10 minutes or less to recover free Google storage space (Gmail)

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Google gives you 15 Gb of free storage space. Your storage is shared across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. It can fill up pretty fast as you collect more stuff, and emails are no exception. Here’s what I do to handle the Gmail side of things, and it only takes a few minutes to clear away those useless, space-hogging emails.

The most effective cleanup method I’ve found is to go for the low-hanging fruit.


Gmail Search Bar

Open up Gmail and at the top you’ll find the search box.

get more google drive space

We’re going to enter terms that are most likely leading to a lot of old, space-hogging email. I first like to go for the ones result from subscriptions or newsletters I signed up for. They tend to collect fast, and once I’ve signed up or read them I really don’t need them in my mailbox anymore:

  • survey
  • newsletter
  • coupon

Do these one at a time. Once you get your results, quickly scan them to make sure there’s nothing you want to keep before you delete. If so, unselect those. Delete and then go to the next keyword.

get more google drive space

If you want to search for something with two or more words in the phrase, include them in quotes or else you’ll get results that show any time a single one of the words is present. For example, Amy’s blogging newsletter should be entered as “Amy’s blogging newsletter”

Continuing along, think of keywords that you see often in emails and know you normally delete. For me, some keywords jumped to mind right away based on repeat emails I get from newsletter subscription:

  • malware
  • spyware
  • hacker
  • reschedule
  • subscription
  • receipt

After deleting those, I scan the “Everything Else” section (in my layout it’s below the inbox) and see what’s there.

  • If you have the tabbed desktop layout, that might make it a lot easier since they’re pre-grouped.

If I find a term or name in Everything Else that I don’t need any emails for, I enter that term in the search box.

When you enter your search terms (and before you “select all” and delete) note there is a dropdown where you can specify a date range for deletion. In some cases, I use that to make sure I keep any recent ones in case they’re still needed.

get more google drive space

Freeing Up More Storage

If you need to open up more space, see where the big files are hiding. To do that, the easiest way from within Gmail is to look at the bottom of your inbox. You’ll see a bar indicating how full your storage is (yeah, mine is pretty empty) and an icon which will open up in a new tab. From there you can see what’s contributing to your used space.

get more google drive space


You’ll be presented with this screen, which depicts all the items taking up storage space:

google drive space

In my case, Gmail is taking the most space on my free storage. As I begin adding more and more items, Gmail may actually become the least of my problems. To access Drive or Photos, just click on the box icon to the right of the storage usage number to go to that page. From there you can search for items to delete.

That should gain you back some storage for free! Obviously, if you store a lot of stuff online for backup purposes (or just because), you’ll have a harder time avoiding payment for more space. Searching for, and deleting, that low-hanging fruit may just be the trick you need.

Drop a reminder on your calendar to run through the low-hanging fruit every few months and you’ll gain back some space for free!


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