Whether you're declaring email bankruptcy or laundry bankruptcy, sometimes the only way to climb out from under the pile of real or virtual clutter is to start from scratch. Our advice: Don't be afraid to declare bankruptcy as often as you need.
Something devious goes on in our brains that makes it difficult to give up on a big pile of emails, for example, and just start over with a clean slate. It feels like you're admitting failure, and that never feels good. The problem is that that pile of stuff has been accumulating for a while, and the longer you let it go, the more insurmountable it gets. The pile keeps growing, and as it does, you're less and less likely to address it head on. The quick (and sometimes best) solution:
Declare bankruptcy. In your email account, that means archiving all those emails you're meaning to reply to but just haven't gotten around to. If you need to send out an email to your contacts letting them know you've declared email bankruptcy, so be it. Bcc a big list of people you were never going to get back to in the first place and let them know you're starting over; it's better than they were going to get from you otherwise.
In other areas, declaring bankruptcy can simply mean wiping your slate clean of all those things you've been meaning to get to but just haven't done. Remember, as soon as your good intentions start spilling over into stressful-pile-of-terror-I-can't-confront territory, you're doing yourself harm — along with your ability to get things done.