Somewhere around Dec. 30th of 2012, I opened my email one morning and began my usual routine of clicking the delete box next to all the email I had gotten from websites trying to sell me something, or websites/blogs/groups whose list I had unwittingly ended up on.  When I went into my account that morning, I was notified that I had 52 new emails.  I was in a hurry and wanted to sort out all the nonsense to quickly get to the items that needed my actual attention – emails from clients, friends, or other important notifications.  I scrolled through the messages, clicked the last box, and hit delete.  And then looked at the screen to see how many “actual” emails were left.

Seven.

SEVEN out of FIFTY-TWO.  Seven emails that fell into the category of important or desirable.  That just seemed…wrong.  And a little sad.  (I mean, seriously, I need to email my friends more often if I want to get email from them.  What is a happier start to the day than seeing a friend’s email address and wondering what news lies inside the message?  Instead of shopping online, I need to put my energy into getting more friend mail.)

Instead, my inbox was full of promises from websites who were going to show me how to be more stylish.  Or what holiday gifts I still had time to buy, even though the holidays were over.  Or who wanted to save me 30% – and stress me out about how little time I had left to save it.  The list went on and on.

It got me thinking – I have always loved getting mail.  Even as a kid, I claimed all junk mail that came to the house.  My dad would come home from work, and sort the mail on the kitchen table, and per my request, he would toss the junk mail into the “Laura” pile.  And I faithfully opened every envelope and read what was inside.  In college, a letter from a friend in my mailbox could turn my entire day around, and with the advent of email…good lord, I was in hog heaven.  Not only did I have mail, but it came more than once a day.  No more waiting for the mailman!

Of course, at this point in my life, the shiny has worn off.  And having to sift through all the crap is exhausting and time-consuming.  In addition to all the mail I get online, I still get plenty of stuff in the regular mail too–catalogs, credit card offers, and postcards from stores I’ve visited advertising sales or new merchandise.  While I am able to immediately toss things like credit card offers, I still am a sucker for a good catalog from J. Crew, Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma, or Pottery Barn.  I love poring over these catalogs, admiring the styling and photography and wishing I had a pile of money to buy all of that stuff.  And I have repeatedly used my about-to-expire frequent flyer miles to purchase magazine subscriptions.  For a while last year, I was actually concerned that our mailbox might fall off the side of the house from the weight of all the magazines I would receive at the beginning of the month.

But what I have come to realize, is that for me, with my shopaholic tendencies, this type of mail is not just a fun distraction.  For me those glossy pages create real want – and in the case of online shopping, it is a dangerous, actionable want.  With a couple clicks I can own that stuff I’m pining over, and I have frequently made the choice to do so.  And with online shopping, I can easily forget about the money I spent – something about it just feels so much less real than when you are physically in the store holding the item in your hand.  Until the bills come in, that is.

So I have begun the process of unsubscribing.  On New Year’s Eve, I sat down at the computer and unsubscribed from 80% of the websites from which I was receiving mail.  Why not 100%?  Like I said, I’m a work in progress.  Here are some of the websites that made the cut:

  1. Anthropologie.com – because I can’t quit it.  It’s my favorite store.  I spend waaaayyy too much money there, and often in times when I can’t really afford it.  I have not been physically inside the store in about a month, so that is progress, and while I allow myself to stay on their list, I am practicing discipline about only opening their emails that advertise a sale.  And so far this year, I haven’t bought anything – but I’ll admit, I’ve really, really wanted to.
  2. Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy/Athleta/Piperlime– I get a “c’mon buy something!” email from each of these companies every single day.  So far this year, I have been allowing them to land in my inbox, but deleting them unread.  Why do they get to stay?  They have great sales on a lot of basics.  If I need a plain white t-shirt, I’m probably going to get it at Gap or Old Navy.  And it will probably be cheap, and I will be happy with it and have it for a few years.
  3. Sephora.com – I actually have really good resistance with buying makeup.  I like seeing what’s new, but ultimately am able to look and not buy.  Maybe because I have a TON of cosmetics already, and seem to go thru them very slowly.  The thought of adding another tube or compact to the pile kinda makes me cringe.
  4. Bluefly.com – Confession:  I have never actually bought anything on Bluefly.  The only things I crave on there are dream items – like handbags I will probably never be able to afford in this lifetime – especially if I were to buy them at full price.  Which is why I stay on Bluefly – I have this secret hope that I will someday have $2,000 at my disposal to get my dream bag – which is what it would cost on sale on Bluefly.  I should probably just unsubscribe.  But you know what?  I’m not ready to do that.  I still kinda like my dream.
  5. J. Crew.com – I can’t afford to shop willy-nilly at J. Crew, any time I feel like it, but if I need an investment piece, like a cashmere sweater, a black blazer, or a quality button-down, J. Crew is my go-to.  And when they have sales, they’re good ones.

I am proud to say I have unsubscribed from everything else, including subscriptions to fashion magazines that have made me pine for things I can’t afford.  I have to admit, I do miss admiring the content of all those emails and publications, but not looking at them everyday has relieved the vague anxiety/guilt/want that they always bring up for me.  I guess if you’re a recovering alcoholic, hanging out in a bar is probably not the most helpful idea, and if you’re a recovering shopaholic, a virtual and physical inbox full of store emails, catalogs, and magazines doesn’t really position you for success.

This morning I opened my email and saw I had fifteen new messages.  After sifting out the immediate deletes, I looked at how many new emails were left.

Seven.

And THREE of them were from friends.  That’s not quite lagom for me yet, but it’s better.

How many important/desirable emails do you typically get a day?  And of the non-essential ones, who makes the cut, and why?

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