Clean Machine
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20 Tips to Declutter Your Phone Using the Marie Kondo Method

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Clean Machine
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clean machine

Marie Kondo has inspired many to declutter their homes, whether they’ve seen her show on Netflix or read her book. Phones can also be a mess — of apps, photos, email, and texts — and sometimes get in even worse shape, because the digital space available can be essentially infinite. We got Marie Kondo’s advice direct from KonMari headquarters and spoke with certified KonMari consultants and other organization experts to learn how to apply Kondo’s technique to our phones. Though Kondo notes that the physical space should be attended to first, because it hones judgment of possessions that “is crucial before tackling digital tidying.”

Related: 11 Tips from Marie Kondo for Getting Kids Organized

Identify Your Phone’s Purpose
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identify your phone’s purpose

Your phone can be just for calls or as multipurpose as a laptop, but write down your plan. “Sometimes we realize we don’t want to use our phone like our laptop or our computer because it’s a big distraction,” says certified KonMari consultant, Jessica Louie, chief executive of Clarify Simplify Align. Whatever you decide, decide to get rid of what doesn’t fit the purpose. “If it’s not necessary, it’s just going to distract you from what’s necessary,” organizational expert Jill Pollack said.

Don’t Overdo It
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don’t overdo it

Commit to finishing the phone-decluttering project like you would a home, quickly and thoroughly, but remember that might take days, weeks, or a year, depending how many photos, documents, sound files, contacts, apps, and other items there are on (or reachable through) the phone. “We always recommend that people spend no more than three to four, maybe five hours at a time decluttering anything,” says certified KonMari consultant Karin Socci, owner of The Serene Home. “The one thing for sure is you don’t want to let yourself get too tired. If you get tired while you’re sorting, then you just start keeping everything.”

Commit To Tidying When And Where You Can
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commit to tidying when and where you can

The benefit of portable devices is being able to work on them anywhere. Melissa Maker, founder ofClean My Space, suggests taking advantage by decluttering “any time you have a super boring task where you just cannot avoid having to wait somewhere.” After all, “you don’t want to set aside otherwise productive time to do it.“

Adapt The  Categories
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adapt the categories

Phone clutter is a little different from home clutter, but it still helps to sort things into piles. You can define your own categories. While Kondo suggests sorting into “emails, documents and other files, contacts, and photos — with photos saved for last,” Socci suggests users look at grouping things as “business, social media, games, shopping, and discount apps”; Louie advises another for digital books and papers, including audiobooks and podcasts. (Since KonMari is about keeping things that “spark joy,” digital joy can also have its own folder.) Like in physical KonMari, there can be a komono category for miscellaneous, and delete its contents. You can “thank” everything you delete, just as in the physical process. “Just be thankful that they have a phone that allows them to make those choices,” Socci said.

Anything Can Be Sentimental, But Not Everything
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anything can be sentimental, but not everything

This is why we ask, “Does it spark joy?” You can’t answer yes to every single app. “If you have apps from every single event you’ve ever gone to in your entire life, just like I had a client who have T-shirts from every concert they ever went to in their entire lives, that’s not necessarily a good thing,” Socci said.
Follow The Right Order
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follow the right order

Discard first, then organize what remains. Start by deleting apps you don’t use. If you change your mind, you can always download them again.

Fold Your Apps Into Folders
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fold your apps into folders

You can’t fold apps like jeans, but you can organize them into folders. Move all the apps from your home screen into the second or third screen of your phone and put them into folders together, Louie suggests. iPhone users know how to combine jiggling apps into folders, but Finer Tech came up with a way to add multiple files to folders all at once.

