Tech Guide

How to clear all those old emails out of Gmail so you don't have to pay for storage

Key Points
  • Longtime Gmail users may be starting to run out of the 15 gigabytes of free storage Google provides.
  • Here's how you can delete thousands of clutter emails in bulk and free up space.
Jordan Novet | CNBC

If you've been using Gmail for a decade or so, you're probably running into your storage limit. You can pay for more space, or you can simply delete old emails and make room.

Since 2013, Google has offered users 15 gigabytes of free storage. This space can be used for your Gmail, Google Drive files and Google Photo images. For many users like me, emails take up the bulk of this space.

Below is a 30-minute process I use about once a year to delete thousands of emails in bulk. I recently used this technique to delete about 18,000 emails from my inbox, freeing up about half a gigabyte. That's about 3 percent of the total storage Google offers.

Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Identify email you can delete

You might think all your emails are precious, but they're not. Most people subscribe to newsletters and news alerts that are valuable in the moment but become clutter immediately after. For instance, I receive Google Alerts, newsletters, fantasy football alerts and promotional emails from Netflix, HBO Now and many more services. Identify these types of emails as the ones you want to delete.

Step 2: Seek

On your computer, head to Gmail.com, and click on one of the repeat emails you've identified. Once open, click on the three dot icon at the top of the email on at the far right side of the icon menu. Select "Filter messages like these."

You can delete clutter emails in bulk by using Gmail's "Filter messages like these" feature.

Check the open square at the top left of the screen and then click "Select all conversations that match this search." This will select every single email in your inbox like the one you first chose. Click on the trash icon and delete the emails. Do this for every type of repeat email you want to delete.

If you're worried about deleting receipts, don't fret. Companies tend to use different email addresses for marketing material and customer receipts. You can double-check this if you're feeling cautious, but in most cases, these emails will come from different email addresses.

Step 3: Seek older emails

Companies will sometimes change the email addresses they use to send newsletters and alerts, so you may also want to find older versions of those emails and repeat this process. This will allow you to delete even more copies of these emails.

This link will take you into the depths of your inbox -- 100 pages deep, to be exact. Once there, you can find older emails and repeat the process from Step 2 to delete in bulk. You can also jump around through your inbox by editing the URL. At the end of the URL, it should say "p100." The larger the number, the further back in your inbox you will go.

Step 4: Destroy

Deleted emails disappear from your inbox, but they'll linger for another 30 days in your Trash. If you're in desperate need for space, scroll down on the left-hand menu of the screen and open your Trash folder. There, select "Empty Trash now" and delete everything.

Step 5: Unsubscribe

Now that you've cleared up space, you can also take a step to keep your inbox open using the Gmail unsubscribe button. You can use this feature to easily stop receiving any clutter newsletters you no longer want.

To do so, click on one of these newsletter emails. Once open, look for the light gray underlined "Unsubscribe" button in small letters. Click on that and then click on the large blue "Unsubscribe" button that pops up. Repeat this for any newsletter you no longer want.

Gmail's filter feature can be used to automatically mark certain types of emails as "read" as soon as they hit your inbox. The feature can also be used to retroactively mark emails as "read."

Step 6: Set up filters

Now that you're cleared out, let's do something about that constantly rising counter of unread emails.

I suggest using Gmail's filter features to automatically mark certain emails read without deleting them. This is best used for things like receipts from services you often use, such as Uber, Venmo, Netflix or Apple.

Start by clicking on one of these emails. Click on the three dot icon on the top left, followed by "Filter messages like these." On the next screen, click "Create filter" and then check the box for "Mark as read." If you have a bunch of these emails that are unread, you can also check the box that says "Also apply filter to matching conversations." Finish the process by clicking on "Create filter."

If you need to edit or delete filters, you can find all of them by clicking on the gear icon at the top right corner of the screen and selecting "Settings." You can find all of your filters by clicking "Filters and Blocked Addresses."

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