We basically have our whole lives on our phones — from photos to banking information — which is exactly why we've become so dependent on them. Not only are our phones clogged with apps, videos, and other data, but our brains are also clogged from processing all the information we're getting from the screen all day.
If you're tired of being held prisoner by a shiny inanimate object and want to get rid of the meaningless digital clutter that's pulling you away from real life, our minimalist gurus Pastaveia and Sean St. John of Eco-Conscious Minimalists can help. The couple is back for week three of our spring cleaning series to help us clear out our phones so we can finally clear our minds.
1. Ax Your Apps
Facebook, Pinterest, Words With Friends. All fun apps, but extreme time zappers. You tell yourself you're only going on for 10 minutes, but the next thing you know the whole day has slipped by.
"Our phones are an easy distraction from whatever we're doing or whatever we're avoiding," Sean says.
With the slew of apps we tend to have on our devices, our eyes can be glued to the screen for hours, ignoring our work, responsibilities, and sadly, our loved ones. It's time to break out the virtual trash can.
"If you have apps or games on your phone that you know are distracting you and not letting you be present in your life, remove them," Pastaveia says. "Take personal inventory of what's on your phone and only keep the apps that bring value to your life."
If it's too hard to chuck them for good, try to lower your time on the programs significantly. Perhaps 10 minutes per day, or even a few times a week. Apps like Moments or QualityTime (yes, more apps... but helpful ones!) can track the time you spend on your phone. They also show the number of times you actually look at your phone during the day, which is probably way more than you think.
2. Fight the Urge to Hoard Photos
Thanks to our phones, we've all become professional photographers and videographers. We capture every detail of our lives and stockpile tons of images we quickly forget about until we run out of storage. It's fine to pull out your cell for momentous occasions, but taking a picture of every meal you make? That's going a little overboard.
Pastaveia recommends taking 20 minutes a week to go through your phone and delete or archive your important photos and videos. (Artsy salad shots not included.)
"Do it while you're standing in line at the post office or grocery store. Just please don't do it while you're at dinner with someone," she says.
3. Ease Up on Texting
If you're an incessant texter, you should expect to get just as many text messages back. If being less attached to your phone is your goal, simply commit to sending fewer texts.
Sean and Pastaveia suggest telling your friends and family that you're cutting back on texting. Don't worry about their feelings — think about how you're trying to make your life a little less congested.
"If you tell someone you're taking a break from texting or social media and they don't accept your request, that's a red flag," Pastaveia says.
Also, take some time to clean out your old text messages. There's no need to have hundreds of them sitting in your inbox.
4. Put Your Phone Down
Seriously. Drop it. We know sometimes that's easier said than done; people who have their own business or who make a living on their phones (think that they) need to be in constant contact. We get it. But when you're not working or taking an important call, shut it off and embrace your IRL (In Real Life) time.
"Before there were cell phones, people still functioned," Sean says. "They went to work, they went to school, they traveled. Now if someone loses their phone or it stops working, they're crippled and their whole world is turned upside down."
Pastaveia believes people pick up their phones so much because it gives them a sense of convenience.
"But it's a false sense of convenience because it's pulling you out of the moment. It's pulling you out of talking to your spouse, your girlfriend, your child, and really being present," she says.
That's why she suggests turning your phone off in the evening or putting it on airplane mode. If the thought of completely unplugging scares you, turn on the "Do Not Disturb" setting instead. If there's an emergency, certain phone numbers are still allowed to come through.
Next week: Decluttering your mind.
(Last week: Decluttering your email inbox.)