Let’s Talk: Email Hoarding

Have you ever arrived early to a classroom and watched the professor set up? The projector’s already on, their email account brought up, and you can see the entirety of their email inbox? I did this once last year and I was shocked to discover that my professor had over 50,000 emails in her inbox.

I’ve always been the kind of person who cleans. I file things away, label them, and get them out of sight. This is especially true for emails. So while it didn’t surprise me that my professor had received 50,000 emails, it did surprise me that she’d kept them all. And in her inbox of all places. Since then however, I’ve realized that keeping emails is way more common than I originally thought. In fact, most of my friends are what I would consider to be “email hoarders.”

Unlike snail mail, email allows you to digitally store all the messages you’ve received. For people who like to keep records, this is a dream come true. They can save thousands of emails without ever having to take up any physical space and, better yet, its searchable. I do this at work all time so that I can refer back to earlier conversations and details on subject matter. In fact, my work requires it. As a law firm we save everything, especially if it’s in writing.

But there’s a difference between storing and hoarding. A record keeper files things. They put labels on their emails or sort them into folders. Hoarders, don’t. They keep thousands of unsorted emails floating around in their inbox, including (but certainly not limited to) advertisements and store sale notifications. They keep expired coupons and outdated flight information. They hold onto shipping notifications from five-year old Amazon purchases. That’s the real life equivalent of saving your weekly supermarket circulars, old newspapers, and National Geographic magazines, plus every bill, every holiday card, and every receipt or packing slip you’ve ever received. It’s what most people would considering hoarding.

So why do people do it? I can understand the merits of saving an email conversation between yourself and a friend. I can appreciate someone who holds onto account information or email confirmations until their packages are received intact. But what’s the purpose of storing something you can’t use? What’s there to be gained by hoarding outdated ticket stubs? This I have never understood.

Are you an email hoarder or do you frequently file and trash things like I do? Let me know in the comments down below!


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