I really should clean out my inbox. The trouble is, I have too many of them.
The inbox on my iPad is in pretty decent shape, leaner than the others because I've set it up to hold only a limited number of messages. Still, there are unread newsletters, e-mails in need of replies, and multiple ads for sales I have no intention of taking advantage of. Given the time to do so, it's easy enough to clear out the junk - outdated information, spam, earlier versions of email conversations that are ongoing - but sometimes it's more difficult to tell trash from treasure. Pack rat that I am, I remain convinced that I may someday want and/or need the information hovering in that inbox.
Behavioral psychologists will tell you that intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful form of reinforcement. When a subject knows she will eventually be rewarded, she will keep working, seeking the reward she is convinced will come. If you think this is just a theory, then ask yourself why people continue to buy lottery tickets for years on end.
And so it is with my overflowing inbox. I keep getting the newsletters because I never know when one of those nuggets of knowledge will turn up, and pack rat that I am, I keep incoming mail long past its logical expiration date, knowing it may prove useful at some future point.
Some call it clutter. I call it an untapped respource.