For most of us, the goal of achieving Inbox Zero (“a rigorous approach to inbox management, aimed at keeping the inbox empty”) is not an easy task to work on. It’s just a lot to have to go through tons of emails from who-knows-when with the goal of clearing up unwanted emails from your Outlook Inbox then, as soon as you finish halfway through your emails, you start to realise that newer ones are replacing those that you have just removed. So what the heck is the point?

Well, what if I tell you that there’s a way to reduce the amount of redundant emails sitting around your Inbox?

Enter, Microsoft Outlook. There is a feature within Outlook called Conversation Clean Up that helps in clearing out unwanted emails by evaluating the contents of your email conversations. From there, it eliminates any emails with redundant content from previous conversations.

“What the what?!” You might think. Here, let’s go through it in more detail

What is a Conversation?

Does an “email thread” ring a bell? Well that is the quickest definition of an Outlook Conversation. “A Conversation is the complete set of email messages from the first message through all responses. The messages of a Conversation have the same subject.” (source:

Here’s an example, If I send an email to you, then you send me a response with MY original email still attached to YOUR reply then that, my friend, is a Conversation. Here’s a sample image to draw a clearer picture:

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How do I Use Conversation Clean Up?

This tool is most helpful with your emails that contains a lot of ping-pong responses, especially those with many recipients. Now, how do you utilise this cool Outlook feature?

“I’d like to remove redundant email messages.”

1. Open your Outlook desktop app.

2. Find one of your emails or email folder that has a lot of back and forth responses, open it.

3. Go to the Home tab.

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4. From the Home tab ribbon, find the Delete group.

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5. Click on Clean Up (a drop down list will appear).

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You can select one of the options from the drop-down list:

  • Clean Up Conversation.

This is the option for when you want your current Conversation be reviewed, and redundant messages be deleted.

  • Clean Up Folder.

This option allows you to have all email messages in your selected folder be reviewed, and redundant messages be deleted.

  • Clean Up Folders and Subfolders.

This will allow you to have all email messages in your selected folder and its subfolders be reviewed, and redundant messages be deleted.

Will the cleaned-up emails be permanently deleted?

Not entirely. Once you’ve enabled the Conversation Clean Up on one of your emails, email folders and subfolders, detected redundant messages will be moved to your Deleted folder and not eradicated permanently. If you wish to recover some of the most recently removed emails, you could head to the Deleted folder to find them (although we don’t recommend using your Deleted folder as a storage option!). But remember that the redundant information should still be located in the email you are keeping, that hasn’t been ‘cleaned up.’ 

You can also set an exception for emails that you do not want to be moved out of your main Inbox. You can find more details on how you can customize your options in one of Microsoft’s support docos available on their page.

Here are some bonus tips on how you can achieve Inbox Zero:

There are more ways than one for you to strategize your way to Inbox Zero without having to sacrifice loads of your precious time. Here are a few handy tips:

  1. Always remember that our time is very important.

This may sound cliched but, “Time is Gold.” Especially if you’re running a business, you can’t afford to use up a day or give it an hour just to sort out your overflowing inbox to eliminate the unwanted ones. Ideally, if you make deleting (and unsubscribing from promotional emails you no longer read) a regular habit, it’s less likely you’ll need to deal with tons of emails when you next face your inbox.

  1. Lose your attachment to ‘attachments.’

Do you feel guilty and anxious when asked to get rid of an old email you’re afraid you might need someday because it has a file attached? Just download all the files and links from emails that you find important so they are safely retained, then delete the email. Magic.

  1. Utilise your Outlook tools.

Besides the Conversation Clean Up Tool, there are a lot of tools in Outlook that can help you clean and organise your inbox. You just have to start exploring your Outlook ribbon or head to the handy Outlook help website for more ideas. Or seek for the assistance of your trusted IT partner who can give you pointers on where to find the handy tools. 

  1. Take out the trash right away.

Like your rubbish at home, you wouldn’t want to keep it hidden under the sink for too long. Once you’ve read an email that can be deleted or you’ve finished a conversation, make sure to get rid of it right away to prevent it from being buried under newer emails that will later on make it harder to find. 

Inbox Zero can be a lofty goal, but not unachievable. A daily habit of action to remove unwanted emails and the use of handy tools like Conversation Clean Up can help you keep on top of inbox clutter.