I have a confession to make: there are thirteen hundred and something unread messages in my inbox. Maybe at the time that I post this it will have reached fourteen hundred and something. I don’t even know how many messages there are if I counted the ones I’ve already read. I find the whole thing overwhelming. I know it’s a sign of my own poor organizational skills. To be fair, I check the ones from people I know. I read those and sometimes keep the trail around to reread and laugh about later. The unreads are usually from the following entities:
Amazon, Barack Obama, Monster, Zappos, Borders, Sephora, eBags and anyone else I’ve checked out donated to, signed the online petition for, or ordered material goods from that required my email address. I either did not uncheck the “Please send me every thought and rambling about what is going on with your deals, political gripes, begging disguised as a guilt trip over donating to a worthy cause, and other offers, or I never clicked the itty bitty hyperlink to unsubscribe on the bottom of the email messages I have received.
My email account is the virtual equivalent to the houses on that show Hoarders. Have you seen this? It’s one of those shows I’ve heard about but never sat down to watch, until I had a week away from home and wireless internet access. I streamed two episodes back to back over my laptop. I streamed another one the other day, while folding laundry. These shows inspire me to clean up, organize and get rid of things I don’t use or need. The living conditions are so unbelievable and disgusting, and yet you cannot bring yourself to look away. You want to see this poor person twitch and agonize over getting rid of a thousand empty Pepsi bottles or dusty and broken picture frames and unfinished needlepoint projects. You can’t help but imagine the smells when the cleaning crew unearths a bathroom or a flattened, dearly departed animal. You can’t make sense of how someone could turn their home into a dumpster and a toilet simultaneously.
I want to criticize these people from my perch on the watching end of the screen, but at the same time, I know I will hold on to something a little longer than necessary if I think there’s a chance I will use it in the future. I don’t want to feel regret when I later look for that thing and realize that it’s gone because I donated it. I know it’s stupid and things are replaceable if I need them later--trust me, I’m working on it. When you have too many things, it becomes obvious because suddenly you find yourself low on space and you also find it harder and harder to get the things you need out from under the things you don’t. It’s sort of that way with email messages, except you can use the handy dandy search function if things get too dire. You also don’t run out of space these days. Gigabytes are so cheap that you can practically use as many as you want, not as many as you need. I know I will do a mass purge at some point. Look into my inbox and you’ll know I’m a hypocrite for pointing the finger at hoarders. There are a few messages I probably need to set aside in folders but the rest can go. I’ve done it several times before, and the last time I took a screenshot of the blissfully immaculate inbox and sent it to my husband. Then the inbox stays manageable for awhile, then the mail piles up again, and it just becomes too much of a pain. Plus, email is deceiving. You might have 15086 messages, but your page only displays the latest ones, in manageable byte sized chunks (please kick me for the pun, I richly deserve it), so you don’t have a true concept of what you’re amassing. There are consequences if you have accumulated 6000 teapots, or newspapers, or cats. There are no major consequences if you have 6000 messages in your inbox. No one really cares. You close the window of your email account and it’s out of sight. A show about someone cleaning up the inbox of an email account wouldn’t yield nearly as many viewers as “Hoarders.” It just doesn’t have the same punch. It is completely on you to manage your pile of email without a psychologist or cleaning crew to stand over your shoulder and assist you. It is completely on you, and that, my friends*, is too much pressure.
*Who am I, John McCain?