Simple Tips to Organize and Declutter Your Phone

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We all think about decluttering our closets and kitchens, but forgetting about our phones is easy. Your cell phone gets cluttered with old apps, forgotten content and unneeded reminders. That clutter is not only taking up storage space, but some are draining your phone’s battery while lurking in the background. Let’s get into organizing your phone for an easier experience and more minimal look.

Here are some simple ways to do a digital declutter and organize to keep your phone clutter-free and to save yourself time. 

Table of Contents
Apps to Organize Your Phone
Phone Storage
Smartphone Privacy
Clean Your Phone

Simple Tips to Organize and Declutter Your Phone. Photo of someone holding phone. Photo of an iphone

Apps to Organize Your Phone

As always, the first step is to declutter before you start to organize. 

Delete unused apps.¬†This is an obvious first place to start. Whether it’s new apps that didn’t live up to their hype, you quit playing Candy Crush, or you have similar apps that do the same thing, uninstall those unwanted apps. Ensure you also sort through the apps in your app library that are not on your home screen. (Goodbye, group apps for baseball and hockey teams from last year!)

Hide less frequently used apps.¬†The less visual clutter on your home screen, the better. If you have an app you use too much — social media apps, I’m looking at you! — then consider removing it from your home screen to make you a little more mindful about opening it. Changing your phone to greyscale in settings is a great way to make your phone less appealing if you find your screen time is creeping up too much.

Customize your Android home tray or iPhone dock, aka the bar of four apps at the bottom of the home screen.  These should be the essential apps you constantly need, like the phone app, your settings, a browser, your messaging app, and email. Maybe you want the weather app. Do not put social apps in this spot.

Create folders to organize your remaining apps.  There are different ways to use app folders, so be creative and tailor this to your preference. Use words or emojis to title folders and sort your apps by most used, order of importance, alphabetical order or colour of app icon. Do what works best for you!

Consider a Quarantine Folder.  Create a new folder to quarantine apps, if you need time to decide whether to keep or delete it. Set yourself a deadline to deal with these apps. Remember, if you delete an app, you can always re-download it later from the app store if you want it again.

Home Screen Shortcuts. The shortcuts app allows you to personalize the way an app icon looks. This is a bit more complicated than just having a folder, but for a visual person, it can be more pleasing to the eye. It’s an easy way to make two apps the same colour look different.

Grid Size on Android Phones. While Android devices have a default grid of 4×5 (4 apps across, 5 down), this can be adjusted by going into settings and home screen grid. If you have fewer apps, adjusting the size of your app icons will change the look of your main screen. iPhone users can’t change the grid size, but they can increase the icon size to a set default (zoom) in settings under display.

My phone homescreen needs to be organized. Not to mention the 292 unopened emails

Phone Storage

Check your storage space. In your phone’s settings, you can check your available storage space as well as a detail breakdown of how much space is devoted to different categories (apps, photos, music, operating system, messages, etc). This is a good way to check your progress when you are uninstalling apps and backing up files.

Use cloud storage. You have many options: Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more. It is an easy way to back up your files, free up storage space, and not slow down your phone. There are free and subscription-based cloud storage services to help organize your phone, so check around to see what suits you. 

Check out this post about cloud storage and file sharing.

Delete unnecessary files stored on your phone before backing up.¬†This should include downloads in your Files app on iPhones or My Files in the app drawer on Android. The Menu PDF you looked at when you met friends for lunch last week is probably still stored in your phone. It’s that easy to get extra junk crowding your phone.

Stream music¬†instead of keeping files on your phone.¬†The tradeoff is that you may need more data if you are not on Wi-Fi. Downloading music to listen to offline doesn’t use as much data, but it does take up a lot of storage space. When you stop listening to songs you have downloaded, declutter them.

Delete old text conversations.¬†One of my teens explained this to me after a frantic bit of deleting to make room to record a video for a school assignment. These old text messages can be a fun reminder of a single day, but a space hog on your phone’s available memory and slows down its processing speed. If you find unread messages, delete those as well.¬†

Delete old voicemails. Listen to old voice messages and decide whether to transcribe the details, delete, or save them. In the future, delete unneeded messages once you’ve returned the phone calls or handled the situation.

Back up your photos and videos instead of keeping them on your phone. Yes, there are undoubtedly photos you want to keep on your phone for easy access, but most can be stored in the cloud, on a service like Google Photos, or on an external hard drive for easy phone organization. As you scroll through, many are probably not worth keeping: duplicates, instructions for something already completed, screenshots, and all that stuff that was supposed to be temporary.

Check the Notes App.¬†These are sorted from newest to oldest. Discard the ones that don’t have the information you need to retain — old due dates, kids’ previous clothing sizes, shopping lists, etc. In the future when you write a new note, consider deleting a few older ones to keep on top of things.

Review your contact list, phone numbers, and address book. If you haven’t looked through the list in a while, you might be surprised to see you still have your kids’ elementary school phone numbers saved even though they are well into high school. Or your friends have moved, and the information you are holding onto isn’t relevant anymore. Keep this up to date!

Helpful Tip: One of the first things you should do with any phone is designate your emergency contacts.¬† Someone can access your emergency contacts on your locked phone if you are hurt. Check to ensure this information is up to date in your contacts list. If you haven’t assigned your emergency contacts, take the time to set this critical information up.

1.9 TB used in a 2 TB storage screen of phone
Yikes! My phone storage is nearly full!

Smartphone Privacy

Part of the reason to declutter your phone is to make it simpler and more useful. At the same time, it’s a good idea to review your privacy settings; think of this as a step in stopping the incoming clutter.

Review your privacy settings.  This applies to your phone and in your apps. Terms get updated and changed. It’s easy to miss that popup that told you it had changed, and you might be sharing or giving access to more than you want. Make sure you have your settings in line with what you think. 

Notifications.  In the digital age, they come from your calendar, e-mail, reminders, other apps and every other direction. Take control of these; you may have an option of whether they show on your lock screen or as banners on your home screen.  You might even have a file full of notification history; check your settings. Keep the necessities and communications you need and turn off other ones.

laptop and phone on a desk
Security is important because bad guys could be working in the background to steal your data

Clean Your Phone

After you finish cleaning up your phone’s contents, take a minute to clean its exterior. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the screen, the case, the charging cord, and your earbuds. This will also make you mindful of the condition of your phone case.

Apple recommends cleaning your phone with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, a 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to avoid getting moisture in the speakers, charging outlet, or between the buttons. 

At the minimum, you should wipe everything down weekly. Doing this on a daily basis is better. Consider stacking it with another habit, like plugging your phone in to charge the battery at night, to make it a regular part of your routine. It does not take much time.

Consider wiping off all your devices before charging them

Whether your iPhone or Android device is an old phone you’ve had for a long time or you got a new phone a month ago, it’s as natural for digital clutter to accumulate as physical things do in your everyday life. Your most used apps will change over time. Productivity apps might have been helpful while creating habits, but you might not need them so much now. Phone organization is key, so take easy steps to clean up your device on a regular basis.¬†

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