Dear Lifehacker, I have too many apps on my smartphone and I can never find what I'm looking for. I know I can just delete them, but I don't want to get rid of an app I might use. How can I reduce the number of apps on my phone and keep them organised without getting rid of something important? Sincerely, App Addicted
Title image remixed from an original by Kamenetskiy Konstantin (Shutterstock).
With the sheer number of apps available, and so many coming, recommended by us and other sources, it's easy to wind up with so many that your smartphone (or tablet) becomes a cluttered mess. However, if you can set aside 15-30 minutes during your day, you can tidy up pretty quickly and maintain an organised mobile device. Here's how to do it in four steps.
Step One: Declare App Bankruptcy
If you have so many apps that the prospect of cleaning them all up seems too daunting, wipe them all out and start from scratch. It'll be much easier for you to take your mobile device and add what you think is important than to try and figure out which apps you can part with. Both options will take you some time, as you're dealing with many, many apps, but if you have to make many decisions it's better to apply your critical eye to which apps not to add rather than which apps you can bear to delete. Once your mobile device only has the essential apps you've chosen, you can start getting organised.
Step Two: Put Your 12 Most-Used Apps on One Page
Your home screen can likely fit more than 12 apps, but you're going to limit yourself to that number. Pick the ones you use the most and put them on your main page. (Note: This doesn't include anything in a persistant dock at the bottom of the screen, if you have one on your device.) You can always change the 12 you choose if you find that you use another app more, but it's important to limit yourself. Keeping a little less on the screen will make it easier to find things and will get you in the habit of keeping fewer apps on your phone.
Step Three: Make Your Secondary Page
With your first page of essentials created, it's time to create your second and final page. This is where you can keep all the other apps you want to use but don't use too frequently. Store them in folders or place them on the home screen directly -- it's up to you. You simply have to limit yourself to 11 spaces. Once you've got your 11 spots defined, move on to the next step to fill in the 12th.
Step Four: Impose a Holding Period on New Apps
If you've got an "app addiction", the problem is that you acquire new apps and don't delete them so you need to get in the habit of cleaning house regularly. Start by creating a new folder for new apps called "Holding Bin" (or "Temporary" or "This Week" -- whatever you prefer). Whenever you get a new app, put it in this folder. Then, pick a day of the week to clean this folder. (We'll use Sunday as an example.) Every Sunday, go through this folder and delete any apps you haven't really used. If you added one the day before and need a little more time, it's OK to let it stick around for the next week, but never let an app sit in this folder for more than 10 days. If you haven't used it in 10 days, it gets deleted -- end of story. You need to be brutal about your selection and remember that if you find that you actually do want to use the app again, you can always re-download it. It's not like a deleted app disappears forever. As for apps you do decide to keep, simply remove them from the holding bin and add them to their appropriate location on your home screen. Remember, never exceed the 12 spots on either page.
This process is strict and might feel a little limiting if you're used to having tons of apps on your mobile device, but you should find that you'll have quite a bit of room to store what you need without ending up with an unmanageable quantity.
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