How to Empty Your Gmail Inbox Quickly

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You can empty a Gmail inbox quickly and delete or archive the messages all at once.

Is Your Gmail Inbox Making You Sick?

A big, full inbox is one healthily fed. Is it also one, though, that is healthy for you?

Do you dread, by now, opening Gmail instead? Do you have thousands of messages hidden possibly forever and out of sight anyway—though waiting to be handled as an ever-growing pile whose increasing mass weighs on you like a grindstone?

Are you willing to try on, at least, an empty inbox for a day and find out, perhaps, what good it could do you to keep it that way?

A Fresh Start, Even If the Inbox Zero Is Fake?

Starting new is easiest, of course, from a beginning—a beginning that is unburdened and has you race downhill.

In Gmail, you can start with an empty inbox at any time, and easily too: it takes but a few steps and clicks to either archive or delete all the message that currently occupy your inbox. If you want, you can label them before archiving, so you lose nothing (you can bring up an "old inbox" whenever you desire with all the archived messages).

Empty Your Gmail Inbox Quickly

To archive or delete all emails in your Gmail inbox at once:

  1. Click in the Gmail search field.
  2. Type “is:inbox”.
  3. Hit Enter.
  4. Click the Select column header.
  5. Select All from the menu that has appeared.
    • You can also press *a.
  6. If you see Select all conversations that match this search on top, click it.
  7. Optionally, to make sure you can still identify the emails that occupied your inbox:
  8. Now, to archive all messages from your inbox (the messages will still be available through All Mail and search, for example, but gone from your Gmail inbox):
    1. Click the Archive button or press a.
  9. To delete all messages instead (the emails will be moved to the Trash, from which they will be permanently deleted after a while):
    1. Click the Delete button on press Backspace.

This will act on all the messages in your Gmail inbox. If you have inbox tabs—Social, Promotions and Updates, for instance, in addition to Primary, you can delete or archive the tabs individually, of course. Instead of performing the “is:inbox” search, go to the desired tab.

Alternatives to the Gmail Web App for Emptying Your Inbox

If you have set up Gmail in an email program (using IMAP), chances are you can empty your inbox there fast as well:

  1. Open the inbox folder.
  2. Select all messages: press Ctrl-A (Windows, Linux) or Command-A (Mac).
  3. Move the messages to an archive folder or delete them in bulk.

Keeping Your Gmail Inbox Clean—Perpetually

In addition to radically cleaning your Gmail inbox, you can also keep managing it better. Gmail offers tools to help you with that: you can use inbox tabs, for example, to have incoming mail organized automatically, or focus solely on key messages in your Gmail inbox.

You can do things to keep your inbox manageable as well, of course.

First, make sure you do avoid the trap that has stale emails linger in your inbox. If you avoid email interruptions—say, by Gmail new mail notifications—and schedule time dedicated to email—and dedicated to doing email effectively while you avoid even looking at your mail at all other times—, you can spend less time on email and still keep your Gmail inbox cleaner than most.

For a relaxed and so much less stressful way of dealing with all your email, try dealing with today's mail—tomorrow.

(Updated October 2015)