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When you are away, you call your number. After the answering machine asks you to leave a message, punch your code and listen to the instructions (hear new messages, hear all messages, erase message, de/activate answering function, etc.).
Background: The TAD1220 does not have a way to manually delete messages. It more or less has a FIFO(FIRST IN-FIRST OUT) method of retaining messages. It will save up to 14 minutes of messages and then they are deleted automatically after you play them back and receive another incoming call. This is important: It will only erase the messages AFTER you have listened to them *AND* received another message.
Exception: If you happen to press the STOP/SAVE button, then all of the messages will be RE-SAVED until the memory limit has been reached.
Extreme Solution: The only manual way is to remove the battery, disconnect the power cord and erase everything. You will then need to reprogram your greeting.