I’ve been working on a bit of a project lately, and figured I’d share with the class, not because I’m trying to say that this is the reason I’ve been away from the blog for so long, but because of what I’m finding in the process.

For some reason, I’ve always been pretty organized about my e-mail at work–having filters running to automatically sort and organize incoming mail into specific folders so that everything’s either easy to find or ignore. I did that more out of self-defense than anything else, because I can get dozens of e-mails each day, but not that many at home.

But I’ve found that my personal addresses are getting pretty littered, and finding something lately has been nearly impossible. So for a few weeks now, I’ve been sorting, organizing, filing, deleting, filtering, and the like. It’s been an intensive process, because while I can run filters and rules on some things, I can’t do it on everything, so I’ve ended up rummaging through a lot of old individual e-mails.

My Gmail account, which I’ve had since 2006, has been trimmed down nicely now, where the inbox folder has just a hundred or so messages, and those are getting further sliced and diced into nice subcategories. And I’m finding messages to delete, like the restaurant reservation confirmation to Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill in Las Vegas, when Jenni and I were there in April of 2006.

I’ve still got all of the reservation information for our family trip out west two years ago–including, I discovered, the confirmation for our ill-fated stay at the Super 8 in Casper, Wyoming, and even the follow-up e-mail I got from the hotel manager who took the time to respond to me after I took their poll asking about how our stay was…Don’t think I need to keep those, even though there’s that part of me that thinks that it’s part of the trip’s documentation. And yet, I created a folder and stuffed all of them in there.

This whole task is compounded by the fact that I have 4 personal e-mail addresses, and that I’m trying to shoehorn each of these into specific purposes: one for junk mail, one for personal and family stuff, one for more professional or formal communications, and one that gets used when I don’t want the other 3 used.

My Yahoo account, for example, has been open since 1996–in fact, back so far that Yahoo didn’t even have webmail at the time; it was Rocketmail then–which in itself is terrifying that I’ve had e-mail there for almost two decades. But the crap I found sitting in there is astounding.

In the meantime, filters are being made, folders are being created, messages deleted. And I’m reading through my electronic past, including messages with relatives long gone from this Earth. Or silly and serious conversations with my wonderful wife.

It’s an electronic minefield of memories.

Fortunately, I’m not an e-mail hoarder, needing to just move on and create new accounts whenever one becomes full or overwhelming. Or at least I think I’m not a hoarder.

The project is as fascinating as it is overwhelming. I’ve got e-mail conversation chains with my grandfather, who died a year-and-a-half ago. I’ve got e-mails chatting with family about the impending birth of Hannah and Zoe. And receipts from online orders from Amazon or other places from years ago.

The most immediate problem, though, is that I don’t think there’s every going to really be an end to this project. I’ve come back in a couple of cases and added folders to a couple of accounts, even though for the most part, I’ve tried to keep the same folder names wherever possibly across all of the accounts. But the other problem actually found an answer today: I’d wondered if it would help speed the process of finding past e-mails. And the answer is yes…to a point. Today, I volunteered myself to coordinate the Easter Breakfast at church. And job one is digging up messages from last year to find out how much food we need to plan to bring. I’ve found some of them. More apparently need to be sorted.

Wish me luck!

See you tomorrow.