Prevent problems and improve performance in Microsoft Outlook by restricting the number of items in your folders


Suggested guidelines for maximum number of items in special folders

Special folders are:


Sent Items



Aim to keep the maximum number of items in these folders below 1,000

Guidelines for other folders

Aim for not more than 5,000

(Note limits exist that are MUCH higher than those suggested above – but these will really help performance and prevent problems)

Having more than 10,000 items in a folder can really impact performance, especially special folders

How do you see how many items are in each folder?

Click on the folder

The number of items is displayed in the bottom left hand corner of Microsoft Outlook in its status bar


How to keep your Inbox and Sent Items small and other tips

Aim for an Inbox of ZERO
Apply this principle to your Sent Items as well

The principles in Getting Things Done by David Allen is also a great resource

If you have a lot of items (10,000+) in your folders, it may be quicker to just move mail older than a few months into folders for each year, or to move mail by category

Delete what you do not need

Empty your Deleted Items

You can also arrange by Size, To or From and then expand or collapse these groups to bulk move or delete items

How to structure your folders

  • Create a folder structure that is simple to understand
  • Use subfolders
  • Archive older things in folders that are named by date (e.g. “2016” or by category “Payments”

Here is an example you can use as a starting point:


Note: Ctrl-Shift-E is the keyboard shortcut to create a new folder

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