I don't really think of myself as an ultra-organized person. My office is filled with piles of papers and I'm not exactly a neatnik. But I do like to be able to find things. So when I create piles of papers, usually the papers in the piles are related in some way.
I take the same approach with my e-mail. I receive and send hundreds of e-mails in any given week, so managing the digital communication load would get out of hand if I didn't insert a little bit of organization into the process. Given the number of people who ask me for messages or attachments they've lost, apparently this organizational approach is unusual.
The key to getting organized is to create folders. If you leave everything in one giant inbox folder, it's much like leaving every paper in your office in one gigantic pile: it takes ages to find something. Or leaving every file on your hard disk in one folder. (I have no sympathy for those who dump every file into the My Documents folder and then whine about not being able to find anything.)
Your e-mail can be organized using folders much the same way you can organize files in a file cabinet or Windows Explorer. In pretty much any e-mail program, there are two folders that are installed by default. One holds the e-mail you receive and one holds the e-mail you've sent. In Outlook Express, they are called the Inbox and Sent Items.
First make sure that Outlook Express is showing the folders. Choose View|Layout and click to add a checkmark next to Folder List. In OE, you can't delete or rename the default folders: Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items, or Drafts. However, you can add subfolders underneath any one of them except Deleted Items if you like.
To add a folder, right click on a folder and chose New Folder. For example, if you wanted to store all the Logical Tips newsletters in their own folder, you might right-click on Inbox and add a folder underneath it called LogicalTips. Then when you get a newsletter, you can click and drag it to move it to its folder. Then later if you want to refer back to it, just click the folder and see all the past issues stored inside.
Deciding how to organize your folders is a personal thing. I have my folders separated by mail I've sent and mail I've received. Within each of those top-level categories, I have subdivided it into business and personal e-mail. Underneath those folders are subfolders for each individual client or friend. However, my husband keeps both received and sent mail together, and organizes his folders by the contact's name. Whatever organization works for you is fine. The goals is just to be able to find that all important e-mail when you need it.