Digital Decluttering: 5 Ways to Simplify Your Smart Phone Habits

So, why clear the clutter on your smart phone?

Our phones are such an integral part of our life. For most of us, they are our constant companion. They follow us when we go out, when we go to the bathroom when we go on that afternoon drive for our child to have a snooze because they JUST WON’T SLEEP (#joking #notreally). We are so blessed to live in a time where we have access to anything and everything we want at a moment’s notice. The world is at our fingertips, literally! But in my experience, without creating boundaries and being intentional with the use of our smartphones, they can take over. Research in the US found that we’re checking our phone EVERY 12 MINUTES. Isn’t that insane??!! Closer to home, the Australian cut of the Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2017 found that

  • 41% perceived they were using their phones excessively and
  • 44% are trying to reduce or limit their smartphone usage.

And how is this impacting on us in our daily living? Well,

  • 49% of people who responded to the survey multitask on their smartphone while spending time with others
  • 70% percent using phones during mealtimes with family and friends
  • 35% of us check our phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning

For any mamas out there who are wondering how they can make one change in their daily habits in their journey to be more present with their loved ones, it’s simple. Change your phone habits! And you can start right now.

So, let’s get into the good stuff. How do we do this exactly?

#1: DECLUTTER YOUR APPS

If you’re like me and find visual clutter frazzling, start by simply looking at the apps on your phone and delete ones that you rarely use and don’t bring value to your life anymore.

I then like to group apps together in folders so that my home screen looks nice and clutter-free. I’ll usually do this with apps I don’t need quick access to, or that I use less frequently.

The first step, done!

#2: DECLUTTER YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNTS

Do you remember the last time you received a personal email? Honestly, I can go months at a time without receiving one from a friend or family member. Most of my emails are either subscriptions, bills, payment confirmations, and tax invoices.

I like to receive bills, payments and tax invoices in my email account because I’m in the process of making my home as paperless as possible when it comes to important documents. I also like to create folders for these, so that I can find my documents efficiently if I need them and so my inbox remains uncluttered.

Subscriptions on the other hand? These can fill your inbox up very quickly and create havoc! The solution? Declutter, of course!

How? Sign in to your Inbox and one-by-one, assess whether this email is useful/valuable, or whether it’s just creating noise and clutter for you right now. Click on the email to open it, scroll to the bottom of the page and usually you’ll find an “Unsubscribe” link. Click on this and follow instructions to fully or partially unsubscribe from receiving emails from that person/organization.

Next, type the name of the person/organization in your search bar, and when it pulls up the name, you can do a bulk delete by “Select all” and “Delete”. Or you can go through the emails and delete them one-by-one in case there’s anything you want to keep.

#3: DECLUTTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media used to be a major source of dissatisfaction for me. I spent hours of my life mindlessly scrolling and living in a state of FOMO. Today, I’ve decided to use social media to fill up my cup by following people and organizations that make me feel good and that bring me value, joy, and reflection. Having said that, social media can still be a major time-suck for me if I don’t have limits in place.

One way to do this is to turn off notifications and alerts. Do you really need to know when people have liked/replied to your message, tagged you in something, sent you something? These little blips and beeps are pulling your attention to your smartphone and away from what else you could be focusing on. It may only be a couple of minutes, but the minutes add up!

If you’re ready to go next level, consider deleting your app altogether. James Clear refers to this as creating friction as a signal to changing your habits and getting 1% better every day. I did this 2 years ago with my Facebook app and haven’t looked back. I don’t go on Facebook often (apologies to those friends of mine who wonder why I don’t like or comment on your posts and wait for all eternity for me to reply to a post that I’m tagged in!) so I just log on through my regular internet browser when I need to access it.

I prefer using Instagram and actually, leave my app on my phone. Every once in awhile though, when I have the creeping feeling that I’m reaching for my phone too much, I’ll go on a social media cleanse and delete the app for a few days or weeks.

#4: TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS

Turn off unnecessary notifications and alerts for your apps, emails and text message services (including Whatsapp and FB messenger). My friends and family know and expect that I will only answer these when I look at my phone, which may or may not be the time they happen to contact me. This is a way of contacting me for matters that are not urgent.

I DO leave notifications on for my phone calls because for me that is the way my friends and family know to contact me if there is an important or pressing matter that requires immediate attention. Even then, I only answer phone calls from phone numbers that I know. All other calls go to voicemail, and I return these calls if they are important.

#5: IMPLEMENT NEW HABITS & RITUALS

Creating new habits and rituals around the use of your smartphone can shift you towards the mindful use of this amazing technology that we have!

Give your phone a home at home

Remember how we used to stand in one place to talk on the phone before we had cordless phones? Same idea. Leave your phone in a specific location at home. Mine is on my kitchen benchtop, but other places you might consider are your front entrance or on a shelf. Not having your phone beside you all the time will reduce the urge to keep reaching for it unconsciously! You will notice how often you actually pick up your phone for no particular reason when you first start implementing this change!

Schedule times to check your phone

I tend to check mine after breakfast, during Leo’s nap time and just before dinner time. These loose guidelines work for me, but you can get more specific by setting actual times and scheduling an alarm if you want to be more disciplined.

Schedule times to check your social media/email on your computer instead of your phone

Not having a phone glued to you can be liberating! So much so that you may find it more efficient to set aside some time (e.g. 30 mins per day, obviously this will vary from person to person) to check your social media and email on your laptop or desktop.

Consider getting a second phone for business/work

In 2017, 26% of Aussies in the Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey “often used their phone for business purposes outside of work hours”. Getting a second phone can reduce that urge and help you maintain your work/home boundaries. In my previous work roles, my employers have provided me with a work phone, which I turned on at 8.30am and switched off at 5.30pm.

If you’re a mumpreneur or run your own business, I’d still suggest considering that second handset. It may be a simpler task to manage at tax time too!

Resist the urge to reach for your phone!

Especially when you’re waiting in line for a coffee, watching your kids play at the park, or waiting to meet someone when you’re out. Take a deep breath. People watch. Take in your surroundings. Enjoy the moment!

A little word of warning

When you first begin implementing these changes, IT WILL BE UNCOMFORTABLE. Sometimes, you might even feel BORED. Sit in this discomfort or boredom and savor the freedom of not being shackled to your phone. Realize that you can add together all these minutes and use this newly found time to focus on something that you really love!

  • More Articles by Michelle
Michelle Diasinos
Founder, Mumlife Edited

Michelle is the founder of Mumlife Edited, where she helps modern-day mamas calm the chaos, live with intention and design the motherhood they dream of and deserve. She is also an occupational therapist, a lover of yoga, and mum to her two beautiful babes.

Find Michelle Online:
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Michelle Diasinos
Founder, Mumlife Edited

Michelle is the founder of Mumlife Edited, where she helps modern-day mamas calm the chaos, live with intention and design the motherhood they dream of and deserve. She is also an occupational therapist, a lover of yoga, and mum to her two beautiful babes.

Find Michelle Online:
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