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How to Archive (or Permanently Delete) All Your Outlook Emails

This post is part of a series called How to Use Microsoft Outlook (Essential Tutorial Guide).
How to Create a New Outlook.Com Email Account (Quick Start Guide)
How to Quickly Delete Your Outlook Account (Or Profile) for Good

Email overload is a very real problem. According to Inc.com over 140,000 emails are sent every minute. And the number of emails each of us receives is increasing. A recent study from the Radicati Group projects that the average worker will receive nearly 129 emails a day in 2019—up from 112 emails per day in 2015.

One problem with having too much email in your inbox is that processing it can eat up a lot of time, causing you to be less productive. A study of a thousand workers from Adobe shows that most people spend between two and three hours a day on email-related tasks. That’s a big chunk of every day!

Yes, a cluttered email inbox can be a real nuisance. Yet, when your inbox is too full deleting or moving individual emails can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, you can quickly remove more than one unwanted email at a time using MS Outlook. Deleting unwanted emails can help you to quickly gain control of your inbox.

When removing emails from Microsoft Outlook, you have a few choices:

  1. Delete the emails.
  2. Archive the emails.
  3. Use the Clean Up tool.

In this tutorial you'll learn how to do both. First, I'll explain how to delete emails in Outlook including how to delete all emails in a folder. I’ll also talk about how to permanently delete emails, which can increase the amount of available storage for your email inbox. Next, we'll examine how to archive in Outlook. Finally, I’ll touch upon the Outlook Clean Up tool, which can also help you to manage your inbox.

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In this tutorial you'll be learning how to archive and delete emails in Outlook in order to make your inbox less cluttered. But before we go any further in the tutorial, I wanted to make you aware of another great resource we've got that can help you to declutter your inbox. Our Free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery is packed with inbox organization strategies and killer tips for managing all your incoming email more efficiently.

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Now let's dive into learning how to archive and delete emails in Outlook.

How to Delete & Archive Emails in Outlook

Learn how to quickly delete and archive Outlook emails in this short video:


For more detailed instructions on how to remove messages from your Outlook email inbox, follow the written tutorial steps below:

How to Mass Delete Emails in Outlook

If you've got a lot of email messages, you probably want to mass delete them to save time. Mass deleting messages means you're deleting several email messages at once.

Note: If you're using Outlook with a Microsoft Exchange server you may have different options for deleting messages. 

1. How to Delete Multiple Emails in Your Outlook Inbox

You can delete multiple emails right from your Outlook inbox. Start with an open inbox:

open outlook inbox email folder
To delete multiple emails in your Outlook inbox, start by selecting the messages you want to delete.

Notice that I’ve got 16 messages in my inbox. It’s time to declutter my inbox and remove some of those messages.

Hold down the CTRL key and click on each message you want to delete to select it. Each selected message will be highlighted in gray:

selected email messages
The messages that are highlighted in gray have been selected.

Once you’ve selected all the messages you want to delete, simply press the Delete key on your keyboard. The messages you selected are removed from your inbox and moved to the Deleted Items folder.

Another way to mass delete the selected email messages is to use the Delete icon (it looks like a trash can) in the ribbon at the top of screen:

how to mass delete emails
Use the Delete icon in the ribbon to mass delete the selected emails.

2. How to Delete All Emails in an Outlook Folder at Once

Another way to mass delete Outlook email messages is by deleting all the messages in a folder. To do this, again start with your Outlook inbox open:

how to delete all emails in a folder
To delete all the emails in a folder, start by selecting the folder. 

Notice that I’ve got a lot of email messages in my Subscriptions folder. This would be a good folder to empty out.

Click on the folder you want to delete all messages from to select it: 

how to delete all emails in a folder 2
To select a folder in MS Outlook, click on it.

The folder you’ve selected will be highlighted in gray. The first message in the folder is also automatically selected and the Reading Pane appears to the far right.

Right-click on the folder you’ve selected. A drop-down menu appears:

drop-down menu with delete all option
Select the Delete All option from the drop-down menu to remove all the messages from a folder.

Select the Delete All option from the drop-down menu. The messages in your selected folder are removed to the Deleted Items folder. Your selected folder is now empty:

empty folder after messages are deleted
Your selected folder will be empty after the messages have been deleted.

3. How to Permanently Delete Your Emails in Outlook

Deleting a message using any of the methods above doesn't automatically mean the message is gone. Rather, the deleted message will be moved to a Deleted Items folder where it can be recovered. To learn more about how to find and restore email messages from the Deleted Items folder, review this tutorial:

The previous tutorial also explains how to create an archive folder in Outlook.

To make sure your deleted messages are truly gone you need to empty the Deleted Items folder. Start with your MS Outlook inbox open:

deleted items folder in outlook
Items send to the Outlook Deleted Items folder are still in your email system until you remove them.

