By Mariia Ginzburg
Spring Cleaning: Cleaning your house, your thoughts … and your gadgets!
Nowadays, digital tools play an essential role in our life. Obviously, the leader among them is a small portable device that, according to statistics, we check an average of over one hundred times a day: our smartphone. We do not make calls or send SMS that often, but most likely go through our Facebook feed, read emails, look up cooking tips or track the watering of our house plants. Very useful and very demanding at the same time, the virtual reality we live in gets polluted as easily and as quickly as the floor in our living room, but the invisible mess is much harder to notice.
Just take a break for a moment and think: how much junk have you accumulated by now? I can give few examples. Do you regularly remove outdated or useless contacts from your phonebook? How many files are there lying around in your Downloads folder and how many of them do you actually use? Is there any application on your phone you have completely forgotten about? Well, if all of those files were instead material objects in your room, you might find it hard to breathe! However, you don’t need to be techy to improve that.
1. Keep your Contacts clean!
Think of the unused contact numbers you might have accumulated over time, such as a pizza delivery place where you used to live, an ex-girlfriend of your school friend that you met only once, the driver from the car-sharing company, someone you met while couch surfing, etc. It might even be that, if you were to meet them accidentally on the street, you wouldn’t even recognize some of the people on your Contacts list.
Well, going through your contacts and cleaning them up is really annoying. Unfortunately, I can not suggest any good alternative for that action (aside from erasing your entire phonebook and then adding just a few people back), but I can share my method for keeping it clean once you’re done.
The secret is quite simple: proper naming! If you know a contact is for short-term use (for example, someone who will pick up your old fridge), use a particular pattern for it, such as an exclamation mark in front of the name: “!Jessica (old fridge)”. Don’t forget to mention some keywords, or a few months later you’ll be wondering who Jessica is? If you are well organized, you can even remove it right after the fridge deal.
The contacts are sorted in alphabetical order by default, which means all contacts starting with “!” will be grouped together. In some phones, those will even appear at the top of your list (you can choose any symbol ) and annoy you every time you open your phonebook so this might cause you to delete them even quicker.
You can even come up with a more sophisticated system, where different signs mean important, temporary, etc. But since there are always the Search, Favorite and Last Call functions, you don’t need to over-engineer. Simplicity is always easier to maintain.
2. Remove unused Apps!
It sounds crazy, but you can have an app for almost everything, from means of communication to a gym tracker. However, do you need all of them? Do you have any apps you haven’t used for a while or opened only once after downloading?
The good news is that it is not hard to find out. If you use Android, for example, you can go to Google Play and sort your apps by the last usage. You might be surprised at how long you haven’t used some of them.
There are also apps like App Usage available in the Google Play Store. They record your application activity and provide you with nicely presented statistics. Personally, I have never used such an app, but it could be useful if you are curious about how many times you’ve opened up your Facebook app or how much time you’ve spent on learning something in some app.
Moreover, if your Android phone suddenly runs out of memory, or you try to install a new application that takes up too much space, it will automatically suggest removing the most rarely used apps.
3. Organize your desktops!
It’s no surprise that we use names from the real world to describe virtual things. It is a good idea to empty the Trash on your Mac as well as keep your Desktop organized. The same is true for your mobile desktops. Most smartphones (or their operating systems) allow you to have multiple desktops and not only to put a beautiful picture as the background, but also to place shortcuts to different applications or even the nice widgets that some applications kindly provide.
Of course, whenever you need to start the application you can always open all the list of applications and easily find it there because they are usually sorted alphabetically and there is a search function available. However, it makes sense to place the ones you use most often one of your desktops for quick access.
What does often mean? Well, if you use a navigation app many times a day, I’d say it should be somewhere in the main desktop. Needless to say, your desktops should not repeat the Applications view, so you don’t want all of them to show up there. You do want to see the awesome wallpaper!
There are several strategies you can use to organize your desktops. The most common approach is grouping the applications which have common goal, theme or action together. This can be done by either using folders to keep related apps together (don’t forget about properly naming the folder) or through visual grouping, which means placing related apps’ icons next to each other. If you use multiple desktops, it makes sense to put the groups you use the most on the main, left and right desktops and fill the rest based on the frequency of use, though too many desktops is also not a good idea.
In any case, you should come up with the system that works the best for you and adapt it as you go along. Right now, due to frequent business trips, you might need the railway company’s app on your main desktop, but if for your next project you are going to work from home and you won’t use it on a daily basis, why keep it there?
4. Clean the Content!
It sounds nearly impossible. Do I even have useless content? One specific example could be the media content that WhatsApp automatically stores on your phone. All photos or videos you receive in chat are downloaded, and moreover, the media you send is also converted and stored. Another candidate to clean up is the Download folder, which can get full over time. If you use Android, I would recommend going to your Settings and clearing the cache of the apps time to time.
5. Clean the device!
Last but not least, you might want to remove the collection of fingerprints, leftover bits of dinner, and any kind of dirt and dust from your smartphone. As with any other electronic device, it requires care and proper hygiene. The screen should be wiped with a dry microfiber cloth and sometimes, if required, with a special cleaning liquid. It’s good practice to turn off the screen for cleaning and to switch off the phone completely if you use any liquid.
A lot of the time we simply forget that smartphones or any other gadgets we use are simply tools, that should make our lives easier. If you find instead that a device makes it harder to reach your goals, and you spend more time in the process (search, edit, etc.) instead of using the result, then this might be a good reason to rethink the need and the way it is being used. Quite often the answer to that is actually somewhere beyond the technology.
Mariia Ginzburg is an IT-consultant with a strong technical background, but with passions and interests far beyond technology. Before starting a new career path and family life in Munich almost four years ago, she completed her studies in Computer Science and concurrently studied Media and Journalism. Back in Ukraine, she wrote articles for different publishers and edited a small community newspaper, worked for an IT company, fully engaged in multiple social organisations and even spent one year in Belgium on a the long-term volunteering project. She also has a passion for travelling, discovering, learning and meeting new people. She has currently paused her busy energetic life in favor of caring for her son, who was born last year, but is eager to start being active again, managing to balance a family of three, going back to work, and helping other moms to effectively deal with technology.