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Organize your phone apps like Marie Kondo #Selfcare for your Android, iPhone…and you

This title is a lie. An utter fucking lie.

I read Marie Kondo and I like what she is bringing to the table. Well, I actually like the fact that she is taking ALL the shit off of the table because that clutter shouldn’t even be there in the first place.

If you want to improve your mental health, this may be interesting to you. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to help you reduce your anxiety, stop phantom notifications (when you think you got a message but nope), enjoy life a bit more.

First and foremost, there’s an app for that has penetrated our collective minds to the point that I see that more than 1000 searches a month in North America for “How to organize iPhone apps”. I work in a field where you have to know this type of stuff. If you want to know how I got this data, go on and check this SEO tool*.

What are mobile phone apps?

Well they are a fucking time suck. Americans spend more time looking at the phones than their TVs. 89% of that time is spent in an app. Don’t believe the stats? Feel free to check out the 2018 mobile marketing guide Localytics has put together. They are a marketing firm dedicated to push notifications on your mobile phone. I won’t point to the report because it’s a report that requires you to trade your email information for this data.

How to organize phone apps

If you want to find an app to help you organize your apps, this is not the place. Here’s how to organize your apps by yourself like a grown ass human:

  • to move an app, you tap and hold its icon. Then, you drop it in its new location. Do not do this with greasy fingers, little patience or focus, otherwise it will feel like you are playing a shitty game app.
  • to create a folder, you drag the app’s icon on top of another icon and release. That’s it. You can rename your folder and call it a day.

Finding and app to organize apps

Just kidding. I saw this was a query and it made me see red. You do not need another app to help you de-clutter your apps. That’s like saying I need another carbuncle on top of my carbuncle. If you don’t know what a carbuncle is…DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGES OF IT. Stick with a crisp textual definition please.

What if my apps don’t fit in one screen?

Move them to the next screen or in a folder! It all depends on how you prioritize your apps. Prioritize your apps according to how often you want to be using them.

Step 1: Notification detox

Why the fuck do we keep getting push notifications for everything?

Push notifications boost app engagement by 88% & 65% of users return to an app within 30 days when push is enabled.

I got this data from a book that was also quoting Localytics. They seem to really be at the forefront of phone notifications. Apps are designed to increase the time we spend on our phones. So let’s tidy our apps up and upgrade our phone so it serves us instead.

Turn off all notifications on your phone except phone calls, messaging apps and your calendar.

Do not panic, this is not a permanent thing if you don’t want it to be. It’s important to start by doing a hard reset. It will help you figure out which notifications you should turn back on and which ones were stealing your time, attention and ability to chill. Turn off the sounds and messages on your lock screen too…along with email.

Important note: some people will end up checking some apps more when they turn off their notifications. If this happens (it happens to me), just go ahead and re-enable that specific notification option. Wait 24 to 48 hours before you do so please because sometimes those withdrawal symptoms will fade.

How to turn off notifications in Android

Here is the official Google documentation on that specific topic.

Just know this, for some reason, I always have a hard time figuring my stuff out on Android. It takes a little getting used to. Heads up: this may not apply if you are using a modified version of Android.

How to turn off notifications in iPhone

Here is an article on how to turn off all of your notifications on your Apple device 🙂

Step 2: App triage

Here a quick process to sort apps:

  • Evaluate their potential to steal your attention
  • Analyze their potential to improve your life on a day-to-day basis

You end up with 6 big buckets to label your apps.


Apps that are tools improve your life without demanding your attention. Those are the only apps that should remain on your home screen because they serve a practical purpose without (much) pesky monetary bullshit tied to how often you use them.

Here is a list of apps that are considered tools:

  • any app that helps your phone run – those are undeletable. If you can hide them, go ahead. If you can’t, well, we’ll be realistic and call them tools since they are going to be imposed on us.
  • Navigation/maps/public transportation apps
  • Photos/camera
  • music: Spotify or Google Music will market to non-paying member but I wouldn’t be able to survive public transport without music so it’s a tool
  • Ridesharing or taxi apps: Uber is shady as a company but I take safety seriously. If you’ve ever been stranded at 2AM in Barcelona’s airport car park (or any other scary situation), you know why this is a tool.
  • Banking apps
  • Weather: don’t knock it. I live in Canada. Some days can start at -10 celsius degrees, move on to a tropical +10 degrees by noon and go down to -30 by the time you come home.
  • Public transportation apps
  • Domotic/Home apps: I mean something like an August app that helps you unlock your door.

But what about email, games, shopping and social media? Well, you don’t let those back on your homepage just yet. They are a black hole when it comes to your attention span.

Bonus tool: your browser is a judgement call. I barely open my browser on the phone. I either use it in-app or I use the search bar. On that specific tool, go head and make the call.

