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Issue #786: August 14-20, 2022

Q: My question is about email storage, Gmail in particular.

Gmail is, as everyone knows, watching people’s email storage most likely in hopes of beginning an incremental charge for stored or undeleted emails.  I get a “Gmail almost full” warning every week or so which prompts me to dump my junk into trash and then my trash into wherever that goes.  While doing this, I noticed all of the different sub boxes, like ‘flagged’ and ‘important’.

Every single email comes in through my inbox and is then also found in various other boxes.  If I delete the redundant emails it takes them out of my inbox as well, even if I don’t want the original deleted.  How do I get rid of these multiple boxes that catch every email multiple times without deleting those I want to be left in the inbox on ‘read’.  Since each email goes to 3-4 different boxes it’s no wonder I’m running low on space!!

Please help me get rid of all this excess!!!!

– Jeanne D.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

A:  Whew – okay, Jeanne, we’re going to start by correcting some perceptions that you have about Gmail that are a little off.

First, what you are calling “redundant emails” and “multiple boxes” are neither of those things.  Gmail does not create or maintain multiple copies of each e-mail, nor does it create or populate multiple boxes for you, thereby eating up your storage space.  In fact, you seem like a rather observant person, but it somehow escaped you that when you delete a message, and apparently the “other” e-mails in the “multiple boxes” also disappear, that what’s going away is merely multiple views of a single message.

These other “boxes” that you see are actually filters that Gmail has designed in an attempt to help you pare down your inbox to a more manageable state.  It doesn’t create new copies of e-mails, but rather shows a filtered sub-set of what’s in the main inbox. While this may not be of great importance to everybody, I hope you can see the value in being able to filter out and see only the e-mails that you have flagged or marked as important.  If you only receive a few e-mails every day, that might not sound like a big deal, but many people receive hundreds, even thousands of e-mails a day, and being able to view them like this can be a tremendous help.

If this feature isn’t for you, it is possible to turn it off.  For my other readers, if this sounds like something you’d like to try, keep reading.  To adjust the functionality of your Gmail inbox, from within Gmail click the gear icon at the top of the page, then from the Settings navigation bar, click “Inbox”.

The first thing you’ll want to do is select what type of Inbox you want Gmail to use. For the most part, the names are descriptive of what they do.  If you’re confused by all the choices, just choose “Default”.  Next, you’ll be offered a suite of “Categories”, which, Jeanne, I suspect is what is causing your perceived issue.  If you uncheck all except “Primary” your multiple boxes should go away.

As for your storage, remember that your Gmail storage is shared with all of Google’s other apps.  Google provides a generous 15 gigabytes of free storage with every account, and you can purchase more if that’s not enough for you.  You can see how your storage is being used by clicking your account picture in the upper-right corner of any Gmail page.  Select “Manage Your Google Account” to be taken to the main account management page.  At the very top of the page is a text entry field labeled “Search Google Account.”  In this box, type the word “Storage” and in the search results, click on “Account storage.”  You’ll see a breakdown of how your 15 GB is shared among all of Google’s apps.  If you truly have it all allocated to Gmail, then you’re retaining a huge amount of data in your account.  Either delete what you can live without or consider the option to expand your storage.  You can get 100 GB for only $2.00 per month, or 200 GB for $3.00.  Only you can say whether making your problem go away is worth a few bucks.  Good luck!


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