Give your favorite piece of pocket-sized tech the thorough clean-out it deserves with these tips for a solid, quick, and easy phone clean up.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated February 22, 2019
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Carrying a phone with you everywhere you go is standard nowadays—in fact, it’s practically mandatory, but all that carrying around and daily usage can mean that smartphone gets pretty cluttered. A good phone clean up is the simplest solution. Figuring out where to start to clean up your phone’s storage is a little complicated, though. (Follow this simple guide to clean your phone if its exterior needs a good scrub.)

Just like anything else, letting go of things stored on your phone is challenging, even if those things aren’t real in a physical sense. Your phone, like your closet, has finite space, though, and when that space gets full, it’s time to start deleting.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Fortunately for all users, the phones themselves have easy tools that can make your clean-my-phone efforts more successful. Your phone can tell you exactly what kind of files are taking up the most space on your phone, whether that’s apps, videos, or music downloads. This can give you a good idea of where to start, especially if you’re in desperate need of more phone storage space.

If your phone storage is doing just fine, though, you’re not completely off the hook. Phones can get cluttered and messy, and finding the app you need in the moment you need it gets more difficult as your app collection builds. Plus, certain apps can track and share your location, data, and other info, whether or not you’re using them—these apps certainly merit an immediate deletion, especially if you don’t need them or use them often.

When you’re getting ready to start your phone clean-up, take a good look at your phone habits, and take note of any apps, downloaded music albums, videos, and more that you’re not using. Also think about files that evoke painful memories, such as photos of an ex or videos you used to watch with a passed favorite relative. These can be the first to go—but you’re not finished there.

Delete and organize apps

Barbara Reich, a professional organizer at Resourceful Consultants, says the first step to cleaning up your phone should be deleting any apps you don’t use regularly.

“In terms of organization, the apps used most frequently should be on the main screen of your phone,” she says. “The apps that are used less frequently can be put into categories using folders on the second page. Having less visual clutter on your smartphone is a subtle, but effective way of reducing visual overload.”

Anyone with an updated iPhone can go to Settings, then General, then iPhone Storage to see a complete breakdown of the phone’s storage capacity, when each app was used last, and how much space each takes up. The iPhone even offers an automatic feature that can offload unused apps when storage gets low.

Manage photos and music

Photos, music, and videos can take up a ton of space—but all can be uploaded to the cloud and downloaded when you need them. This frees up space on your phone and ensures your downloads are backed-up if something should happen to your phone. Apple, Amazon, and Google all offer secure cloud services at affordable prices, with enough storage space for the average person’s needs.

Reich says unflattering and unwanted photos—like those quick snaps you took of where you parked during your last mall shopping trip—should be deleted regularly.

Streamline to-do lists

It’s helpful to create lists on your phone, so you have access to it when you’re at the grocery store or even in a meeting—but if you have a lot of lists and reminders on your phone, it can become counterproductive.

“When events and to-dos are recorded in multiple places, it’s easy for something to fall through the cracks,” Reich says. “The system you use is less important than having only one system.”

Whether you use your iPhone’s Notes, the calendar feature, or another scheduling app (like our free organizer, Cozi), you should input all of your tasks and reminders to the system that works for you and stick to it.

Clean up contacts

You might have someone’s phone number whom you haven’t spoken to in years. Take stock and update your contacts.

“Try scrolling through a letter of the alphabet each day, ‘cleaning up’ your contacts,” Reich says. “Eliminate anyone you don’t remember, and any other contacts you don’t need. Be sure to merge contacts when you have a person’s information more than once.”

When you’re inputting new contacts in the future, get into the habit of adding some details to the entry for reference.