Break it Off: mini-mission

It’s understandable that you may have been shopping more than usual over the past few weeks. It’s not hard to believe that you gave your email address to a few people so they could stay in touch. Perhaps it was to a company you registered with online, or at a store during your holiday shopping.

It started as a harmless “Hello” or “Happy Holidays”. You overlooked the initial attention by deleting their pretty emails. You didn’t mean to get involved. But then, one email led to several, and that frequency finally got you to turn your head.

While it doesn’t take much time to delete an email, if you have several a day, it can add up. Not to mention, with the right subject line, a clever company will have you opening their email, and next thing you know, you are spending time shopping. They reel you in with their attractive offers, new products you never knew you couldn’t live without, and by showing you how much they value the relationship by giving you special, exclusive, top secret, lovely stuff. This is no time to be flattered. This mini-mission will put an end to all communication.

Ending it may seem harsh, but they don’t love you like they should. They don’t have your best interest at heart. This relationship is all about what they want. Your time and attention has been compromised. Your actions become less than intentional… and click, you make a purchase. You made a commitment to the relationship, and now it’s time to break it off. I know you think it will be ok if you let the relationship die as passively as you entered into it, but that is not the way it works. Imagine if an old flame was constantly emailing you, even though you weren’t together anymore. It would either be really annoying or you would fall into your old habits.

I recommend a clean break, and the good news is that you don’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings or have a face to face conversation. All you have to do open their email, one more time and click unsubscribe. I’m not saying it will be easy, but after breaking up with Gaiam, Red Envelope and Sephora, I can tell you that you will forget about them in no time and move on to a relationship with something real and cool and fun.

Warning: You may not see tears, but they will beg you to stay. They might even send you another email with a better offer after you break it off. Do not waver. The only thing I want you to see is the unsubscribe button.

While I admire the creativity behind a mouth watering marketing campaign, I don’t have room for it anymore. Living with less has opened my eyes to what is most important to me, and it’s not passive shopping. Eliminate email distraction by simply unsubscribing from email that doesn’t come from a real person. Attack one by one, and by February, your inbox will be lighter, and you can be more focused on things that matter.

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.


  1. says

    This is great! I started un-subscribing to a couple email lists a few weeks ago and already notice a big difference. As someone who checks their email first thing in the morning, I was always overwhelmed when I would see 16 new emails, just from the time I went to bed until I woke up in the morning. MOST of the emails were junk, so I un-subscribed. Now I’m down to only around 5 emails every morning. Yay!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Meg, The best thing about my aspiring minimalism and this blog has been meeting people like you. Glad we are on the same page!

  2. says

    LOL – me too! And switched all my bills to electronic format instead of paper. It’s so nice to open up my email and just see notes from friends (even the bill notices are great – I don’t want to pay late fees)! I’m surprised at how hard it is to unsubscribe from some aggressive lists – man, do they really think that if they just bug you long enough you’ll shop there? Now why does that remind me of some ex-boyfirends?!? Thank god for the blocked senders list!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Carrie, Thanks for the reminder. I need to get my paper bills all switched over to ebills.

  3. says

    This is great Courtney and I can tell you it works amazingly! I started unsubscribing from the mass of emails about 4 weeks ago, and notice a HUGE difference in the volume of email I receive. Now when I get one, I immediately ask myself if I should unsubscribe or if their emails provide me with value. More often than not, I hit unsubscribe. It didn’t take much time, but has made a great impact.

    Dr. Laura

  4. says

    I just unsubscribed from Bath and Body Works last week. It was like a veil was lifted and I thought to myself, I haven’t bought any of their products in at least a year, so why am I still wasting my time with these e-mails??

    I think I will go unsubscribe some more.

  5. TC says

    I started doing this a few months ago. All the email did was entice me to buy something that I really didn’t need, which just added to my clutter. Thanks :-)!

    • Susan says

      I can totally identify with you. Just bought another gadget today that I think I need or can use as a gift. All because of an e-mail advertisement. I started unsubscribing to emails a couple of months ago because I just couldn’t get through all of them every day and they are clogging up my inbox and I can’t find the emails that I need after a couple of days. But I’ve found that some websites make if diffucult to unsubscribe. Keep it simple is my new mantra!

  6. says

    This has been a mini-mission of mine for the last few weeks. Every day when I receive emails from company mailing lists that I’m not interested in (and there have been a lot!), I unsubscribe. I made a point to do this before a recent vacation, because I hate getting home and finding my inbox swamped.

    My current goal is to have fewer than 50 emails in my inbox (not including emails I save in some folders) at a time, so eliminating these annoying emails has made that much easier.

  7. Faye says

    Courtney, I deleted email subscriptions consistently last week and it has lightened the email tremendously as well as increasing my focus on the emails I’m getting! Great post.

  8. Meg B. says

    Oh dear, this is a good idea…a VERY good idea…I might miss a big sale…but I do NOT need a thing…I don’t buy anything from “them” anyway. THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY FREE-ING!! Keep sending your good ideas!!!

  9. says

    Take this policy, and apply it to your twitter followers and the people who mention you. Not only does it help clear out the clutter, it helps reduce the false image they may be relaying.

