It’s hard to deny that the whole world is stressed. With college debt, merciless healthcare systems and government-sanctioned hate, it’s obvious that we need some ways, no matter how small, to make the world a little less confusing.
Minimalism. It’s the practice that everyone is talking about, and my experience with it thus far has been pretty revealing. The Minimalists describe it as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
This list explores the different ways that minimalism can be utilized to maximize your smartphone with as little as possible. It is not meant to be a guide in restriction, as I believe that can be pretty unhealthy. Instead, I like to think of restrictions as only necessary when you are happy to do them, or when you are in desperate need of them.
Of course, minimalism will not and cannot solve the massive issues we are facing in our world. But it can reveal forms of self-care we had not yet considered or explored.
1. Keep the apps you need, and only a few that you want.
Now that you’ve made the decision to make your phone a minimalist haven, the first thing you’re going to do is go through your apps and assess what you need versus what you want.
Here you’re going to categorize based on you, and this varies from person to person. An Instagram star would find their image editing apps to be a dire necessity. Someone who plays a lot of video games or is even a games journalist will need to have their phone full of mobile games to review. For a writer like myself, I need apps that help maximize my writing productivity.
Since this is the case, I need apps like Google Calendar, Drive, Notes and Voice Memos.
The apps you want are apps that make you happy. Sure, having a variety of match-3 games might keep you occupied when you’re waiting at the bus stop, but do they really add much to how your phone works for you? Instead, why not explore Podcasts, where you can subscribe to shows like The Exposé to keep your mind working while you wait. You can get apps like Audible or a simple, online eBook reader. You can even invest space in a really good mobile game, so long as you really, really enjoy it.
The apps I want are Tidal, Podcasts, and Medium.
To whittle down your apps to a minimal number that you know will help you to be productive but also get maximum enjoyment out of your phone is what you want. So those novelty apps like FaceApp? They probably don’t deserve to take up space on your home screen.
2. Minimize those distractions.
Now that you have a good number of apps on your phone, we have to work on how we arrange them to minimize distractions.
Many people feel like it is easier to have all of their apps outside of folders so that they can easily swipe through and pick the one they need to use. I get it, and creating folders can sometimes lead to hiding a bigger mess behind an awkwardly chosen folder title.
The kicker here is this: you’ve already minimized the number of apps you’re using and therefore know and understand the specific uses for each one.
Once this happens, you can easily sort your apps into folders that keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Try to work in as few folders as possible. The apps stored in them will most likely even span across two or more of your folders. What’s important is that you identify a significant use for the app in question and jail it in a folder. I like to work in a group of four folders: Social, Entertainment, Productivity, and Extras.
For example, even though my email could technically be seen as both Social and Productivity, I keep it in Social so that any notifications I receive from people will be relegated to one particular folder. It works to keep my mind focused on what I am using my phone for in the moment, and stops me from getting distracted by those other brightly colored app icons.
3. Stream everything online.
It can be tempting to download music and videos to store on your phone. Chances are a lot of what you’ve decided to store can be streamed online or downloaded at home and deleted later.
Take Tidal, for example. A lot of music can be found in the gallery and saved for offline use. Netflix also allows you to download episodes of your favorite shows and gives you an option to delete right after you’ve finished watching them. Using apps like these instead of downloading and storing makes your phone and your mind feel instantly lighter.
4. Spring clean your phone once a month.
The same way our moms cornered us to clean out our rooms, we need to force ourselves to clean out our phones. For a lot of people this might mean repeating tip one on this list, but for pretty much all of us it means dealing with that huge collection of photos lying unseen for months on end. This means going through and deleting those blurry photos and spam WhatsApp images from your family’s group chat. It’s also time to transfer all the ones you want to keep either onto your computer or a hard drive.
You don’t necessarily have to do this once a month, but if you’re like me you’ll know that if you leave it for any longer there won’t be much space left for anything else on your phone.
I like to pour myself some tea and watch Mad Men while I do it, but you can also listen to a podcast, watch some YouTube or even just sing along to some music to keep you entertained.
It’s mundane, but hey, someone has to do it.
5. Commit to it.
Okay, so this point feels simplistic, maybe even a little bit patronizing, but hear me out.
How often have you binge-watched YouTube videos of pretty, thin white girls selling you a brand new vegan lifestyle and said to yourself that tomorrow you would change completely?
How often have you watched your intellectual poet-friend transform their lives by reading a new book every month, then immediately ran out to buy five copies of bestselling literature?
How often have you actually committed to anything you promised you would do to change your life?
I’m a big proponent of ‘if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it’. I believe that change, no matter how small, has to be meaningful and deliberate, something you want more than anything and are willing to do anything to achieve.
The truth is you don’t want to be like those pretty, thin white girls. You are pretty damn happy and proud of your brown, chubby, vegetarian-but-I’ll-have-a-burger-tonight self. And be real, you probably aren’t that into reading and that’s okay. Maybe your thing is movies.
But if you want this, if you really want this, commit. If you want to be a minimalist, especially if you feel that the benefits for you will be more than the aesthetic, do it today.