Spring cleaning for your smartphone: Tidying up using the KonMari Method25. February 2021 Published by Jana Greyling
The second part of our blog article “Spring cleaning for your smartphone” shows you how to rid your smartphone of unnecessary ballast, really declutter it and get it in shape for the spring. The Japanese bestselling author Marie Kondo has managed to transform a tiresome everyday chore into an act of spiritual self-liberation. She is regarded as the tidying up queen of our times, and her book “Magical Cleaning” is an international bestseller. Any chaos can be tamed with her KonMari Method. It’s now used in all areas of the home, including the kitchen. So why not adopt this approach as a model for digital spring cleaning on your smartphone, too?
First things first. “When you think about tidying up, where would you most likely start? That’s right: the wardrobe. And you’d be acting precisely in the spirit of the KonMari Method, which advises you to clear out your belongings in a specific order: first clothes, then books, followed by papers, then miscellaneous items (termed “komono”) and, last but not least, sentimental items. Applying that image and method to the smartphone, then the wardrobe is the smartphone’s memory and all the stuff in it is our apps. And you clear it out on the basis of the following categories:
- Clothes = apps (jackets, pullovers T-shirts, trousers – those are our apps in the memory/wardrobe)
- Books = books, digital magazines, music and the like (we have lots of them on our smartphone)
- Papers = e-mails, subscriptions, documents, newsletters and the like
- Komono = maps, city guides, cookies, bookmarks and the like
- Sentimental items = photos, videos (every storage is full to bursting with emotions and memories packed in thousands of photos and downloaded videos)
Time for a clean-out
How do you know your smartphone needs a digital spring cleaning? Put simply, the smartphone’s performance seems pretty limp and its speed isn’t exactly overwhelming. Perhaps updates can’t be carried out, apps installed or photos saved any more. That’s usually because the memory is full, which means you need to clean it out, declutter it, deinstall apps, delete data – or simply clear the decks, as it were. Of course, a digital spring cleaning won’t turn an old nag into a racehorse – if the smartphone is getting on and is long in the tooth, it won’t suddenly start acting like a high-end device after spring cleaning. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile decluttering it at least once a year.
1. Getting rid of your apps
“First we therefore tackle all items of clothing in our home – whether they are in the wardrobe, hall stand, laundry basket or chest of drawers. Gather everything in one pile so that you have a precise overview of how much clothing you actually own … After you’ve piled up all the items, take every single item and ask yourself: Do I really need these jeans, this T-shirt or this pullover, etc.?
Downloaded because they were free, used three times and then never again – many apps have that in common with items of clothing and shoes. You buy them on the cheap or are given them as a present or you download them because they’re hip at the time. A weather app is good, but three are better, and so we collect them and hope the weather will improve as a result. Although that usually tends not to be the case. Apps are collected, put way, forgotten and seldom used. However, they still diligently attract updates and quietly clutter the smartphone. But the main problem is that they aren’t deleted. “Perhaps I still need them,” many may think. However, experts warn of the risks and side effects of too many apps.
According to Annie, the provider of app analytics services, every smartphone user in the United States had an average of 93 apps installed on their phone at the end of 2019, up from 85 at the end of 2015. However, they only used 41 of them per month. German smartphone users don’t have as many installed on average: The figure is just 23. However, apps can also impair performance, depending on the device. “When you install apps, you should be aware that many of them have services that run in the background,” states Alexander Vukcevic from the IT security company Avira. That is even the case with apps that are not open, in other words, they don’t appear in the Task Manager. If there is a large number of apps with background services, the constant queries might slow down the smartphone and impair its battery life, adds the expert. Those numbers are no surprise given that most apps in the Google Play Store are free.
We can see what sins we’ve committed in the shape of downloads that take up the most memory under Android and iOS, namely from the device storage information in the settings. All installed apps are listed there (Android: Settings > Options > Storage). The rough rule of thumb is that you should rigorously delete apps you haven’t used in the last three months.
Spring cleaning: Tidy up yourself or call in the professionals?
Anyone who isn’t sure and doesn’t want to get rid of their apps on their own should get professional help for the digital spring cleaning on their Android smartphone. Cleaner apps are very useful for that. They are software programs that ensure more in-depth system optimization. Good Android cleaners look for junk files that slow down the phone, useless stuff that takes up space in the app cache, unused apps and more. Google’s free data manager Files Go for Android searches for rarely used apps, shows particularly large items of data and downloads, and empties the app cache. In particular, however, the tool also tracks down duplicate and temporary files. That’s especially important because every time we send a photo via WhatsApp, for example, the smartphone saves a new version of it, and manually hunting down and deleting all the copies is tedious and time-consuming.
“A virtual clean-out usually creates more space for new bits and bytes, as well as increasing operating speed. Integrated app managers also frequently offer advanced features, such as for displaying permissions or briskly deleting several installed apps in a batch at the same time,” writes pcwelt.de, which tested various cleaners. Everyone has to try out and decide for themselves what the right app is for them. (Go to the article here)
A further advantage of decluttering your Android device in a spring cleaning effort: Deleting stuff from the app cache, forgotten junk files and the like also removes lots of digital fingerprints from your smartphone or tablet. Booster & Cleaner is such an app and can do just about anything. The Booster & Cleaner app helps optimize Android smartphones. This smartphone tool offers several features, such as reducing the load on the RAM. You can use the task killer to terminate unnecessarily executed apps quickly and easily. In addition, you can monitor apps in the app manager in real time or deinstall them.
