How to declutter your phone: Step-by-step guide

Tips & tricks
4 mins
Apps pouring out of a phone.

It’s no secret that the cleanliness of your working environment can have a big impact on your productivity. If we’ve learned anything from Marie Kondo in the past few years it’s that tidying and organizing your home is just as important for well-being. 

What about your smartphone? Given the amount of time most of us spend consulting our phones, a pretty strong case can be made for keeping it organized. Apps can “bloat” your phone over time, taking up space and slowing it down. And the more apps you have, the greater the risk of harboring ones  that don’t respect user privacy (or security).

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Well, we’re here for you! Welcome to the ExpressVPN guide on Zen and the Art of Smartphone Maintenance and join us on our quest to help you narrow down the essentials.

Clear your home screen

For decluttering your: Android and iOS device

Let’s start with something simple, clearing your home screen. We suggest keeping this space as minimal as possible with icons and widgets for the things you absolutely need for everyday use. This can include quick access to your dialer, messaging apps, accounts, calendar, camera, and settings. This of course will vary from user to user. The important thing is to keep this place free from clutter.

Delete unused apps

For decluttering your: Android and iOS device

This one might be obvious but it’s easier said than done. You may just have to bite the bullet and manually sort through your phone and delete apps that you’ve rarely or never used. Perhaps start with outdated apps that you no longer have any use for, then progress to doubled up apps that perform that same function(s) as others on your phone. For example, do you have more than one calendar or calculator? Get rid of the instances that you don’t use. Stuck with stock or pre-bundled bloatware? Get rid of those where possible. If your device doesn’t allow you to delete these, you can always hide them. Which leads us to…

Hide unused apps

For decluttering your: Android and iOS device

For apps that you can’t delete (often stock or pre-bundled programs), opt for moving them out of sight. You can also do this for apps that you just don’t want to delete for now.

If you’re using an Android, most ROMs that come installed on handsets from major manufacturers (e.g., Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, Google, OnePlus) include options to hide apps either from your home screen or app drawers.

If you’re using an iPhone, there are several ways you can hide your apps. One option is to move unwanted apps into a folder and relocate it away from the home screen. Another option is to move these apps into the App Library. Unfortunately, while you can move unwanted apps, you can’t hide apps within the App Library itself.

Install a launcher

For decluttering your: Android 

Launchers are alternative, or replacement, graphical user interfaces that allow Android users to customize their home screens. Launchers sit on top of Android without actually modifying the operating system and can customize how the phone makes calls and launches applications. 

Launchers provide Android users with a great deal of freedom to modify their handsets for the most comfortable or efficient user experience. This also includes the ability to group apps by category and hide entire categories and folders. 

Two great options to consider: 

Nova Launcher

Smart Launcher 5

  • Smart Launcher 5 (free)
  • Smart Launcher 5 Pro (3.39 USD/month, 9.49 USD/year, 20.99 USD/lifetime)

Organize app drawer contents into folders by category

For decluttering your: Android 

One of the best ways to make an immediate change in your app drawer is to organize all of your apps into folders by category. By default, apps in the Android app drawer are organized alphabetically but aren’t sorted into categorized folders. By taking this one step further and organizing everything into folders, you’ll clear up more space and make finding apps a breeze.

Backup your media on the cloud

For decluttering your: Android and iOS device

Has your device been bogged down by hundreds—if not thousands—of photos and videos? Lighten the load by backing up your personal media on privacy-friendly cloud services. In some instances, you can even set it up so that every new photo and video you take will be automatically uploaded to your cloud storage service. In general it’s also a good idea to back up and encrypt your files regularly.

Some cloud storage services to start you off include:

  • Dropbox Basic – includes 2GB storage 
  • Tresorit – free plan includes 5GB storage
  • Sync – free plan includes 5GB storage
  • Mega – free plan includes 15GB storage

Read more: We analyzed 450 apps and found location trackers in every one

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