Click on the Deleted Items folder to select it. Then, right-click to bring up the drop-down menu:

how to permanently delete emails in Outlook
When you remove the items from your Deleted Items folder, they'll be permanently deleted.

From the drop-down menu, click the Empty Folder selection. You'll see the prompt:

Everything in the "Deleted Items" folder will be permanently deleted. Continue?

Click the Yes button to continue. A prompt displays showing that the items are being deleted. When the deletion is complete, your Deleted Items folder will be empty.

empty deleted items folder
After you permanently delete the items from your Deleted Items folder, it'll be empty.

Permanently deleting email messages also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of used storage in your email system.

How to Archive Emails in Outlook

What if you don’t want to delete a message, but you also don’t want it cluttering up your inbox or your email folders? Archiving the message is the best solution.

When you move a message to the Deleted Items folder, it’s a preliminary step you take before permanently removing it from your email. Once you permanently delete an email message you can no longer access it. Archiving, on the other hand, allows you to store a message indefinitely.

Note: Messages stored in an Archive folder will take up storage space.

To archive an email message or messages, start with an open inbox. Open the folder that contains the message or messages that you want to archive. In this example, I’ve opened the From My New Boss folder:

messages to be archived
Before you can archive messages, open the folder where they're stored.

Click on the message you wish to archive to select it. To select multiple messages, use CTRL + click. When you’ve finished selecting the messages you want to archive, right-click to display the drop-down menu:

how to archive emails in outlook
Archived email messages are stored in an Archives folder.

Select the Archive option to send your selected messages to the archive.

Another way to archive your email messages is to use the Archive icon (it looks like a file box) in the ribbon at the top of the screen:

archive option in ribbon
You can also use the Archive option in the MS Outlook ribbon to archive email messages.

For more detailed information on Outlook’s Archive and Delete features, review the following tutorial:

Use the Clean Up Option to Declutter Your Outlook Inbox

Another way to de-clutter your MS Outlook inbox is by using Clean Up tool to remove redundant messages—especially in email conversations. Unless you specify otherwise, when you use the Clean Up tool redundant messages are automatically sent to the Deleted Items folder.

An email conversation is all the related messages with the same subject line. For example, if you create a new email message, two people reply to it, and a third person replies to one of the replies—all those messages make up an email conversation. (If you’ve worked with other email tools, you may refer to email conversations as email threads.)

Redundant emails in Outlook are messages that are completely contained within another message. For example, if I send you an email and you reply to it including my original message in your reply, then my original message would be considered redundant. In long email conversations, there can be quite a few redundant messages and they can take up quite a bit of space.

Here’s how to use the Clean Up tool to delete redundant emails:

1. How to Clean Up a Conversation

Start with your inbox open. Select a conversation thread that's got multiple replies:

how to use the clean up tool to delete messages in outlook
The Clean Up tool can help you to delete unneeded emails.

In the ribbon, click the Clean Up icon. A drop-down menu appears:

select clean up conversation
Use the Clean Up Conversation option to remove unnecessary emails in a thread.

From the drop-down menu, select Clean Up Conversation. The Clean Up Conversation prompt appears:

clean up prompt
Use the prompt to clean up messages or to access the Clean Up tool settings.

If you’ve never defined your Clean Up settings before, click the Settings option. The Outlook Options window appears:

Outlook Options window
The Outlook Options window has a section for you to define Conversation Clean Up options.

Scroll down to the Conversation Clean Up section. To change the folder where they go, select a destination folder at the top of this section.

Use the checkboxes in this section to further define what types of messages should be cleaned up and what types should be saved.

When you’ve made your selections, click OK. To clean up a selected conversation, click the Clean Up button on the Clean Up Conversation prompt.

2. How to Clean Up a Folder (& Subfolders)

You can also clean up the contents of an entire folder (including your Outlook inbox). You can also choose to include messages in any subfolders of that folder.

Start with your inbox open. Click on a folder to select it. Click the Clean Up icon. A drop-down menu displays:

clean up a folder
Use the Clean Up Folder or Clean Up Folder & Subfolders option to delete redundant email messages.

Choose one of the following options:

  • To clean up the contents of the selected folder and the contents of any subfolders of that folder, choose the Clean Up Folder & Subfolders option.
  • To clean up just the contents of the selected folder, select the Clean Up Folder option.

Learn More About How to Optimize Your Outlook Inbox

For even more tips on how to organize your Outlook inbox efficiently, study this tutorial:

For a complete guide on how to organize your email inbox sign up for the Tuts+ Business newsletter and grab our free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. It's packed with inbox organization strategies and killer tips for managing all your incoming email more efficiently.  

Take back  your inbox

Keep Your Email Inbox Uncluttered

Now that you know how to delete and archive multiple emails in Outlook, you’re ready to regain control of your Outlook email inbox. You can easily get started today. Also, don’t forget to download your free copy of our free email eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery.

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