How many email folders do you need?

How many email folders do you need?

While Gmail users might favour the sort-nothing-and-search-when-you-need-it approach, there's still a lot to be said for moving mail into folders, especially if it's from a mailing list or other regular source. But how many folders should you have to ensure you're not overwhelmed by unread mail in loads of locations? In a post discussing ways of controlling email overflow, Microsoft blogger Doug offers his suggestion:

Set up a few folders to automatically send system emails to: status reports, system issues. Set up a few folders for key projects, key emails from your managers, personal emails, FYI's. But limit yourself. Say, no more than 12.

Personally, I have a lot more folders than that -- more like 40 -- though probably 10 or so of those are archival and could be collapsed without my really caring. What do you think the optimal number of email folders is? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Dear Brother: This is how I tamed my email [Inside Office Online]


  • I used to use a lot of folders, but after moving to Outlook 2007 at work – improved search – and after reading numerous posts from Lifehacker and 43 Folders on the subject, I moved to using just my Inbox and an Archive folder. With a commercial plug-in for Outlook called Taglocity, I have almost the same functionality in Outlook as I get in Gmail (which I use for personal email), tagging messages with categories rather than filing them into folders.

  • I’m self employed now, but even when I was working in an NGO I would run about 10 folders in my main email app.
    I still do. But I find that as I’ve got better and better with Gmail (never did get around to studying Lifehacker’s Gmail tips) mainly labelling and filtering I just don’t need all those folders.
    How often do I really need to look at emails more than a week old? I really don’t – and if I do they are neatly in the conversation anyway or labelled.
    I think the strength of this is that I’ve grown into Gmail – nice and unforced.

  • I’m open to recommendations for more Outlook plug-ins. Which are the best?

    I have a lot of folders — about 15, and then some sub-folders too. I also have setup quite a few rules with certain e-mails going automatically to certain folder.

    I still find myself going over the company’s 450MB limit quite often. Finding it hard to keep it under that. I guess I just have to be a bit more pro-active with auto-archiving :-).

  • I’ve found labels and archive in Gmail work almost exactly the same as folders. Though with labels I seem to use a crazy # more than I ever did with folders in Outlook.

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