This week, we’re kicking off Fresh Start February with some digital decluttering – a task that might seem tedious and a waste of time, but guess what? A mess is a mess, whether it’s in your closet or your camera roll. You end up spending more time searching for things than finding them, and isn’t life stressful enough? 

If you still think you don't have time to complete this task, we have great news: Much of the digital decluttering process can be automated. You also don’t have to deal with space limitations as you would organizing a pantry. We promise it will be worth it (and feel free to treat yourself to one of these cute tech cases once you are done!) Grab your devices and let’s get started, shall we? 

YOUR PHONE

STEP 1: EDIT

Run through the following checklist and clear out what you no longer need within each category. We suggest tackling one per day because life is busy and small wins lead to big victories. 

Day 1: Contacts 

Day 2: Apps/notifications/subscriptions 

Day 3: Text messages/call logs/voicemails 

Day 4: Files/downloads

Day 5: Notes app

Day 6: Bookmarks/browser tabs  

Day 7: Photos

STEP 2: CONTAIN

If you’ve been following us for a while, you are aware of our penchant for organizing things in rainbow order, and that includes apps. The human brain can easily recognize things visually in the same way muscle memory develops: By repetition and use. So, if you use your apps, you will inherently know what they look like. 

  • Start with a simple background so that the color coordination pops on the screen. The less busy, the better. 

  • Group apps into folders by color. If an app contains multiple colors, go with the most dominant. You can also use the Shortcuts app (available on iOS) to customize the color and icon of any app on your phone. This will allow you to categorize by function while still tapping into the rainbow magic. 

  • Title each new folder with your favorite emoji in the same color scheme as the apps. This is the part where people really get creative. For the pink folder, you might choose the bow, bikini, or heart; for the teal folder, you could choose the dress, the statue of Liberty, or a fish. There are even options for the rainbow folder like the striped lollipop. It’s entirely up to you - just have fun with it! 

  • Within each folder, place the most commonly used apps at the very top for easy access. We also recommend keeping each folder to a max of 9 apps so everything remains visible from the home screen. If you find you have a large amount of blue apps for example, sort them into light blue and dark blue folders to maintain a single layer of visibility.  

Love the rainbow aesthetic but want to group by functionality? Shortcuts allows you to customize the appearance of any app so you get the best of both worlds. Here's how:

  • Open the Shortcuts app, then tap the + sign in the top right corner.
  • Tap Add Action, then use the text field to search for Open App.
  • Select Open App and choose the app you'd like to customize.
  • Tap the down facing chevron at the top of the screen to change the color and icon, then Add to Home Screen.

STEP 3: MAINTAIN

If you complete the edit step correctly, maintaining your system is as easy as scheduling 15 minutes per month to run through the checklist again. 

YOUR EMAIL

STEP 1: EDIT

So, here’s where automation comes into play. Don’t you just love modern technology? Apps such as Un.Roll Me and Clean Email allow you to not only edit and unsubscribe in bulk, but also set yourself up for future success with filters, folders, keywords, and tags. Using these features can help you search for messages faster, reducing the time you spend looking for important emails, including those you've already answered, have yet to answer, and already archived.

STEP 2: CONTAIN

Even with automation, you’ll still need to customize your system. Similar to organizing a physical space, you’ll want to create groupings (or in this case, folders) that flow with your daily routine. 

STEP 3: MAINTAIN

As long as you use the apps above how they are meant to be used, you’ll be able to maintain your newly organized system with little effort, especially when paired with these bonus tips: 

  • Create a new email address for promotions and another one for online orders and receipts. 
  • Turn on your email preview feature as a way to delete emails without fully reading them. 
  • Make templates for frequently used responses to save time. 

YOUR DESKTOP

STEP 1: EDIT

Similar to your phone, feel free to tackle the following checklist one category at a time. Much of what you’ll be organizing can be easily backed up, either on a Cloud server, hard drive, or online Dropbox, so no need to overthink this. 

  • Day 1: Downloads
  • Day 2: Folders/Files
  • Day 3: Passwords 
  • Day 4: Applications 
  • Day 5: Browser Tabs/Bookmarks 
  • Day 6: System Settings 
  • Day 7: Photos 

STEP 2: CONTAIN

Whether it’s on your desktop or external storage, keep in mind that your folder system should be as simple as possible. Just as if you were organizing a pantry, you’ll want to think in broad categories (Ex: Work, School, Kids). The goal is to use titles that indicate what's inside without having to open it.

Next, add keywords to each file using terms you’d typically attach to them. This way you’ll have an opportunity to find what you need using your search bar rather than sifting through folders. 

STEP 3: MAINTAIN

Depending on how many files your desktop accumulates, consider organizing it one to two times per month. During these sessions, evaluate what you need, and what you don’t, and make tweaks to the system if necessary. Just remember: If you can easily access something via Dropbox or your email, it doesn’t need to live on your desktop.

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