My mailbox swelled to the point that the “comparing notes with server” function seen in Mail’s Activity viewer (found in the Window menu) would take almost a minute to complete. I looked into it a bit, and found that I had saved over 40,000 messages in the past few years. This included communication with customers, vendors, co-workers, friends, and family‚Äďand a healthy dose of spam.

I came to grips with the situation, and convinced myself that saving three-year-old email is obsessive, unhealthy, and certainly unnecessary. While I could probably get away with saving email for only six months, I find myself looking for emails sent or received in the past year quite often. So, I told myself I’d keep email for only 12 months, and set out to do just that with Smart Mailboxes.

Smart Mailboxes are dynamically updated mailboxes just like Smart Playlists in iTunes and Smart Folders in the Finder. You can specify any number of criteria, or just one. In my case, I wanted a folder to hold mail more than one year old. I clicked on the plus symbol on the bottom left of the Mail application’s window and selected New Smart Mailbox. Alternatively, you can select New Smart Mailbox from the File menu, or control-click on the mailbox you want your Smart Mailbox to draw from.

There’s limitless potential here to keep yourself organized. Unlike the old days of manually sorting your mail, or having only rigid Rules to automatically sort your stuff, Smart Mailboxes are infinitely more nimble and extensible. Give them a shot.

By the way, reducing my inbox by 25,000 messages really sped up checking for new mail, particularly at home when I’m off the Small Dog network. Ignore your pack-rat urges and clean up shop!

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