These eight steps will help to detox your phone

This month’s Marie Kondo task? Spring cleaning your phone. Dominique McMullan takes you step by step. 


Everyone I talk to is finding joy in chucking out everything they own. There is, however, one area of our lives that is being rudely ignored, even by the most energetic Kondo enthusiasts, and that is our digital spaces. 

You know that lovely feeling you get when you finally tackle the tights drawer? You can get just as satisfying a cleaning high from knuckling down with your digital device. You probably spend more time on your phone than you do in your downstairs coat cupboard anyway, so why wouldn’t you dedicate some time to a proper digital spring clean?

Step 1: Back up

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The wonderful thing about computers is that they can hold lots more than a press. It’s probably been a while since you plugged your phone into your computer, so do it, and back everything up. We can then move forward knowing that anything you delete by accident or change your mind about still exists somewhere. You should/could also be backing up regularly on iCloud or Google Drive, but there is something comforting about the physical act of plugging in.

Step 2: Chuck out

This is where you have to be vicious; start with your apps. Delete that shopping app you got when tipsy because your friend Amanda swears by it. Delete the game your child downloaded without you noticing last year.  Delete everything that you don’t use and then delete some more. 

Step three: Keep chucking out 

Next, move on to images and videos. Do not be tempted to fall into a memory hole. Aim to delete 85 per cent of videos and at least 65 per cent of your photos. How to manage this? Select “all images”, and then deselect the ones that you love. For bonus points head to PhotoBox.ie or Snapfish.ie to order some prints. If they’re really special (and high res) photos, then try artifactuprising.com, which makes the most exquisite photo books. 

Step four: Even the worst bits

This is a deep dive now, so stay with me. An example of some contacts in my address book: Lynzi (new), Lynzi (Dublin 18), Lynzi (latest), Caitlin (Fashion Week), David (Sugarloaf, Rob). An example of some of the notes I have stored: “People sharing quick and easy recipes with pics”, “SCRR948”, “Emily loves a treacherous, mysterious smokey eye”… Your guess is as good as mine. Delete the contacts and notes that mean nothing to you. Merge the ones that you can. Then move on.

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Step 5: Updates

You know those niggly little updates you keep ignoring? Now is the time to do something about them. Whether it’s changing a password or updating to the latest version of iOS. Be patient. It’s hard, but we’ll get through this together. 

Step 6: Folders

This is where it gets fun. Divide your apps up into folders like “work”, “social media”, “travel”, “health”, and “games” – whatever makes sense for you. I have a folder in which I keep shopping apps, for example. This allows me to fill up virtual shopping carts and walk away without purchasing a thing. Leave essential folders on page one, and less frequently used folders for page two. 

Step 7: Plan

Now everything is feeling a little more under control, let’s think about phone usage. How many hours a day do you want to use your phone? After what time would you like to stop using it? There are great new functions on Apple and Google devices that help you limit screen time. You can set timers on apps to turn off after a few hours and have your phone shut down after a certain time at night. These functions can also, of course, be overridden should there be an Instagram emergency. 

Step 8: Rejoice

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Time to celebrate your new, healthy digital relationship by treating yourself to new screen saver; why not try one of those photos you highlighted in step three? Sit back and enjoy. 

This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of IMAGE magazine. 


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