Digital Konmari

Finding Focus in a World of Microconsumption

The Konmari method is a way to simplify your material life. It has been popularized by Marie Kondo. Her book is a best seller and she is a professional cleaning consultant. The gist of the method is to:

  1. Sort all of your possessions into different categories (clothing, books, etc).
  2. Go through all items one item at a time and ask yourself “Does this item spark joy”. If the answer is no, get rid of it.
  3. Organize everything else you own in a closet out of sight.

I did this and loved it.

But what about digital clutter? All of my apps want my attention. Endless feeds of content are just a tap away. Notifications overwhelm me and rob my attention. At the end of the day when I am thumbing at my smartphone it feels like Homer:

These interactions are like when I eat donuts or go to a buffet. At first it is a huge rush of excitement as the dopamine rush hits my brain. But after having way more than I should I feel stuffed, exhausted, and braindead.

It isn’t just me. People with smartphones now spend about 3 hours a day using the device. That adds up to 45 full days a year and almost 20% of your waking hours. We are well on our way to The Onion story “90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles”.

No doubt smartphones are great for some tasks. Communication and navigation are my personal favorites that feel productive. But I feel like a lot of the apps I use hinge on microconsumption. Grabbing my attention for a moment and adding almost nothing to my life. Each instance may not seem like much, but they can all add up to harm. Addiction, alienation, and physical pain to name a few.

Image from the Guardian

To help rid myself of these problems I did the following three things:

Get rid of clutter

Put all of your apps into folders of the following topics

  • Productivity
  • Games
  • Weather
  • Maps
  • Social Networking
  • Music/Video/Games

Now go through the folders in that order and delete all of the ones that do not spark joy.

Turn off notifications on almost all of your apps

The only apps that still sends me notifications are phone calls and text messages. I recommend starting with this.

IOS instructions under the header “Turn off and change Notifications settings”.

Android instructions.

Cover your apps

Remove all apps from your home screen. On iOS you can put them all on the second page. On Android just leave them in the app drawer. When you want to use an app just use the search feature to open it. On iOS you can swipe down and type in the bar. Android should have a search bar at the top.

Now when I open my phone I can only load an app that I intend to load and consciously choose to load. No clicking on every app with a notification. No checking every social media feed without really wanting to but just being bored. It isn’t about stopping all usage, but rather being more intentional about the usage of my time.

I have been feeling a lot better since I did this. I have more time to do things that matter and am happier with a more focused life. Give it a try!