You Only Really Need Five Apps
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you only really need five apps

Pollack has strict criteria. “I think if you’re doing more than five or six things on your phone, you’re doing too much,” Pollack said. “You have to keep the weather, your email, texting, using it as a phone, camera.” Don’t keep things just because you might use them one day. “That’s exactly what we say about things like our extra turkey baster,” Maker said.
No Games
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no games

Don’t add anything nonessential to a phone. Games and apps may be fun, but that’s not the same as sparking joy. “Those don’t spark joy,” says Pollack, who allows no games on her phone. “They spark addiction. You’re actually distracting yourself from what you should do. Keep the stuff that gets you going where you want to go.”
Dump Retail Shopping Apps
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dump retail shopping apps

“Take a look at all the shopping apps you have on your phone,” Socci said. “Am I actually using this one? Do I find myself going into a particular store only because I have the discount app on my phone? Is that a store that I want to continue going to?”
Get Rid Of One-time Apps
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get rid of one-time apps

The easiest apps to clear away may be from conferences and festivals, which you won’t need once the events are done. An app for a rare special event might go in your phone’s “spark joy” folder. “When you had a few minutes and you were feeling reflective of those kinds of events and you could go and take a look,” Socci said.
Delete The App From The Store Too
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delete the app from the store too

Delete apps from the iTunes store or Google Play Store completely, because ”if you just delete it on your phone, and then you connect your phone up to your computer, those apps will go back onto your phone,” Socci said. Maker has one more step: Sometimes she will email a company and ask them to delete her account “if I don’t want to have anything to do with that app anymore.”
Try Just A Weekend Without Social Media
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try just a weekend without social media

Louie has some clients give up social media just for the weekend. “They’re grateful for connecting with people socially, but they just need a couple days’ break,” Louie said. If that leads to a longer or permanent break, so be it — apps can always be brought back if the users want them. “Say ‘Thank you for whatever enlightenment you brought to me, and now I’m going to do something different for a while,’” Socci said.
Make Folders For Email Too
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make folders for email too

You can create the three KonMari folders for sorting email: Permanent Documents; Intermediate Paper; and Immediate Action, with any item that doesn’t spark joy and hasn’t been opened in three years let go with gratitude — or, as Socci recommends, transferred to storage such as Dropbox. Louie feels you only need one folder, though. Her ”15 Days to Email Inbox Zero" says to either address an email within 24 hours, or it goes into an archive folder.

Finally Time For Photos?
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finally time for photos?

KonMari saves sentimental items for last, which definitelyapplies to photos. Start by getting rid of non-sentimental pics. “I ended up taking accidental screenshots all the time, so I often go in and get rid of [them],” Socci said. Business pics are ripe for deletion too.

Back Up Your Photos
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back up your photos

Back up photos that matter either to the cloud (iCloud, Google, and Amazon Photos are all well-regarded options) or physically, such as on a hard disk or flash drive. “Things on our phones are not necessarily safe,” Socci said. “In KonMari, taking care of our things is considered a super important aspect. Backing up photos or backing your data up and being mindful of taking care of the things that are unique is super important.” But remember that just because you have unlimited storage doesn’t mean you’re done. You still have to organize it.

Try A Weekly Digital Detox
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try a weekly digital detox

Clients in Louie’s digital detox program transfers temporary files to permanent storage weekly, then delete those notes, texts, voicemail, call histories, and more. “You have a clear phone to start with each week after that,” Louie said. This is for after you’ve done your major phone cleanup. “Once it’s set up, then it’s just a maintenance program,” Louie said.
Overcoming Technology-Addicted Behavior
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turn off notifications

Really, you don’t need to be paged for every tweet or email. Check ‘em when you want. “We also remove notifications [and] set up ‘Do Not Disturb’ settings on the phone so that we are setting some boundaries to remove the distraction our phone causes,” Louie said.
Keep The Phone In One Room
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keep the phone in one room

Just because the phone is small enough to go anywhere doesn’t mean you should use it everywhere. “You don’t leave your toothbrush everywhere. You leave it in the bathroom, right?” Pollack said. “If someone’s expecting a call or has a sick child, okay, I get that. But don’t keep it. Do not put the phone in your bedroom. Keep it downstairs.”

Create A Soothing Home Screen
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create a soothing home screen

KonMari is about creating a calm, inspiring environment. Manufacturers make phones easy to customize, and cases come in a huge array of styles — and they can be chosen to project peace too. “We change the home screen and lock screen photos so they’re inspirational and calming to the person,” Louie said. “That’s a way to visually change your phone, besides the case on your phone as well.”