How We're Spring Cleaning Our Phones (And The Tips We Use for Organizing Apps)

Plus "before" and "after" shots of our home screens.
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You know that moment you realized you have 33,384 photos on your phone and about a thousand apps you don't use? (Actual number taken from Leslie's actual photo library... just us?) Inspired by Emily's home spring-cleaning projects, our entire team turned to the "junk drawers" we cart around with us everyday in our phones. Maybe it's because it's so easy to click them off, but a screenshot of our cluttered home screens revealed we're all guilty of stashing stuff we don't need. (Except for Kelly. We literally gasped when she told us she has 415 photos.) The good news is: Cleaning your phone is a whole lot easier than cleaning your house. Twenty minutes and a few simple changes are all you need to reduce the time you spend on your phone, and make the time you do spend more enjoyable and productive. Here are our tips for spring-cleaning your phone:

1. Go through your photos and delete them. 

Everyone in our office is guilty of overloading our phones with photos (except Kelly who has so few, which she credits to going through them on planes). We'd like to blame it on the nature of our jobs (Leslie says she contributes 90% of her photos to work), but the reality is that most people, us included, take a million shots to get the right one and forget to erase the others. Clearing out your phone can be cathartic and help your phone run faster: Erase duplicates, unedited photos, images used for a specific task, and anything old that doesn't bring back happy memories. Clearing your phone's photos not only speeds up your processing, but it also can provide closure on trips, jobs, and even relationships. Our Assistant Editor Katie, who has one of the neatest phones in the office, goes through her photos regularly. At the end of each year, she uploads them to her computer and categorizes them based on year, semester, or trip location. The photos are always there as a reference or for print-outs, but her phone is clear and ready for another year of use.

2. Now do the same to your apps.

Similar to the way you may go through your closet, be honest about which apps you regularly use. Is it a "someday" app? Get rid of it (as Leslie did her "punchcard" apps to New York coffee shops)! Consider deleting apps that are redundant of webpages, as most shopping apps are. The best way to see all of your apps in your iPhone is to head to Settings >> General >> iPhone Storage. It's akin to bringing all of your clothes out of the closet in the KonMari Method and setting them out before putting them back into place. Similar to that Halloween costume from college, your trip-specific app from the one time you were in Mexico is probably a non-essential. In fact, you probably didn't even know it was there. And, unlike clothes, you can always get it back if you need it in the future. Erasing untouched apps will quickly reduce the amount of pages on your home screen. 

3. Delete old subscriptions you don't use. 

Not only will this step save your phone space, but also it will potentially save you money you didn't realize you were spending each month. It's weirdly difficult to find subscriptions and delete them (which may be the point), but to delete subscriptions on an iPhone, go to Settings >> Profile >> iTunes and App Store >> Apple ID >> View Apple ID >> Subscriptions. Once there, you can review your active and expired subscriptions. P.S., Did you know, if you subscribe for a week-long trial on an app, you can delete the subscription right away, and it will still give you the full week trial. Then, you can make the choice at the end whether you want the full, paid subscription (rather than forgetting and having it roll over automatically). 

4. Turn off notifications that don't come from humans.

Leslie swears by this tip to reduce the number of times her phone pings and lights-up (and her overall "pick ups"), though it isn't the easiest to commit to. In order to turn off notifications, go to Settings >> Notifications and turn off notifications for each app that isn't texting or calling. For example, Leslie no longer receives New York Times notifications but will check the app when it's convenient to her. She may be a few hours late to breaking news, but to her the cons of picking up her phone every time something comes in outweigh the pros of being informed down to the minute.

If you can't go completely cold turkey, try just changing a few. Think about which apps send you notifications that you never actually check. Is it Zillow, Poshmark, Twitter? If you don't have an immediate use for it, silence the notifications and consider erasing the app all together. Cutting down on notifications will likely lead to a decrease in screen time- something everyone can benefit from.

5. Reorganize your apps.

This is the fun part! After asking yourself the deepest questions like do I really need four photo editing apps, you can now organize the apps that made the final cut. Create a home screen that sparks joy every time you open your phone. Leslie organized her home screen apps into three primary categories: 1.) apps that inspire her, like Orangetheory and Headspace, 2.) apps that bring her joy, like Pocket Casts and audiobooks, and 3.) practical apps like Waze, Spotify, and messaging apps. Apps that are distracting, like Instagram, are tucked-away in folders to detract from "mindless" clicking.

From there, consider grouping your apps into categories that make sense and de-clutter.  Anne opted to organize her phone by emojis, while Leslie funneled her apps into more streamlined categories. We also read a tip in this article (NYT) that suggested grouping apps by verb, like Write, Contact, and Read.

The layout should take into account the apps you click on the most often while also catering to your aesthetic preference. Do you want it color-coded? How much background should you see? This is all up to you!

6. Download a new phone background!

The final reward for all your hard work, minus a perfectly clean phone, is to pick a new background. We love the options from Design Love Fest, but anything from your own camera roll or online is perfect for making your phone feel brand new. Leslie opted for an image Kelly took for our Shop, featuring our spring earring collection, since she loved it so much! You can download that image for desktop and iPhone here. 

7. Bonus! Purchase a new case. 

Once you've cleaned-up your phone, you may be inspired to dress-up the outside of it. Here are a few of our favorites:

Love this terrazzo-inspired case
Jess gets so many DMs about her astrology case (there's also a rainbow version of it)
How cute is this for summertime? Or this slightly more subtle boba case!
This graduated rainbow glitter case is so cute Leslie just bought it...

Check out some of our before and after shots below, from a crowded phone to a mostly-neat homepage:

Anne's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Anne's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Katie's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Katie's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Leslie's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Leslie's home screen (left: before, right: after)

Do you organize your tech? What are your best tips? Are you curious to learn more about our favorite apps? Let us know in the comments!