A few weeks ago, I was sitting home alone and for whatever reason decided to watch Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix. I remember being swept up the last time Kondo Fever hit a few years ago, and thanks to her, my dresser drawers are neat, and I swear by folding my clothes into tidy thirds. Surely, I had absorbed everything there was to the KonMari method—my Brooklyn apartment is pretty organized, and unlike most of the people on her show, I know where everything is.
Except when I shut off the TV and picked up my phone to tweet that more people needed her than Jesus, I realized that while I had cleaned out my physical spaces a long time ago, my digital clutter was out of control. I had over 150 apps downloaded onto my iPhone 7, all sorted into confusing folders across seven screens.
There were seven text messaging apps—LINE for friends in Japan, WhatsApp for the other international friends, KakaoTalk for family in Korea, Signal for my journalist buddies, the default Messages app, Facebook Messenger, and Hangouts for Google. If you added video-chatting, I had 11 apps dedicated to gabbing with friends and family. There were a whopping 21 apps for controlling various aspects of the smart home, including eight for robot vacuums I no longer had in my possession. I had 11 apps for various types of note taking, to-do lists, and reference. For some reason, I had 10 apps for photo-editing and video apps. There were 36 mobile games, four food delivery apps, and seven rideshare apps—far too many to be practical. If you had asked me where I could find a specific app, I would’ve turned into the shrug emoji. I’d been reduced to searching for any app I was trying to use.
But that’s the thing. The majority of those apps had been eating up storage on my phone for months without delivering any utility. I downloaded many for my job testing smart home and fitness tech, and I never got around to deleting them because, well, it’s only a matter of time before Garmin puts out another fitness tracker for me to test right?
Staring at my phone, I was overcome with anxiety. And then I remembered I’d just watched three episodes of Marie Kondo cleaning up people’s lives. Why not apply her method to my phone apps?
About an hour and a half later, I was done. My phone was 80 apps lighter, I knew where each one was, and I only had 2.5 screens total. Here’s how I did it in two easy steps.
1) Delete any app that doesn’t spark joy (or that isn’t useful to you)
I only use most of the apps on my phone occasionally, while others duplicate the functionality of other apps I like better. So I thanked the unnecessary apps for their service and deleted them. It was incredibly cathartic to delete Uber, Via, Arro, and Curbed since in reality, 95 percent of the time I opt for Lyft or Juno. Likewise, I don’t need Seamless if I have GrubHub. I deleted LINE because over the years, my friends there have migrated to other chat apps, and I was only getting messages from my cousin when the phone bill was due. I realized I wasn’t a fan of mobile gaming, so I deleted every single one of my mobile games (36 in total).
Apps like Twitter and Slack do not spark joy, but I kept them because I need them to do my job. You are most definitely allowed (nay, encouraged) to delete Twitter if you don’t need it though.
2) Arrange your apps so you know where they are
Part of the problem facing Kondo’s clients is they never know where things are. She tells them that everything ought to have a specific place. Apps are like that too.
To start, I moved all the apps I use on an almost daily basis to my main screen. Things like my camera app, Slack, Todoist, Spotify, Google Maps. Is it shameful that GrubHub lives there? Probably, but now I don’t have to hunt around for it.
I then decided to use my second screen for apps I use at least once a week, but I grouped apps with similar uses near each other. Basically, if I don’t use the app on a daily basis, it’s probably on my second screen.
Arranging my apps meaningfully also meant deleting most of my folders. For me, folders had become an app-hoarding crutch. I’d slide an app into a folder and forget it was even there. So, I deleted all but six. And for the folders I kept, I made rules that each needed to have at least three apps to justify its existence, but no more than nine so I could see every app in a folder without opening it. Kondo teaches that you should fold your clothes into thirds so you can actually see everything in a drawer—and the same logic applies wonderfully to apps.
Now most people probably can’t survive on just two screens of apps, including me. I chose not to delete were plenty I use maybe monthly, but I still found it useful to have. There are also apps I plan on using temporarily while testing products, or on a trial basis to see if I like them enough to keep. I decided those could live on a third screen.
Admittedly, this is still a work in progress for me, but so far, it’s worked out well. Since applying the KonMari method to my phone, I’ve been happier and more efficient. And I truly don’t miss any of the apps I deleted. Not even ones I thought I might, like HBO Now or Postmates. Of course, this is just how I interpreted the KonMari method for the digital landscape. Feel free to share what works for you in the comments below. Now all I need to do is muster the courage to KonMari my Photos library.