Decluttering and minimalism can mean a lot of different things to different people. Whether you’re looking to simplify your life, declutter your home or work space, or are just trying to find a system that works for you… the best way to learn is to get started.
Although I own a lot of stuff, decluttering is something I excel at and it has so many benefits. Yes, your space will be less crowded with junk you don’t use or need, but you’ll also feel better living without the unnecessary items you’re probably drowning in right now.
When people hear the word declutter, they assume I’m going to share tips on how I clean my apartment. Well, not exactly. It’s not just about the physical items in your home or the articles of clothing in your closet. It extends well beyond that.
That’s why I’ve decided to break this post on decluttering up into a few different blog posts. If I gave you all my decluttering tips, we’d be here all day.
For starters, I’m going to start by telling you about how I declutter my phone. Cleaning up your phone and other electronic devices is something many people don’t think about when they think of decluttering, but it’s so important.
You’re on your phone so many times throughout the day, no matter how much you wish you could change that. We’re millennials… it’s just who we are. So why not keep the device as simple and clean as possible? Not only will your phone work faster, but you’ll also free up storage and make the phone feel like a whole new device.
I have an iPhone, so I’ll be using a lot of examples with the iOS interface, but these concepts can be translated across any other platform.
Step One: Remove Unnecessary Apps You Don’t Use
How many applications do you have sitting on your home screen that you never use? Do you spend minutes trying to find the app you’re looking for because it’s buried among a sea of folders and useless apps? Do you have some apps that you keep only because you think one day you might need it. Well, guess what? That app will be available for you to download in the app store later if you do need it.
Here’s a trick you can use on your iPhone to see just how many apps you have that you do not need to keep:
- Go to Settings
- Click “General”
- Click “iPhone Storage”
- Scroll to see a list of all the apps you have on your phone
- It’s broken out by the apps that take up the greatest amount of storage first, and is in descending order, but underneath the name of the app it shows “Last Used:” and the date it was opened last.
If you haven’t opened the app in months, there’s a very good chance you can delete it and won’t even remember you’re missing it.
Step Two: Clean Your Messages and Emails
Under Settings > Messages, there’s an option under Message History that says “Keep Messages” and you can select how long you want to keep your iMessages and text messages on your phone. I have a good feeling the majority of you probably have the option “forever” selected.
I was eating lunch with my coworkers a few weeks ago and we were discussing this. I told them I delete my text message conversations after three days. Yes, only three days. I don’t need anything older than that. However, they were able to scroll back to conversations sitting on their phones from 2015!
Try deleting old conversations you don’t need. That automated email from the drugstore telling you that your prescription is ready for pickup? The message from someone you barely talk to? You don’t need it anymore. Your phone will be speedier already, especially if you send a lot of pictures/gifs/videos via iMessage.
The same concept goes for emails. Do you have hundreds of emails in your inbox? You don’t need to. Here’s the system I use, but remember that you just need to find a system that works for you and stick with it.
If I have an email I need to take action on, such as a bill that’s due, I leave it in my inbox. For everything else, I move it to a folder. Here are my folders for reference:
- Apartment – This includes my lease agreement, confirmations from the energy company and cable company, etc. so I have the account numbers handy.
- Website – This is where I keep the zipped file of my website theme, info related to my domain name, and any other custom fonts or logos I saved.
- Work – Here is where I keep my offer letter, welcome emails with important information, my ADP login, and my 401k information.
- Paid Bills – Self explanatory, but this is where I file away confirmation emails of paid bills so I know when they were paid. I clean this out at the end of each year.
- Volkswagen – Info about my lease, account login, etc. Also has information about my car insurance.
- Retail – Contains e-Receipts, shipping notifications (I delete once I receive the item), promo emails, etc.
- Saved – This is my miscellaneous folder where I save important emails that don’t really fit into a specific category, such as thank you emails I’ve received that were sweet but don’t belong anywhere else in my inbox.
- To Read – I read a lot of Fanfiction, and I subscribe to updates on stories. All the stories send me notifications when a new chapter is posted. I’ll save that email in this folder until I read. I also send myself articles I really loved and want to reread at some point and store them in here when I’m feeling too lazy to save it to Pocket.
- Travel – Flight confirmations, hotel bookings, reservations, etc.
