My first try at decluttering my phone. Now it’s a magical device.

After I got around to decluttering my iPhone, here is how I did and what happened next.

It seemed like the end of 2015 and start of 2016 was the turning point where everyone wanted to tidy up the Marie Kondo way — to simplify without misgivings. I was finally inspired to take the decluttering challenge after listening to WNYC’s “Note to Self” and that they would launch this experimental series #InfoMagical. I signed up and started getting the text messages. I listened to the week of podcasts, and found a lot of useful tips on how to unclutter my digital life.

Thanks to #infomagical for helping make information overload disappear.

Step 1 was to stop the notification “itch”. I turned off notifications for almost everything. By turning off the red dots with numbers, I could focus on what was urgent according to my Calendar and Reminders. I could track and feel incremental accomplishments when I did things that related to my apps.

Turning off notifications or fine-tuning is an important part of the process.

Step 2 was to organize my phone according to goals. I took the time to think more deeply about how I navigate my smartphone. I started counting clicks, swipes, and taps. Then clocked the number of seconds I spent on getting from thought to action. I grouped my apps by goals, and I found that this was all the space I needed.

Apps arranged by goal and purpose.

This layout here as it appears is evolving. The #infomagial experiment has been an ongoing process of deciding which apps to keep at the top layer, and which to drop into folders. I decided that certain functions that define the device should be given priority in the home menu. I tend to use the Calendar, Phone, Messages, and Settings so often that it made sense to put them here.

I arranged my most popular folders and apps on the outside corners. I’m using an iPhone 6 Plus, and I’ve found this layout makes it easier to use while holding the phone in one hand and without looking at the screen. I use Siri and voice control but there are a lot of times when I want to tap to select.

In the last 2 weeks of trying this experiment, my phone use feels more intentional. When I go to look at something now, it doesn’t feel like an urge that compels me.

Step 3 was to improve the user experience with Accessibility Settings. How much cognitive load was I using to simply look at my phone? I recently met someone who said he was having a lot of trouble to “see” or “read” his Plus sized iPhone. I noticed that his eyes were darting a lot and that he kept changing the angle and distance of his phone. This is around began to trace my eye movements. I was looking for efficiency and ways to reduce my eye strain.

The amount of Accessibility features are greater than ever before. I was happy to realize that think they are worth trying to see how you feel. I’m trying to reduce cognitive load and trim the amount of time spent to navigate my device and check for updates.

I turned on these Accessibility features in my iPhone’s General Settings:

“Increase Contrast” on and the following settings:

  • Reduce Transparency (Improve contrast on some background to increase legibility.) = ON.
  • Reduce White Point (Reduce the intensity of bright colors.) = ON.
  • Darken Colors = ON.

Step 4 came easily after spending 10 days with an uncluttered phone. I felt ready to unsubscribe from each and every aspirational newsletter and promo feed. I pushed them to my Gmail / Google Inbox. I said goodbye to all the newsletters, offers, promos, and updates that I never read week after week.

Goodbye newsletters, offers, and updates that I never read week after week.

Letting go of FOMO made me feel a lot less stressed. It was maybe the best thing I have done to my inbox since that time I signed up for Lavabit email earlier in 2011.


Step 5 came when my mind’s clutter eased and I felt ready to tackle other projects around the home and at work.

The #infomagical Day 2 Challenge gave me enough moral support to reflect on my choices. My phone is a more accurate extension of my choices, goals, interests, and personality than ever before.

So far, more magical.

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