Archiving vs Deleting Emails: What’s the Difference?

What's the difference between archiving and deleting email? Here's how it works and why the distinction matters for your digital life.

Archiving vs Deleting Emails: What’s the Difference?

It’s expected that by 2025, there will be over 376 billion emails sent daily. That’s quite a lot of emails getting delivered to inboxes, and if you already have an inbox full of unread or spam emails, that figure might give you some intense anxiety.

Are the emails piling up in your inbox like a mountain of clutter? Are you debating between archiving or deleting them altogether? You're not alone. When it comes to the archive vs. delete debate, there’s a lot to know about the benefits of each one.

Understanding the difference between archiving and deleting emails can be confusing, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all those unread messages it could be tempting to hit delete without turning back.

But before you take that risk, read on to learn more about which option might be the best option for managing your email overload.

What Happens When You Archive Emails?

Does archiving an email mean you're deleting it forever? Nope. Archiving emails is like moving them to a different folder in your email account. When you archive an email, it gets removed from your inbox but remains stored in your account. This helps to keep your inbox organized and free of clutter, as emails that don't require any action can be archived.

After an email is archived, it can be found by searching for the sender’s name or subject in the archive folder (although the exact steps to find it will depend on which email platform or software you're using). The bottom line is that archiving an email doesn’t delete it from your account. Rather, it moves it and keeps it safe for future reference if needed.

What Happens When You Delete Emails

When you delete emails, those messages are removed from your inbox and sent to a “deleted items” folder. This folder is designed to hold deleted emails until they are permanently removed.

Depending on your email provider and settings, you may have access to this folder for a set amount of time before the messages are deleted forever. If you delete something by mistake or if you need access to an old email, this folder can be very useful as a tool to recover it.

Generally speaking, some deleted emails can still be recovered if they have been recently deleted. However, this is typically only the case if you try to recover them within the predetermined timeline set by the email service. For example, Gmail keeps deleted emails for 30 days whereas Outlook keeps them for just 14 days under the default settings.

How Long Should You Keep Emails?

Keeping emails can be an important part of how you stay organized, both at home and in business. The question of how long to keep emails will depend on the content and how much space they'll take up in your system.

Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep any important emails related to legal matters or financial records. Typically, this would include:

  • Tax returns
  • Loan approvals
  • Court paperwork

Keep these stored somewhere for at least seven years. If you don't want them cluttering your inbox, simply print them and store them in a filing cabinet or box somewhere safe.

If you have no further use for an email after a few months, then deleting it could free up storage space and reduce clutter on your server. You don't have to wait until the New Year to declutter your inbox. We recommend cleaning up your inbox every month if you can. If that seems like a lofty goal, then try to aim for a mass clean-up every quarter as part of regular email management.

On the other hand, there are some emails where keeping them could be useful indefinitely; for example, family announcements or invitations to special events. While it may not be necessary to keep them forever, having long-term records that you can easily archive is always beneficial.

Pay Attention to Your Company's Email Retention Policy

Before we answer the question of whether or not you should archive or delete emails, it's important to mention one thing: your company's email retention policy.

An email retention policy is a document that states how long you should retain email messages. It also indicates when you should delete them.

Overall, an email retention policy helps businesses manage their email records efficiently. It also makes complying with any legal or industry regulations easier. Moreover, it also allows employees to use email more effectively by better understanding which emails are temporary communication records and which are long-term.

If your employer has an email retention policy then you'll want to adhere to that. Ask about what kinds of policies they have in place. If they don't have one, then come up with your email retention strategy.

Archive vs. Delete: What Should You Do?

So who wins when it comes to the archive vs. delete debate? Let's quickly recap what we've learned about each method of inbox organization.

Archiving allows you to remove emails from your inbox without permanently deleting them. This proves helpful when you need to refer back to past conversations or task-related emails.

On the other hand, deleting can help clear out lengthy email threads that no longer require attention while also freeing up memory space.

Ultimately, archiving vs. deleting comes down to what suits your needs best: archive if you need easy access to information and delete if you want quick decluttering of your inbox. If you need to free up space in your inbox because it's full, you'll have no other choice but to delete emails. Start with simple emails first and work your way down to the more important ones.

Or, you can use software that helps you with email management. These types of software, like Mailstrom, make it easier to manage a large, overwhelming inbox by grouping emails that are related. This helps you quickly weed out what's unnecessary.

Mailstrom works with your instinctive judgments; unlike some AI solutions, Mailstrom doesn't impose automation on your incoming emails, which means you always know exactly what should be screened and cleared away easily. Mailstrom allows you to act on large numbers of emails all at once, streamlining the task of managing an overflowing inbox.

The Benefits of Email Management

Mailstrom is a solution that won't require you to constantly think of whether you should delete or archive every email that enters your inbox. However, having the ability to effectively manage your emails doesn't mean much if you don't understand the benefits of email management and the positive effect it can have on your personal and professional life.

Improved Productivity

Whether you choose to archive or delete emails using email software or not, decluttering your inbox regularly can help improve productivity. By deleting or archiving emails you are removing clutter and distractions from your inbox, allowing you to focus on important tasks at hand.

Studies have shown that decluttering can lead to improved mental clarity and allow for more efficient task completion. Keeping your inbox clean can also help maintain a professional reputation by ensuring that important correspondence is organized and ready to respond to when necessary. So declutter your inbox today, and start reaping the rewards of increased productivity tomorrow.

Increased Email Storage Space

Decluttering your inbox can be a great way to not only declutter and organize your emails more efficiently but also helps increase storage space. By taking the time to delete or archive all emails that are no longer necessary, you can play an important role in eliminating clutter and making your inbox more organized.

This will help clear up space so that your emails can be stored easily in your email account without any issues. The bottom line? Not only will decluttering your inbox help with the organization and usability of emails, but it will also free up much-needed storage space for future use.

Better Email Recall

Finally, decluttering your inbox is essential if you have a large number of emails and want to ensure that you’re able to remember their contents when needed. By deleting or archiving emails, you can keep your inbox relatively clutter free and make it easier to access important messages when they come through.

Not being overwhelmed by emails makes it much easier to find the right information quickly and recall the email contents accurately. It also helps you stay on top of current email conversations and make sure all messages are read and responded to promptly.

How to Organize Your Emails With Mailstrom

Are you tired of trying to guess which is best when it comes to archive vs. delete? Ready to organize your inbox? We're here to help.

Mailstrom is a powerful web-based email client that can help you take control of your inbox. With features like deleting, archiving, moving messages, and more, it's easy to get rid of unwanted emails in bulk. You can also click here to easily unsubscribe from newsletters and block senders or subjects. Talk about an all-in-one email tool.

Plus, our software offers automated rules and daily or weekly email reports so you can stay on top of your inbox without having to put in the extra effort. Make organizing your emails easier by clicking here to get started.