5 steps to clean up your Outlook on-the-web mailbox

CleanOutlookheaderSome time ago we introduced the Microsoft365 F3-license into our organization. I work in a health care organization and the majority of our staff is providing care and counseling to our clients and patients. They work mostly with the official patient/client data application. They do not use Office365 heavily.

The F3-license differs in the following aspects from the E3 or E5 license used in larger and more office-based organizations. (See also Marijn Somers’ post on this topic)

  • No desktop apps – it is all online
  • 2 GB Outlook mailbox instead of 100 GB
  • 2 GB OneDrive instead of 1 TB
  • No Delve app visible (on the Office365 landing page) or available (on mobile devices) – but I have a workaround
  • A few limitations in Skype-for-business – as F3 users can not organize meetings or share content. Teams meetings appear not to have these limitations, by the way. (I have had varied results so I am a little careful)

When we made the change, about 10% of users had more than 2 GB in their Outlook on- the-web mailbox, so we sent them a message about what was going to happen and gave them suggestions for cleaning up.
I have noticed that there is a vast amount of support for Outlook on the intranet but it is mainly for the desktop app and trust me, there is a BIG difference between the Outlook desktop and Outlook on-the-web.
BTW, I just found Nate Chamberlain’s tips to clean up your Outlook desktop!

So, here’s what we advise our colleagues. Feel free to re-use and embellish!

1. Empty the Deleted Items folder.

Apparently there is no tenant-wide option for Outlook Online to empty the the Deleted Items folder when you log out. (It is possible for the desktop app)
So, it is possible that you have years of Deleted Items in that folder, eating up space! If you know your Deleted Items are there to be deleted, the fastest way is this:

  • Right-click on the name Deleted Items in the left-hand menu
  • Click “Empty Folder”
CleanOutlook-deleteditems
You do not even have to open your Deleted Items folder in order to empty it!

If you have > 500 messages in there, or if you want to check what you are deleting, it may be best to do this in batches:

  • Open the Deleted Items folder
  • Select a number of messages
  • Click “Delete” from the top bar
  • Repeat when the selected items have been deleted
CleanOutlook-selecteditems
Open folder, select items and click Delete is a more gentle way to clean up.

The deleted messages will be stored in a new place. You will see this in your Deleted Items folder, called “Recover items deleted from this folder”.
The “Recoverable Items” works like the SharePoint or OneDrive Recycle bin. You can restore messages back to their original location within 14 days (default) or longer (tenant setting) after deletion.
Items in the Recoverable Items do not consume storage space. 

CleanOutlook-deleteditemsrecoverable
I only recently discovered this nifty option to recover deleted emails! It is in the Deleted Items folder.

CleanOutlook-recoverable

Select an item, click “Restore” and your message will be back to the original folder, i.e. Inbox or Sent Items or what not.

Now that your Deleted Items is empty, let’s go to the next step.

2. Check storage space.

There used to be a cool function in Outlook On The Web that showed you the storage space usage of each folder. However, with the most recent version (August 2019) that option has gone, so you can only see the total storage now.*

  • Click the Gear Wheel top right and then “View all Outlook settings”
  •  Go to “General”, then click “Storage” and you will see how much you are using.
CleanOutlook-storage
Sadly, not a lot of detail here.

When a F1-user reaches 1,98 GB of storage space, they will get a warning message. (This is default, but the warning limit can be lowered by the Exchange admin if you want to give people some more breathing space)
They will also no longer be able to send messages at that point. So it is important to keep well away from 1,98 GB.

3. Clean up your largest folders.

Deleted Items, Inbox and Sent Items are generally the main storage space hoarders. Depending on your organization’s settings, Junk Mail can be a biggie, too.
So let’s start there with two sorting exercises:

a. Sort on largest items

In your Inbox, click Filter (top left), then Sort on Size, largest on top.
Check if you still need these messages. If they contain large attachments, save the attachments to OneDrive. You can move them to SharePoint later, if needed.
If the email text is important, you can save it as a PDF and store it on OneDrive or SharePoint.
Delete the message once you have safeguarded the content in another place. Or just delete it if it is no longer of value.

CleanOutlook-filterlargest
How to sort the contents of a mailbox folder on size.

b. Sort on oldest items

In your Inbox, click Filter (top left), then Sort on Date, oldest on top.
Do you really still need the oldest messages? If yes, store them in OneDrive or SharePoint as above before deleting.

Repeat steps a. and b. for Sent Items and any other folders that contain a lot of data.

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 (and perhaps 3).

I have helped a lot of colleagues through this process and these steps were usually sufficient to get below the 1,98 GB threshold. If not, you will have to take step 3 again and be a little more strict.

5. Auto-empty the Deleted Items folder.

Now that you have a cleaner mailbox, you will want to keep it that way! You can empty your Deleted Items automatically after sign-out as follows:

  • Click the Gear Wheel top right and then “View all Outlook settings”
  •  In Email, go to Message Handling, check the first box and click Save.
CleanOutlook-emptydeleteditems
How to make sure your Deleted Items is emptied on a regular basis.

Another time, I will discuss a few more ways to save space and hassle!

It was fun writing this post – my own mailbox is smaller now as well 🙂

——————–

* For as long as it lasts (November 2019), there IS a way to see the individual folder size.

Use this link and this will take you to the old interface where you can see the individual folder’s size: https://outlook.office.com/owa/?path=/options/mailboxcleanup

CleanOutlook-foldersizeindiv
For as long as it lasts: the old Outlook interface. You can see individual folder size + do some deleting from here based on message age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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