Emptying the app cache
Many apps don’t take up all that much storage space on the smartphone – it’s often the caches and the temporary files in them that make your phone’s memory so full. Just about every app, such as Facebook and Instagram, uses the app cache so that it’s faster to start, for example, because content doesn’t need to be downloaded again every time. However, the amount of data in the cache grows considerably over time, so it’s advisable to delete it regularly. That does not affect your user data or important components of the app.
- Android: Settings > Device > Apps > Search for and select an app > hit Storage > Clear App Cache
You should note that many apps gnaw away at the smartphone’s performance – in particular ones like Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Google Play Music, Facebook, Instagram or Spotify. If you want to go easy on your data volume, the security software vendor Avast advises you to restrict background use of specific apps. In addition, various apps also demand access to a wide range of different information stored on your phone. So it’s time to clean up and you should delete all the apps you don’t need (any more). One app per function is usually enough.
2. Books, music and videos – the soundtrack of life
The Amazon Kindle app lets you download exciting books to your smartphone. Instead of a heavy pile of books, you have your own library on your smartphone and can take it anywhere with you. That tempts you to stock up on e-books that would easily offer enough reading matter to last a whole decade. Yet that takes up memory and also doesn’t exactly make your smartphone faster. It’s always better to download only the book you’re currently reading. As part of your clean-up, you should move books you’ve finished to the cloud or save them on an SD memory card if your smartphone has such an option.
Apart from books, digital magazines, voice memos or newsletters in PDF format put pressure on the phone’s storage. But, in particular, we all like listening to music or watching funny videos that – thanks to WhatsApp, TikTok and the like – friends have sent us in the course of the year. Music subscriptions like Spotify, Music Unlimited, Deezer and Audible, or other streaming services also offer a very enticing option for listening in offline mode. The snag is that you have to download the desired pieces of music first. Only stored music can then be called in offline mode, although that does not use up any data volume. If you feel like copying the “soundtrack of the life of your best friend” to your phone or quickly transferred a CD collection and saving it there, you soon find yourself running short of memory – and that’s an entirely different story. But where should you put the music you’ve collected over the past months if you don’t want to part with it because it conjures up so many memories? There’s no need to rack your brains if you have a smartphone like the Gigaset GS3 or the brand-new GS4. The top smartphones “Made in Germany” have a triple slot, allow simultaneous use of two nano SIM cards and – with an additional memory card of up to 512 GB – also offer enough space for the complete library of your favorite songs from Spotify. That’s because the pieces of music are stored on the card instead of in the internal memory. The “inside digital” article gives pretty good tips on what the right memory card for a smartphone is and what you have to take into account when storing apps on an SD card, for example.
3. Papers and documents
Documents are unsolicited e-mails we’re sent every day or newsletters from companies we’ve subscribed to. Deleting them is not enough to get rid of them for good, since they continue to be received. You should therefore ask if you really need every e-mail subscription and whether the contents you receive in the mail still interest you. If not, you should take the time to cancel the subscription or, to use the neologism, “unsubscribe” from the newsletter. That unclutters your mailbox and saves you time and bother. The KonMari™ Method recommends three sub-categories for storing physical documents: “Must be kept indefinitely,” “Needed for a limited period of time” and “Currently in use.” This system also makes sense for an e-mailbox: The in-box can be reserved for mails that are currently in use, and two other folders can be created for the other two categories.
4. Komono and memory hogs
We now use the smartphone as a mobile city guide that can help us find every hotel, underground station and public toilet or as a substitute for the car navigation system – and that’s usually a good thing. However, adept users also know that these apps eat up a lot of memory space and so they regularly delete the history (Android: Open the app -> hit Google Maps history in the Settings menu -> hit Remove next to the entry in question). In these times, it also makes little sense to keep city maps from your last vacations, since they take up storage space you need. Here, too, the rule of thumb is to archive or delete what you haven’t used in the last two months. The Google Chrome web browser is another app from Google that ranks among those with the biggest memory requirements. However, surfing conveniently comes at a price and the browser takes up a relatively large amount of storage capacity. It’s therefore advisable to regularly delete the browser cache, history, cookies and offline website data in the app settings. But be careful: If you delete the cookies, your passwords are also lost. This article provides a pretty good description of the right way to delete cookies and empty the cache.
5. Sentimental items – What to do with all the photos?
The photo management software vendor Mylio calculated that 1.4 trillion photos were taken worldwide in 2020 and almost half of them were stored. That figure is growing by 8.3 percent every year. Photos and videos take up most space on the smartphone and so need a lot of power. As with clothes, so with digital photos: Collect all of them in one central location or store them outside the phone. That’s easiest done on a cloud, such as Google Photos, Microsoft One Drive or Dropbox, or using external storage media. Doing that also has the advantage that the files are safe even if your phone breaks down or you lose it.
An SD card is a quick and easy way to add memory for many Android models. You can then move your photos to it so as to avoid having to delete them if your storage space gets low.
According to Marie Kondo, two-thirds of things at home or work can be disposed of. Only keep what “sparks joy.” If we bear this method in mind after our digital spring cleaning, then we might fit out and organize our “wardrobe” for the smartphone in a totally different way in the future.