Taming the Email Beast

Email is still the web’s central nervous system. It’s an efficient way to connect with other human beings, is required to sign up for nearly any service on the web, and can be such a headache it hardly seems worth the effort. There is a way to get your inbox back.

Start with Gmail. No self-respecting web geek would be caught dead with any other email service, and for good reason. The labeling system, huge storage limits, superior spam detection, filters, and, perhaps most importantly, phenomenal search make it an invaluable web tool to add to your arsenal. For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume you have already done so.

Other Inbox

If you’re familiar with Gmail’s labeling system, great. If not, here’s a quick primer: most email services use folders, which means you can organize your emails into one specific category. Labels allow you to organize them into further and multiple categories. Think of a standard letter being filed into a filing cabinet. You can put the letter into an individual folder, but only that one folder. Labels are more like Post-It Notes- you can put as many as you’d like on one message. So, if you want an email to go into “Receipts” and “Amazon,” you can do that. You can also label that message from your boss as “Important” or “To-Do,” or both. You get the idea.

Other Inbox is  a service that automatically filters incoming messages into predetermined labels. It creates one label called “OIB” and a subset of labels such as “Shopping” and “Finance” and then automatically sorts through your email to place them in the appropriate category, skipping your inbox altogether. Of course, the important emails still reach you. I’ve been using the service for over a year, and have yet to miss anything. If you’re still worried, though, there’s an option to leave all emails in your inbox (but that kinda misses the point, no?). They can also send a Daily Digest message, giving you an overview of all the messages they’ve filtered.

A wonderful time-saving email hack is to search for “unsubscribe” or “newsletter” to discover extraneous email subscriptions to lighten your email load. It can still be a fairly painful process to follow the sender’s unsubscribe instructions, though, often requiring you to log into an account you didn’t know you’d created. OtherInbox creates an OIB/ Unsubscribe label to make the process painless. Simply move your emails to this label, and OIB will work with the sender to unsubscribe you. They also offer a few other features, but we like to keep it simple here, remember?


One of the greatest sources of email overload is the aforementioned fact that to sign up for almost any web service, you must provide your email address. On occasion, though, you don’t want to give your true email address- maybe you just want to take the service for a spin, or perhaps that web magazine requires you to create an account to read one of their articles. Trashmail provides temporary email addresses to bypass these headaches. Visit Trashmail (or use the browser extension***), choose your temporary address and your real email, and Trashmail will forward the emails sent to the temporary address to your real address. You can limit the number of emails sent, or give the temporary address an expiration date, so if you want to receive the first three emails, you can do that. If you want to receive those emails for a week, you can do that, too. Use it any time you come across a shady web service, and let Trashmail take the brunt of the email firestorm, leaving your inbox clutter-free.

There are many more ways to tackle email overload, which have been written about extensively, but by combining OtherInbox and Trashmail, I’ve found a setup that takes very little time to set up, and eliminates the stress-inducing hodgepodge of an exploding inbox.

Other Inbox | Trashmail