Now that Pesach is over, we can actually start with the spring cleaning, and everyone in your house that previously said, “No, that’s spring cleaning,” is, by their word, going to be available to help. But first, while you wait for them to gather, you’re going to want to clean out your email inbox. This has nothing to do with Pesach, of course, as most rabbis are actually saying now that emails are not chometz. But you’ve just gotten the message that your inbox is 92% full and you have to drop everything and take care of it right now, even though if it took 20 years to get 92% full, then mathematically you have a year and a half to take care of it.
I’m having this situation with my Gmail account right now, for the second or third time in as many years. Back when I signed up, they said we get 15 gigabytes for free, which sounded like more than we’d ever need in our lifetimes.
And you want to clean it out, because otherwise you have to pay $2 a month for more storage. And yes, $2 isn’t a lot, but it’s every single month. And you definitely don’t want to be the only person you know paying the $2.
Also, it’s the principal of the thing. It’s all a scam. They rope you into their email service by saying it’s free, and then, like 15-20 years later, they start charging you! $2! That was the plan all along. Talk about evil corporations. Although the truth is you don’t really know how it works and whether the 15 gigabytes of emails you have are actually taking up physical space over there. You do know that you can hold that on a flash drive, so you just picture a million flash drives, and when you look up old emails, the employees are scrambling in a panic to plug the right flash drive into the hole and not do it upside down. You think your computer is moving slow, but really it’s the guys at Google fumbling through a massive keychain of flash drives labeled “Queens.” You don’t know. Whatever it is, 15 gig is the number they decided on.
And you don’t actually know for certain what emails you’re never going to access again. You might think you do. I recently had an idea to apply to write for a certain publication. I composed an entire email – introducing myself, wording everything perfectly, and then I found the right email address and started typing it in, and it turns out it was in my system – we’d had an email conversation 13 years ago in which I’d asked a similar question. What if I’d erased that email?
This could happen to you too. You’re going to introduce yourself in an email and the guy will say, “We’ve had this conversation 13 years ago. I know this because I paid the $2.” And then he won’t do business with you because you’re a genius who asks the same question twice in 13 years.
And you might say that if I don’t remember that I’d written to them, neither do they. But #1, that’s not necessarily true; and #2, in the conversation back then, they said, “If you want you can write for us, but we don’t actually pay.” So that’s a conversation I want to start up again. My point is you never know who you can actually delete.
On the other hand, what’s your other option? To go through the emails one at a time to save $2 a month? How many hours is this going to take? You’ve already gone through twenty pages and your inbox is exactly the same size!
So the #1 piece of advice is, empty your trash folder. Sending emails to your trash folder and wondering why your storage isn’t taking up any less space is like cleaning for Pesach by stacking things on top of your garbage can and wondering why your house isn’t any neater. All you did was move the mess to one corner. So empty your trash, or ask your spouse to do it if you don’t know how. I don’t want to assume the gender roles in your household.
Other than that, here’s a helpful list of items you can easily delete. Some of these items were never important, some should have been deleted right after you read them the first time, some were important at the time but no longer have any bearing on your life, and all of them are from email addresses that you will never have to look up in order to send them emails. Of course, there are exceptions in some of these scenarios, which I noted.
- Emails from Amazon recommending things for you to buy because they’re similar to things you’ve already bought. “I already bought a belt. You know this. Stop trying to sell me belts! I’m not some weird collector!” Exception: Weird collectors.
- “The eruv is up.” This one is important when you get it, but you don’t delete it immediately because what if you want to read the email again right before Shabbos?
- “Your order has shipped.” I mean, you have the item now, right? Also the email that says that it’s been delivered, often with a creepy picture of your doorstep.
- Grocery ads. Because you never say, “Seasons had cholent meat on sale two years ago!” Exception: If you need to check price trends. “Seriously? Their sale price now is the same as their normal price was last year!”
- Literally any email that tells you not to bother hitting reply to this message.
- Emails you got that tell you that the email address you tried sending something to no longer exists. Also the follow-up reminder email of that same message that they send you every 24 hours for a week to drill it into your stupid head.
- Old BD”E emails and shiva info. You might be sentimental, but there are other ways to remember your friend. This is not the way.
- Shul announcements from several years ago. You don’t need to know anymore who sponsored the Shabbos Mevorchim kiddush or what time the Daf Yomi shiur was that week. Or what time davening was. Exception: The rav.
- Emails from your dentist reminding you that it’s time to come in.
- Any email that says that another email will come later and to look out for it. Because sometimes if I’m not looking out for an email, it sails right by me. Or it hits me in the face.
- Kosher Innovations reminding you that it’s Rosh Chodesh tomorrow, which is not the reason you signed up for their emails. Is this one of their Innovations?
- Anything that Paypal or a similar company sent telling you that money is waiting for you. Unless it’s still waiting for you.
- Stuff from your kids’ yeshiva. If it’s from a previous year, it can go. You don’t need to know when your PTA appointment was anymore.
- Any kind of invitation for an event that has passed – particularly teas, Chinese auctions, family upsherins… Exception: If there’s a picture on the invitation of the kid with long hair that you’d like to save so you can send it to his future kallah. So she can see what her daughters might look like.
- Any email containing the word Linked-in. No one has figured out what to do with Linked-in. You put your name in and you click on people you might know, and then… No one knows. And no one will admit it. And particularly,
- Linked-in emails headlined, “Congratulate Abraham Perlstein on his work anniversary!” Who does that? I don’t even know if it’s a real work anniversary or just the anniversary of the date that he happened to type in that that’s what he did for a living, and I don’t know if people constantly sending him “Happy anniversary!” all day will cause him to panic and buy his wife flowers.
- Linked-in emails asking, “Do you know Israel Greenberg, Solomon Kohn, and 6 others?” No, I don’t know 6 others. Exception: If I opened the email and it turns out that hey! I do know these 6 others. Though a few of them I barely know. This one guy emailed me once. We should totally keep passing each other on Linked-in for the rest of our lives.
- Any message from your shul that says what time Mincha/Maariv is on the upcoming legal holiday. And also something called “Yarchei Kallah” from before you knew what that was and assumed it was for girls.
- Any message that says when the Man with the Truck is going to be in town.
- Emails reminding you to say Parshas Haman. Exception: If you like saying Parshas Haman every day, but you tend to forget.
- Any email containing the phrase “please be advised.” You’ve been advised. And you don’t want an ongoing dialogue with anyone who talks like that. Move on.
- Also any email that says, “Attached is the file.” Or, “Enclosed is the photo.” You can’t handle talking to anyone who talks like that in real life either.
- TripAdvisor finding you places to travel every single day of the year, like just because I tried looking once doesn’t mean I don’t have a job.
- “Urgent message from the gedolim in Eretz Yisroel.” I can’t delete this; the gedolim in Eretz Yisroel got together to send me this message. They hunched around the computer, like “This had better be good, because he’s going to make fun of it.”
Okay, I think I need a cleaning break. By which I mean “to actually clean things.”