We’ve all heard about the research on clutter, right? It can affect mental health, memory, and stress levels. But it’s not just physical clutter—digital clutter can be just as overwhelming. In my quest to dial down the digital clutter, I’ve written about how to HEART your inbox. But today, I want to talk about our phones—those little computers that live in our pockets.
Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was known for not wanting a phone in his study. His wife, Mabel, wrote after his death: “Of course, he never had one in his study. That was where he went when he wanted to be alone with his thoughts and his work. The telephone, of course, means intrusion by the outside world.” And that’s when the phone was solely for phone calls—it’s hard to imagine what he’d think of the many distractions and interruptions our phones provide us with today!
However, our phones can be incredibly helpful tools. And I’m making an intentional choice to try and treat my phone more like that—a tool—rather than an escape or distraction. I’m starting by ruthlessly eliminating apps.
How to Ruthlessly Eliminate Phone Apps
I’m starting by looking at each app as a project: what does this app do for me? What can I accomplish with it? Do I really need it or is it just serving as another distraction option?
Here’s what I’m deleting:
- Mindless games: This is the easiest category. These apps are solely for distraction, and I don’t need them. Goodbye, Candy Crush. I hope you have fun entertaining someone else.
- Streaming services: Are we paying for this? If so, why? Is there content on this app that we can’t get through any of our other subscriptions—and do we watch it enough to justify the cost? How many streaming services do we actually need?
- Apps I downloaded for work: Am I using this app, or did I download it because it was a shiny new thing, only to forget about it. If you haven’t opened the app in months, or you don’t remember what it does or why you downloaded it in the first place, it’s time for it to go!
Make it simple
Start with the easiest apps to say goodbye to (mindless games, I’m looking at you). Once you’ve deleted a few, you’ll realize how good it feels to get rid of stuff that doesn’t matter. Then move on to the harder ones. As you delete, make sure you’ve retrieved any account information that you need to save.
Focus on what you are NOT going to do
Our phones can do so much. They can be communication devices, calendars, alarm clocks, and cameras. We can visit our favorite websites, check our bank account balance, scroll social media, get all of our news, and so, so much more. The possibilities are truly endless. So instead of exploring all the potential of my phone, I’m choosing to focus on ruthlessly eliminating the platforms I am NOT going to use.
Focus on what you are NOT going to do. Commit to NOT doing it. Say no, Enneagram 7, say no. SAY NO.
Pick your favorite
I don’t need five apps that do essentially the same thing. If I have multiple photo editing apps, I’m committing to choosing the one that works best for me. How many note-taking apps do I really need? ONE! I need to pick one!
Next: do any of my apps integrate with other apps in a way that allows me to delete one of them? For example, do I NEED the Zoom app, or if all my Zooms are scheduled through Google Calendar, can I just click on the link?
Work In Progress
Decluttering is (unfortunately) not a “one-and-done” task. It’s something that you have to maintain. I’m doing a big digital declutter now, and then I’m planning to set a regular reminder for myself to do a quick sweep of my phone to maintain my clutter-free digital space.
Share your tips!
Have you done a digital declutter? Do you have favorite apps that do it all? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!