Gmail was practically founded on the principle of never having to delete an email again. But the service has been kicking around since 2004, and all of those old newsletters, chain emails, and special deals aren’t doing much except counting against your Google account’s 15 GB storage capacity. Fortunately, a quick search is all it takes to identify messages worth deleting.


Enter before:2014/21/31 (or any other date you like in the yyyy/mm/dd format) in the search box to see emails that arrived before 2015, for example. To get rid of them all, tick the select all box (top left), choose Select all conversations and then click the Delete button—all your forgotten Facebook alerts, work missives, and birthday invites are gone for good.

Not only can you free up some space in your Gmail account, but future searches should also run faster and contain results that are much more recent and relevant. The search operator older_than: works as well—just add 1y, 2m, 3d or whatever value you want to get the relevant number of years, months or days.

Adapting your search

Some of you might get a little nervous at such a permanent course of action—and maybe there are genuinely useful emails from the past you want to hang on to. By modifying the search you can filter out the messages that really are serving no useful purpose, particularly if you’ve carefully labelled incoming emails since you first logged into Gmail.


Add label:xxx to the search to identify emails matching a particular label, for example, or category:social to bring up messages Gmail itself has highlighted as from social networks. (You don’t want to keep all those Twitter newsletters do you?) Switch social to updates and you get a list of the less-important automated emails identified by Google’s bots.

A full list of advanced operators can also be found here. Admittedly not everyone is going to want to trash older messages in bulk, but for those that do—particularly people who don’t use Gmail as their primary email account—keeping your inbox trimmed down to messages from the last year, month, or week isn’t difficult.

Image: Alexey Boldin /