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Lost in the Clutter

A few months ago, Microsoft Office 365 rolled out a feature called Clutter. The purpose of Clutter is to filter out low priority messages for processing later. Basically, Clutter watches for emails with senders or subjects that you delete without reading, opening or responding to. In particular, I found that it watches for emails that I delete while it still shows bold (unread) in my inbox. Clutter then learns from my tendencies and begins to move these emails, which I tend to delete anyway, to a folder called Clutter. This made enough sense to me that I allowed the feature to run in Outlook – until today.

I receive a lot of emails evLogo_Microsoft_Outlook_2013ery day and, frankly, delete quite a few without reading them. Yes, there are a lot of semi-junk emails that fall into this category and getting them out of my way was beneficial. However, it turns out that I delete many emails that are not really clutter. For example, if I receive a notice that a certain bill is due in a few days, the preview is enough to warn me. I make a mental note and delete it without ever fully “reading” the email. It turns out that, after I do this a few times to a particular sender’s email, Clutter assumes I never read those emails and automatically moves them to the Clutter folder.

Here’s the problem. I began to treat the Clutter folder as another Junk Mail folder. Emails moved to Clutter were out of sight and out of mind. I would take a cursory glance every few days and delete everything just like I did with my Junk Mail folder.

Unfortunately, the emails in Clutter are not really junk. Just because I normally delete an email from a particular sender without reading it does not mean I never want to see emails from them. Tonight, I carefully reviewed over 400 emails in Clutter and found six that needed attention. That is not a high percentage but it is six emails that I could not afford to miss. Moving an email back to the Inbox is supposed to tell Clutter that I really do not want particular emails moved in the first place. I am just not sure that I can trust it or that it will not re-apply my deletion habits in the future.

To turn off Clutter, like I just did, you have to login to Office 365 via the web. Select Mail, then Settings, then Options. Under Automatic Processing, simply turn off Clutter and Save.


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