Over 80% of our email is redundant, obsolete, or transitory. Many types of email have no administrative, legal, fiscal, or archival retention requirements. These emails are considered transitory and redundant and can be deleted as soon as their reference purpose is served. Deleting these emails regularly makes it easier to manage the remaining substantive messages.

What am I required to save?

Before you start deleting, briefly review the UR Retention Policy for a firm grounding on the University’s expectations for email management.


Follow the guide below to remove the unnecessary clutter.


Deleted items

Before you do anything else, empty your Deleted Items or Trash folder. You must empty your Deleted Items/Trash folder to fully delete and remove the email from impacting your storage limits.

From now on, empty your Deleted folder at least every 3 months or more frequently if possible. While you’re at it, empty the Recycle bin on your desktop. Set a recurring reminder in your calendar to empty your Deleted/Trash folder.

Newsletters and listservs

Newsletters and listservs are excellent sources of information and community, but they are also high-volume inbox fillers. You can safely delete newsletters once the reference purpose has been served.

Pro tip: Create a rule in Outlook that automatically moves newsletters to a separate folder and skips your inbox. This makes them easier to delete after reading and allows you to review these messages when convenient for your schedule instead of demanding your attention the moment they land in your Inbox, among other more urgent emails.

Search for: “unsubscribe,” including UR-related newsletters (@Rochester, IT-Notices, URMC This Week, Eastman Weekly, etc.). To exclude a particular name or other word from your search results, such as substantive emails from a vendor using a template that includes the word unsubscribe, type “NOT” then your desired term: unsubscribe NOT Eastman Weekly

Automatic Notifications

Automatic notifications generated by databases or other centralized systems, such as Workday, SharePoint, OneDrive, Zoom, or Teams, are considered duplicates and can be destroyed as soon as they have served their reference purpose. They will be visible and accessible for their full retention period in the system of record and can be reproduced as needed.

Search for the following terms:

Meeting Items

Calendar notifications and any emails arranging meetings are informal notifications/communications and can be deleted as soon as the reference purpose has been served. If you are not the owner of the meeting, you can also delete copies of agendas and meeting minutes distributed to you as an attendee, as they are considered duplicates. Tip: Remember to search your Sent mail for these meeting items. In Outlook, sort your Inbox by Type to gather all meeting items, then delete them.

Search for the following terms:

  • subject: ”Automatic reply”
  • subject: “Accepted:”
  • subject: “Maybe:”
  • subject: “Declined:”


All drafts in any format or location can be deleted as soon as the email or file is finalized, and the draft is no longer needed for reference.



The junk filters set by University IT/ISD rarely miss a beat. Every 3-6 months, take a quick cruise through your Junk folder to ensure that it only contains junk, then delete it—sort by Sender to make it easier to skim.

Voicemails in your email

Many of us, especially while working remotely, choose to be alerted to new voicemails via our email accounts. Depending on your voicemail system’s settings, you may also receive an attached sound file. Delete these emails as soon as they have served their reference purpose, just as you delete voicemails.


Search for:  Subject: “Voice Message” AND hasattachment:yes


Were you copied on an email for your information only? Have you already taken the action or learned the facts you needed? Delete the email. Make this a daily habit. Remember, CC stands for carbon copy. Before the advent of email, a typist created an original document, and the carbon copy was a backup and exact duplicate of the original document that a person could tear off with a dramatic flourish before sending it to the file dungeon via pneumatic tubes.

 Search for: CC: your email address

Remove Attachments from Sent Items

Attachments can be removed from an e-mail message while leaving the message intact. Removing attachments can be an easy way to reduce your mailbox size.

To find messages with attachments, you might want to sort your Inbox temporarily by attachments. (Find all messages with Attachments)

  1. Removing attachments:
    • Open the email message in the reading pane or double-click it to open it in a new window.
    • Select the drop-down arrow next to the attachment name, then select Remove attachment. You can also select Save to OneDrive or Save As first to transfer the attachment to OneDrive or your computer, then select Remove attachment.

If the email message contains multiple attachments, select the first attachment, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard, then select the last attachment. Select Remove attachment to remove all selected attachments.

  • Close the message and save the changes.
  1. Saving the attachment to a file:
    • Open the email message in the reading pane or double-click it to open it in a new window.
    • Select the drop-down arrow next to the attachment name, then select “Save As…”.
    • Give it a new name, preferably on your network drive so that it can be backed up.
    • Once you have it saved, then remove the attachment from the message as shown above.


Automate the process with a Retention Policy

Set a retention policy through Outlook Web Access (VPN required if remote) to automatically process emails over a certain age.

Policies can automatically:

  • MOVE emails older than one, three, or five years old to the Online Archive.
  • DELETE emails one, three, or five years old.