Half-assed tools (utility apps)

What about the apps that are practical but don’t bring any real value to your daily life? For me, this means apps like the Play Store (where you download the apps), the Chrome browser (gasp, I know), my alcohol store card (Québec has a weird state owned store with a loyalty card) and the nifty app that helps me pre-heat or air condition my home using my phone. When it’s Canadian winter cold, my little thermopump can’t take it. This means that this app is taking prime up my front screen while being a bitter reminder that it’s cold.

For you this could mean the calculator. I didn’t include it in tools because not everybody asks as many stupid math questions as I do. Today, I calculated the daily food costs of my dog as she gobbled up a 9$ super durable bone made for focused chewers. That dog cost me 12$ today. After the ridiculous math involved in this, I had a perfectly rational discussion with my dog about why she had to be more responsible with her toys and treats. And then, I told the internet about it. See, I like my calculator as a tool and I hope that some of you will too!

Neurojunk apps

These apps are fun and/or useful in limited quantities. They are like Nutella or cocaine basically. They are hard to stop using once you start. The key difference between Nutella, cocaine and apps is that some phone apps can improve your life.

I can have Nutella in my house once a year because I will eat the entire jar with a soup spoon.

How to pick the right apps?

Ask yourself if those apps steal your time and attention more than they improve your life. That’s call ROI in marketing jargon: return on investment.

Delete the ones that are a threat to your well-being. Do not hesitate. This is not open-heart surgery. You can reinstall the stuff in two clicks if you regret your decision in a day or two.

What do you do with the junk food apps that stay on your phone? Relocate them in the second screen or hide them in a folder with a title to remind you that you are indeed consuming that in turn consumes you (your attention, your time, your emotions).

For most of us, email is a brain junk food. No one is going to fucking DIE if you don’t check your email every five seconds.

I work in Web and I have made the choice to remove email notifications (not the app though) and to never install Slack on my phone. I very rarely check my email from my phone and it’s improved my life A LOT. People tend to get pretty passive aggressive or try to dump their last minute chores on me quite a lot more than I consciously noticed. It all came to head when I realized that my first vacation in 3 years was being ruined by people demanding I put my time off on hold to handle their emergencies.

Guess what? I stopped accommodating this behavior by simply classifying email as a neurojunk app. It drove some insane until they started reconsidering their behaviors.

  • I get a lot less last minute meeting cancellations since you have to warn me in advance
  • It makes it much harder to abuse my innate desire to help others
  • Procrastinators no longer rely on me to do last minute shit they should have handled months agorely on me less for shit they should be doing themselves

Will this be your reality? I don’t know. I’m not you. Does removing your email app or simply demoting it to second screen without any notifications sounds like the most insane stuff you’ve ever heard? Are you envious of my newfound ability to make fake priorities disappear? Then give it a try! It’s a super low cost experiment you can do!

Dopamine dungeons

Everything you install on your phone was probably built as a dopamine trigger. Dopamine dungeons are basically apps that parasite your quality of life and demand your precious attention. Social media, dating apps, games and shopping apps are prime dopamine dungeons.

Here are some great examples from my life:

  • Tinder & Grindr: I’ve never used them but fuckkkkkk do I see friends on them things all of the time.
  • Twitter: no joke, I have a tribe of friends who will invite us over and send each other DMs on Twitter or show each other their phone screens instead of speaking to each other. What the holy fuck?! I came to hang out with you not your iPhone.
  • Instagram: ever sit next to someone scrolling through picture after picture after picture without taking a break? It’s super weird to me because I’m a book worm and I can’t imagine opening a book during a tea time with a friend.

So what are the warning signs that an app is a dopamine dungeon or a neurojunk app?

Prepare for some armchair therapy. Here’s how to figure out if an app is trying to fuck with your emotions and has you hooked:

  1. Do you feel anticipation when you open an app.
  2. Is it hard to stop using it?
  3. After you use it, do you feel anxiety, disappointment, something missing?

Submarine games

Ever hear of ghosting? Well submarining is this hot new trend according to Cosmopolitan or Allure magazine (I don’t remember which one popped up first in Google for that result). If you have a hard time quitting games, you can try this insane method:

  • Play your game
  • Delete your game app when you are done playing
  • The next time you want to play, reinstall it.
  • Rinse and repeat every time you want to play

If you have to work harder for that dopamine hit, trust me, the game will lost its allure very fast. If you are obsessed with the game and plan on playing it for the next 10 years, then maybe it’s your mission in life and you should find a way to make money off of it. That way, you’ll get to complain about work instead 🙂

Utter clutter

Remember that hotel check-in app your installed back in 2015? Yeah me neither but it’s still there. Those are utterly apps on your phone. Please, get rid of them instead of carrying them with you for years. Every time I changed my phone, all of my apps would automatically be downloaded onto the new phone via the magic of some account sync option (I have no clue). That means that I have been carrying crap for more than a decade now…


Clean that shit up. You’ll feel better, I promise.