- Writing – Where I keep emails asking to collaborate on my poetry or blog, emails from Medium and WordPress on my stats, and stories friends have sent me to help edit!
By keeping things in folders, your inbox stays tidy. While you’re at it and in the process of cleaning out your emails, unsubscribe from any marketing or retail newsletters you never actually read.
Step Three: Re-Organize Your Home Screen
Now that you’ve cleaned up the apps so you only have the ones you need, try reorganizing your home screen in a way that makes more sense. Reconsider which apps you need access to the quickest? For me, I have messages, calendar, reminders, and phone (yes, I actually still call people often) in my dock. But on my home screen, I have the apps I use most such as Maps, Spotify, Notes, Photos, Mail, Kindle, Weather, WordPress, Safari, Camera, Wallet, Day One, Ulysses (what I use to write with), News, and some social apps.
The rest of my apps are on the second page and that’s all I have. I don’t use folders because I don’t need them – all my apps fit within the two pages. The second page consists of my banking app, credit card app, Venmo, My Verizon, Alexa, Amazon, Starbucks, Uber, Pocket… and so on. Basically, apps I don’t open daily but still use frequently enough to keep them on my phone.
Step Four: Organize Your Notes If You Use Them
Okay, so I have over 200 notes on my phone because I use my notes app very often. You probably don’t have that many, but you should still be organizing them somehow. Luckily, the Apple Notes app has an option at the bottom that says “New Folder.” Use it.
Here are the folders I have:
- Diet and Exercise – Okay, this one isn’t used much. But I have a note with some healthy meal and snack ideas. I also have a note of workouts and a comparison of some of the workout apps in the app store which I’ve tried before.
- Dose of Hope – Here is where I keep my ideas for new blog posts, information about my blog such as the HEX codes for the color palette, my tagline, etc.
- Finance – A list of my recurring expenses, as well as my expense categories to help me budget each month.
- Home/Apartment Search – A list of items to have to your home (I reference whenever I move because it’s in the format of a checklist), my furniture dimensions, and a list of questions I ask before I lease an apartment.
- Organization – Despite the folder being called “organization,” this folder is a wildcard because there’s such a wide range of notes in here. A locked app (such a great feature to be able to lock your notes!) with my passwords just in case, a list of TV shows I’ve been wanting to watch, my computer preferences, a list of concerts I’ve been to, work organization tips, recommendations of restaurants/ice cream/salons/drug stores/gyms/shopping/car washes/parks/banks/theaters/bars/coffee shops/liquor stores in my area because my mom is a realtor and her clients often will ask for a list of recommended locations and I’ve lived in this area my whole life so I keep this note handy, book recommendations list, bedroom organization (yes, I’m overly organized… I know), and a list of my favorite scents from Bath & Body Works 🙂
- Personal – Includes my bucket list, important info, personal notes, etc.
- Travel – I have a few notes where I mentioned to someone that I wanted to visit a specific city and they gave me recommendations of places to check out when I’m there.
Step Five: Organize Your Photos!
This one is a doozy. First of all, if you have iCloud and don’t back up your photos to the iCloud Photo Library, do this now. Settings > Photos > iCloud Photo Library.
I have thousands of photos on my phone, so using albums is important. Try creating some albums on your phone and sorting them when you have down time. It’ll make your life easier when you’re in search of specific photos!
Step Six: Delete Old Voicemails
I’m not sure why, but this is something people forget to do often. I’ll call and friend and it’ll tell me their voice mailbox is full. Why does everyone always forget to go in and delete old voicemails?
Step Seven: Use Your Phone Calendar
And while you’re at it, make separate calendars for different types of events and keep it color coordinated for extra organization. It’s just nice to have everything in one place. Here are my different calendars for reference:
Step Eight: Delete Your Browser History
Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data
This will help clear out some old data from websites you haven’t visited in a while. This will also help speed up your phone a bit!
I know this was a long post, but I hope all of this helped! You’ll feel better with a less chaotic and messy phone, and you’ll be one step closer to a clutter-free life!
Oh, and reboot your phone while you’re at it after reading this 🙂
What are other tips you have for keeping your electronic devices cleaned out? I’d love to hear them! And if you have any questions, or would like to learn more about a specific way I organize my phone, let me know in the comments!