Home » Tips » How to find and discard old Gmail emails without having to review your entire inbox

How to find and discard old Gmail emails without having to review your entire inbox

Overwhelmed by old emails in Gmail? Don’t feel like looking at your entire inbox once? Here’s one approach, that I use:

  • Make sure your email list is in reverse date/time order (the default)
  • Create (or update) a Notepad file to list Gmail search queries (you can use any text editor for this)
  • Paste the desired query into the Gmail search box at top, and run the query
  • Your results will include the desired emails, still in reverse date/time order – go to the bottom of the results list
  • Trash (or label-and-save) all queries older than a time frame of your desire (I use a seven-day cutoff)

The general format of a simple search query is:

  • from item-1 OR item-2 OR … OR item-N in:inbox (the word ‘OR’ must be capitalized)

Note that:

  • More than one of these queries can be kept in the same file (just copy and paste the one you want to use).
  • You can put the query on more than one line, for visibility purposes.
  • Query items containing special characters, or spaces, should be enclosed in double-quotes.
  • Suggestion: as much as possible, within a query, put your specific items in alphabetical order.
  • Suggestion: set up one query per category of your choosing (I use restaurants as one of my categories in the example below)
  • You do not have to include the entire name of something in a query item, as long as you use complete words. In the example below, I use papa and waffle to refer to Papa John’s and Waffle House, respectively.
  • Queries are not case-sensitive: for example, waffle and Waffle work equally well

Here is an example from my search file, to list emails from various restaurants:

      from:”applebee’s” 
      OR “bailey’s” OR “bertucci’s” 
      OR “Cheesecake factory” 
      OR “Famous Dave’s” OR foushee OR “friday’s” 
      OR “keagan’s” OR longhorn
      OR “maggiano’s” OR mezcal OR “mimi’s” 
      OR “o’charley’s” 
      OR panera OR papa 
      OR “ruby tuesday” 
      OR “texas de brazil” OR “texas roadhouse”
      OR “UNO’s”
      OR waffle 
      in:inbox

Since I ran this today to clean up my restaurant emails, I deleted everything before October 8 (I didn’t want to save any of those emails). The first time you set up such a query, you will need to comb through your old emails to get the query items – then build your query as desired, keeping the basic structure.

The beauty part of this is that these queries are easy to update if you want to add or delete specific items. Try this out as desired – hope this works for you!

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