Using Clutter to unclutter your Microsoft 365 Outlook inbox

Email is one of the most important things for businesses, and service-level agreements (SLA) over the years have made it one of the higher priority business applications that need to be up 99.9% of the time. Many organizations, big or small, use Outlook or Outlook on the Web to work on email. If you are someone like me who gets hundreds of emails a day — continual notifications from systems and vendors and, well, you name it — your mailbox quickly starts to look untidy, and your inbox count looks more and more daunting. But fortunately, there are several ways you can unclutter your Microsoft 365 Outlook inbox. In this article, we’ll show you how to unclutter Outlook with the confusingly named Microsoft feature called Clutter.

Yes, we can create rules to ensure that mails go where we want them to go but you still have to go through them, and sometimes you miss an important email because it went to the wrong folder. Clutter can help you do this. (Although, be aware that Microsoft is going to discontinue Clutter and replace it with Focused Inbox.) Think of Clutter as your personal assistant that filters out the lower priority emails for you leaving the important ones. This sounds amazing. First, these are the versions of Outlook and Outlook on the Web below that will allow you to have Clutter turned on:

  • Outlook for Microsoft 365
  • Outlook 2019 Outlook 2016
  • Office for business Microsoft 365 admin
  • Outlook 2013
  • Office 365 Small Business
  • Office 365 operated by 21Vianet
  • Outlook on the web Outlook on the web for Exchange Server 2016
  • Outlook on the web for Exchange Server 2019
clutter outlook inbox

Currently, I am using Outlook 2019, and even with an E5 license, I cannot see the Clutter option on Outlook on the Web.

To make use of the Clutter feature, it needs to be turned on using PowerShell. Note that if you are using Focused Inbox, this feature will be turned off as you cannot run both. Clutter will then be active. Here is the command to enable it for a user:

Set-Clutter -Identity "User 1" -Enable $true

You can replace User 1 with the account that you want Clutter to be enabled on. If you launch Outlook on the Web and go to Settings (cogwheel) on the top right and click on Options, you should see Clutter under Mail and then under Automatic Processing. Take note that if the user makes use of Focused Inbox, then the Clutter settings will not show up.

If you want to disable the Clutter Feature, then simply change the last part of the command to $false as per the example below:

Set-Clutter -Identity "User 1" -Enable $false

On a side note, Clutter cannot be used or turned on if you are using the light version of Outlook on the Web. You will need to enable the full version for this to work.

Now, you are probably wondering, “How do I access the information that Clutter has gone through and filed?” If you make use of Outlook, you should have a folder called Clutter. All emails that have a low priority will be in there, and you can also move mails to the folder.

The next question you may be asking is, “How does Clutter filter my messages?” The junk email, if any, will be filtered out, and your mailbox rules will then process what you have set up, and Clutter will analyze the messages and put them in the Clutter folder. There are three sets of people that Clutter won’t process emails on:

  • If you are a manager and have direct reports.
  • Messages from you to you.
  • If you have anyone in the management chain you are part of.

Clutter is constantly learning about email and how you read them, and it adjusts accordingly. According to Microsoft, Clutter takes a couple of days to adapt to what you have set up. If you want to move things along quickly, you can right-click on a message and select “Move to Clutter.” If you accidentally moved a mail to the Clutter folder, you can simply right-click on that email and select the option “Move to Inbox.”

clutter outlook inbox

If you decide that Clutter is not working for you, you can log in to Outlook on the Web and then click the cogwheel on the top right-hand corner, and then from the drop-down list, you can choose Options. Under Mail, expand Automatic Processing and then click on the option called Clutter. Select the option “Don’t separate items identified as Clutter,” and then this will turn it off. The folder called Clutter will remain in Outlook once you have disabled it.

There you have it — a nice feature to assist you with low-priority emails so you can focus on the more important emails. As Clutter learns and adapts, it determines messages that you ignore and moves them to your Clutter folder, as mentioned. If Clutter is not for you, you can simply ask your IT department to disable it. You can continue using the traditional way of moving emails manually or sorting them manually like you previously did.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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