    I like the idea of not reading email until noon, but I think my boss might have an issue with it :)

  10. says

    I did this not long ago and it was great. I have slowly subbed to a few more, so it is time to do it again! I tend to just hit delete when I need to take a minute and do the unsub!
    Another thing to cutoff is your email and phone notifications. I use twitter and facebook, but I don’t have it email me each time someone leaves me a message or mentions me. And I don’t have my phone beep every time I get an email either. It only rings when I get a call and a beep when I get a text!

  11. Melissa says

    You are so right!! I bought one candle as a gift for a loved one and now Yankee Candle thinks we are best friends!!! I had to set them straight :)

  12. says

    Since I am a work inprogress–I started this process a few weeks ago–and still have more “culling” to do! You are so right –they do NOT have my best interests in mind. :) Only I do!

  13. says

    Great minds think alike! :)

    I started this mini-mission last week. A liberating experience!

    Thanks Courtney!

    Be blessed,


  14. Shannon says

    What a great mini-mission! I did that and then cleaned out gobs of old emails. I’m down to just 33 and once I get some of the information onto the calendar most of those will be gone too. What a great feeling.

  15. mathilde says

    every evening when I come back from work I spend 5 minutes deleting 10 to 15 e-mails that I NEVER look at. It is like a habit, totally useless. Pure clutter! I start unsuscribing tonight.

  16. says

    I LOVE the unsubscribe button! Some companies make it super difficult though and I put them in my permanent junk folder so I don’t even have to see it (Borders). If you could help figure out how to not get junk paper mail I would hug you tight! SO MUCH WASTE.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Kristy, Some do make it challenging, that is for sure. I’ve almost given up on getting rid of the junk paper mail, but do not bring it in the house. I just drop it in the outside trash before I walk in the door and don’t give it another thought.

  17. Jo says

    I hate to admit this but I have 543 unread mails in my inbox.. mostly from concert ticket sites over the past goodness knows how many months plus others inbetween! I have only just signed up to bemorewithless so I guess my inbox is a good place to start!! :o)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Jo, My recommendation is to start a brand new email address if you aren’t completely married to this one. It will save you so much time and energy if you really want a fresh start. Keep me posted!

      • Jo says

        I really need to keep the email address for now but I’ve ploughed my way through the whole lot and deleted… Thank you.. it was the kick start I needed to start de-cluttering my life and hopefully set me on the right road instead of the chaotic muddle I usually live in!

  18. says

    I have an ancient AOL e-mail account that I use ONLY for special offers, signups and coupons – JUNK!
    It is great because I can go in and cherry pick a few recent coupons I may want to use for a specific occasion/gift etc. and then delete the remainder of the inbox.

  19. says

    This is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks – and there are still some creeping into my inbox.

    I love to see my inbox “full” with emails from real people because I’m a people-person and love to communicate.

    But you’re right, when we’re trying to simplify our lives the last thing we need is to spend more time or money on useless things.

  20. says

    I started unsubscribing today. I’m such a heart breaker! I’m also giving my hard drive a once over and deleting things. I’m a great list maker in Word. So I have all these saved lists that are no longer any good. Time to say goodbye.

  21. says

    This is an excellent idea Courtney, and whilst I don’t think I subscribe to any commerce email newsletters that I don’t want to (and can think of only two – Apple, and laFraise t-shirts), I did a couple of months back have a major unsubscribe purge on literaaly dozens of email newsletters I just don’t read anymore, or are no longer relevant, or that made me feel guilty for deleting yet another issue without reading it. I unsubscribed from another just this morning.

    I think a connected issue here, which maybe people don’t always realise or admit, is that by going to your email and having 5 or 10 or 50 new messages waiting, it’s a pain and a distraction yes, but in some small way it does make you feel important, acknowledged, needed. Even if these are all automated emails, you can fool yourself into thinking that your attention is in great demand. This is based on the same prinsiple as people (most of us!) who would rather be frantically busy because when we stop and make space, it’s actually kind of scary if you’re not used to it. We get addicted to being busy, being in demand.

    Maybe for many, waking up and only having 3 emails, as opposed to 33, would at first feel like they just weren’t very important to anyone. Not saying this is a healthy outlook, but I think it’s probably more common than people might think. Certainly something I was confronted with at first when I had a major unsubscribe purge.

    What are your thoughts on this, people subsribing to many newsletters because it helps them feel like they attention is precious and in demand, that they are wanted?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Dan, I have thought about this before and think you are dead on. I actually think this is such a big issue (and not just with email) that I am going to write about it in more detail. Stay tuned and thanks for inspiring a new post!

  22. says

    Thank you for motivating me to stop hitting delete and go to the source. I just purged six companies and changed the notification settings on a website I use a lot. My email should be much more efficient now!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Way to go Beverly. This is one of those things where a little change can make a big difference.

  23. says

    That has got to be the BEST break up post I have ever read! Those emails have just about taken over my mailbox! But it’s time to reclaim it back again! Thanks for the words of encouragement Courtney!

  24. Karen G says

    Just found your website thru a FB friend and love it. After reading this post, took the time to unsubscribe from a billion email lists I’m on, and it felt great. And, will save me time deleting them all every day, which is how I had been handling most of it. I couldn’t bring myself to lose all of them, but I bet I cut it by more than half. Thanks for the inspiration!