Declutter your digital world: Your smartphone

May 11, 2017

Last week Claire talked about her first impressions of Marie Kondo’s 2014 best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, and how many of the lessons learned through tidying one’s belongings can translate to other parts of our lives. 

I was curious to see whether the same principles can be applied to a particularly cluttered aspect of my life - my digital world. In the same way that many people find themselves overwhelmed by the ever-growing pile of unopened post and a wardrobe bursting at the seams, I daily face my iPhone’s storage limit warning with the same visceral dread. 

Kondo’s key teaching - that the items with which we surround ourselves should spark joy, or else be discarded - makes sense when it comes to jewellery, books, even the utensils we use in our kitchen. If using a tin opener you’ve owned since university means you break you out in a sweat, it’s likely time to upgrade to a newer model that can offer a more pleasant experience, if not joy per se.

This feels less straightforward when it comes to my digital ‘belongings’. When looking through the content of my phone, I found myself thinking but I need these things. It’s useful to be able to look up flight times through an app. I like to have banks of podcasts available in case I have a longer than usual train journey. I don’t want to delete any photographs of my nephew’s second birthday.

These feelings are normal, and certainly the way most people approach the tidying of physical possessions; it is difficult to get rid of anything that we once chose to own. Looking to Kondo for help, she diagnoses this issue with startling clarity; the problem most of us have with tidying is that we focus on what we should throw away, instead of what we want to keep.

With this in mind, I began prioritising the contents of my phone in terms of what truly brings me pleasure - which for me is books on the Kindle app, a handful of podcasts, my Spotify playlists, and photography apps - and what is genuinely useful or life-enhancing, which in my case is news apps, CityMapper, my to-do list manager, and Evernote. 

What I found I didn’t need - at least with any regularity - was to be able to search for Air BnB listings via an app, browse the sales via an app or do a total body home workout in 7 minutes, via an app.  

The next step was to look through my photographs and videos. Again, when I began considering what I wanted to keep on my phone - that is to say, what needed to be immediately accessible offline, as opposed to via the almost unlimited storage space I subscribe to on the Cloud - it became easy to delete or archive the screenshots of recipes or 20-something group selfie attempts. preserving the photographs and videos I can rely on to cheer me up after a long day. 

The process, whilst not exactly life-changing, gave me a surprising sense of satisfaction. My smartphone felt streamlined, well-organised, with everything in easy reach. And better than that, in under an hour I had cleared 20G of storage space, ready for more music, podcasts, and photographs of my nephew’s third birthday. 

If your digital life needs some expert attention, do please get in touch

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