, I get a number of subaccounts. I use one for all those times when you HAVE to provide an email address. I check that one once a year and do mass deletes.

    I have one personal and one business account that I check several times a day. But I also have reserved a few additional names in case I want to use one for a specific purpose or time frame.

    I set up folders and create rules to send emails to them. So there are some folders I will look at daily and others I can glance at whenever. My email system also lets me teach it which mails I consider to be spam or junk. I could set up a rule to delete it, but just listing it as spam is faster. I check the spam folder in the am and before I close up the laptop, just in case a legit email was sent there. If I have time, I check for the unsubscribe link on a company and use it. The spam and delete folders are cleared at least once a day.

    With the holiday season, I saw an increase in catalogs that I did not ask to receive. I generally took off the address page and recycled the rest. When I have a few minutes, I’ll give the 800 number a call to request that I be taken off of their mailing list.

  3. posted by Michaela on

    I have been deleting emails subscriptions all month here. I woke up one day and realized I suddenly had all these blogs I never read or places I never shopped, so I have made a huge production of opting out of these. Its made a big difference in my email account, and I no longer feel like I am spending a portion of my life deleting emails. Its nice just to see what I need vs. being bombarded with junk.

  4. posted by M:s Hanson on

    Going (mostly) paperless over the last several years reduced my dependence upon filing cabinets and printers, while transferring much of that stuff to my virtual storage.

    I notice some of my favorite newsletters offer weekly or monthly subscription options, saving the Inbox clutter in the first place. Most have their own archives, too.

    Liz, PaperKarma will unsubscribe you from those paper catalogs – for free! Snap a pic on your phone, send via app, and it stops.

  5. posted by Consciousness Junkie on

    Great tips! I love unroll.me, and keeping a clean inbox is so helpful in being able to focus and concentrate instead of being distracted by the virtual clutter. It’s hard to remain mindful when you’ve got so much email that may not be useful or timely.

  6. posted by Leslie on

    I maintain different emails based on set tasks. I have all my house bills (I’m mostly paperless) come to one email address (I also use this email for car/house-related stuff like insurance, banking, dmv), another I use for placing orders or if I’m required to supply an email addy and I suspect that my contact info will be sold, and two that are work-related. It makes it really simple to check email and process anything that requires action. But I do find that I still have a tremendous number of subscriptions/emails that are unwanted. There have been times where I simply took the time to click/unsubscribe in one bulk chunk of time and other times, I will take a few at a time when I have some time while I’m waiting on the phone or an application to finish processing. Both methods seem to work well for me.

  7. posted by heather on

    Thank you for recycling this on Twitter this afternoon! Just this week I had been thinking about this, and after reading this article I’m starting to go for it.

  8. posted by Virgil Contos on

    Good post, David. Pretty basic yet important stuff for keeping your computer operations organized and cutting down the noise, thus saving time. Email is a communication tool. If your not interested in what’s being offered it’s just a one way conversation. Dump it.

  9. posted by Jeana on

    I was getting too many sale emails, but didn’t want to unsubscribe from the lists because they were stores I actually shop in. Turns out you can use Google Apps Scripts to run on your email – I now have scripts that delete any emails I have labeled as “Sales” that are over 2 weeks old.

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