Last Updated: January 2023
Email inboxes. We use them daily, and they’re one of our biggest sources of information. So we should curate what gets let into them, to the extent that we can, right?
But what happens when we try to unsubscribe from some of the junk & turn down the noise, and it doesn’t work?! Despite the anti-spam laws, so many companies still resist consumers’ attempts to unsubscribe from their lists. They’ll subscribe you to dozens of different lists, or send emails from different email addresses to skirt your filters. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you try, you just can’t get off a list.
In my quest to reclaim my inbox, I’ve discovered a few tricks for unsubscribing from those pesky email lists that just won’t leave you alone.
PS. I recommend only trying these strategies if you’ve ALREADY tried unsubscribing the old-fashioned way. We do not want to mark innocent email as spam instead of unsubscribing from it properly. Doing so is bad for creators and readers. Read more on that here. These tips are only for once you’ve tried to unsubscribe through the proper channels but these unwanted emails keep coming.
What about Unroll.me?
I used to use Unroll.me…until I found out that they sell their user data to other companies. Um: no. That immediately defeats the purpose of unsubscribing! I no longer recommend using a service like this. Even though it takes longer to do it yourself, it’s also safer for you.
So without further ado, here are the three ways I unsubscribe from unwanted emails:
1. Report Spam Button
Regardless of what email client you’re using, there will always be an option to “teach” your program what you consider to be junk mail. All of these email services use algorithms to sort your mail, and you can train the algorithm!
If you’ve already tried unsubscribing the regular way using the link in the bottom of the email and you’re still receiving mail from a particular company, that IS spam and should be classified as such.
So go ahead and click the little ! symbol in Gmail, or the little X symbol on Apple Mail.
Nowadays, the Gmail option is called “Report Spam & Unsubscribe”, meaning that you also get removed from the list itself. Either way, you shouldn’t continue to see these emails come in.
2. Create a Filter & Delete
Another way to get these annoying messages out of your sight is to create a filter (on Gmail) or rule (on Apple Mail) that means automatic action will be taken on emails like these in the future. You can do all kinds of things with filters, such as putting the emails into folders or archiving them, but I recommend deleting them directly. Once this filter is set up, these emails will be ‘whisked away’ before you even notice them come in. And trust me, the fewer emails you have to process (even if all you do is read & delete them), the more energy and mental space you’ll have.
PS. You can also try this strategy if someone’s feelings would be hurt by you clicking ‘unsubscribe’ from their list directly! Pro tips. 👀
How To in Gmail:
- Search for emails from the sender by either keyword or email address
- Choose “Create Filter”
- Choose “Delete it”
Or, you can open up a particular message from the spam sender, click the three little dots in the right-hand corner, and choose “Filter messages like this”.
Learn more about how to do a similar method in Apple Mail here.
3. Use a Junk Email Address
One of my favourite email tips is to create an email address that is just for subscribing to newsletter lists. Set this email address up separately from your other accounts and make sure you don’t get notifications for it! That way, it can’t interrupt your work day and you only have to look at it when you really need or want to.
If getting off of an email list is truly not working no matter what you try, my last resort would be trying to change the email address they have on file. Often there is an “Update Your Preferences” link at the bottom the email, which often allows you to change your email address to one you check less often. The less intrusive you can make email, the better you’ll feel.
I’m a fan of the Inbox Zero method, but not because it’s about being at zero messages all the time or being a perfectionist. I love it because it causes me to think more intentionally about what I let into my life, what boundaries I need to establish in my communications, and what kinds of messages I want to be receiving and reading on a daily basis. No matter what kind of work I’m doing, those are meta skills I want to be using! Life is noisy enough as it is without me letting in all kinds of extra junk.
If you’re curious about how I teach the Inbox Zero method, you can learn more about my philosophies right here.
And I want to hear from you – how do you unsubscribe from annoying lists? Any tips & tricks to share? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett.