How to Free Up Space in Gmail

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If you find yourself running low on storage space inside Gmail, Lifehacker has a good piece on a service called Find Big Mail. The service basically hooks into your Gmail account and creates three new folders in your inbox: My Big Mail, My Really Big Mail, and My Ultra Big Mail. You can then scour the messages in those folders and delete the ones you don’t need.

It’s free to use while in its alpha testing stage, but the site’s servers were overloaded when I tried to use it just now. That’s okay, though, because I’ll show you some other ways to clean out your Gmail account without using a third-party service. Roll up your sleeves, ladies and gents.

Search for Attachments


E-mail messages with attachments are the number one cause of inbox overload since attachments are often each exponentially larger than the actual message inside which they’re attached. Gmail features several special search filters, one of which we’ll use to display only the messages in our inbox that contain attachments.

In Gmail’s search bar, simply type “has:attachment” without the quotes.

You will be returned a list not only of messages that actually have files attached to them, but messages that have images embedded inside the body of the messages themselves. The messages with the paper clip icon next to them have actual attachments—no paper clip means embedded images.

Now that you have a list of all your large-sized messages, you can go through and delete the ones you don’t need. But that can be a bit cumbersome, especially if you’ve been using Gmail for a long time. In that case, we have some other tricks to try.

Search for Older Messages


Do you really need that Evite from New Year’s Eve 2002? Or all those dancing baby forwards? If you’re a live-in-the-now type of person, you could probably stand to clear out a bunch of e-mails from the past.

Same basic idea as the previous tip. In Gmail’s search bar, we’re going to type “before:2005/01/01” without the quotes. Insert any date you like instead, but note that you have to type the year first, then the month, then the day.

You’ll be returned a list of all messages from before the date you enter, at which point you can go through and clear out the ones you don’t need.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to combine these two tricks, though?

Search for Older Messages with Attachments


All we’re going to do is combine the two search parameters above.

Inside Gmail’s search box, type “has:attachment before:2005/01/01” without the quotes and you’ll get a list of all messages from before 2005 that have attachments or embedded photos.

Be sure to put a space between “attachment” and “before” in the search box.

Delete Spam


This is by far the easiest trick, though it’s not really a “trick” per se.

Click on your spam folder and then hit the “Delete all spam messages now” link to clear out all the junk. Gmail only keeps 30 days of spam messages before deleting them anyway but man, oh man, even just in the past 30 days, I have almost 5000 spam messages wasting space in my inbox.

Other Search Options


Google has a list of all the advanced search operators available from within Gmail. You can combine any of them to create your own searches, no matter how elaborate.

You can also accomplish much of what’s been outlined above by clicking the “Show search options” link next to the search box, though much of the more advanced search parameters will have to be typed in by hand.

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