A Fresh Start

As a new year begins I’ve been thinking about fresh starts. This is a good time to organize and clean out our digital lives so that we can start the year fresh, ready for anything. As we use our devices for more and more, it’s amazing how much stuff accumulates on them. Here are a few tips to help you organize and clean up your devices and get ready for the year ahead.

Where To Start?

Clutter makes our devices less enjoyable and harder to use. It can become difficult to find the app we want, a specific message, or other item we need. Luckily it’s pretty easy to declutter and organize our devices.

Removing Apps

Each year I install several new apps to try out and many of them only get used once or twice. I also have apps that have been installed for a long time that I no longer use. Both are candidates for removal.

Removing an app not only reduces visual clutter on your Home Screen, it can also free up storage space on your device.

To start, simply swipe through your Home Screens and look for apps you no longer want to see. When you find one, Tap and Hold the app’s icon, then from the menu tap Remove App (on iPhone) or Delete App (on iPad).

Note: if you continue holding the app’s icon after the menu appears, the menu will disappear and you’ll just see app icons with a minus symbol. Tap the minus symbol.


Choose Delete App to completely remove the app and its data from your device. Use this option if you don’t plan to use the app again or just don’t want it on your device any longer.

Note: before choosing Delete App, be sure that you no longer need the data associated with the app, as that will be removed along with the app. This data could be settings, game progress, or documents you’ve created with the app. However, if the app stores its data in iCloud or another cloud service, that will not be removed when deleting the app.

Remove from Home Screen

On the iPhone you can just remove the app’s icon so that it’s not cluttering up your Home Screen while keeping the app on your device, To do this, choose Remove from Home Screen.

App Library

Choosing Remove from Home Screen lets you clean up your Home Screen without deleting apps. This uses the App Library which organizes all your apps and keeps them in a separate Home Screen page. This can help declutter by allowing you keep only the app icons that matter most on your Home Screen.

The App Library is located after the last Home Screen. To get there, just keep swiping left on your Home Screen until you reach the App Library:

The App Library automatically organizes your apps by category and by usage. Apps you use most will be at the top of the list. You can also easily search for an app by tapping into the Search Bar at the top of the page. You can type the name of the app or just choose it from the alphabetical list.

Putting an App Back

If you’d like to put an app back on your Home Screen after moving it to the App Library, Tap and Hold the app in the App Library, then choose Add to Home Screen from the menu.

Rearranging Apps

A good way to organize is to arrange your apps so that you can more easily find them. There is no right or wrong way to do this, and everyone will have an approach that works best for them.

To move apps around on the Home Screen, Tap and Hold an app and choose Edit Home Screen from the menu. The icons will start to jiggle indicating that you are able to move them around.

Tap and Drag an app to move it to a new location. The other app icons will move out of the way as you drag the app around. Lift your finger when you’ve placed the app in its new position.

The Home Screen will stay in jiggle mode so that you can easily move other apps around. To finish, if you’re using an iPhone or iPad without a home button, tap Done in the upper right corner, otherwise press the Home Button.

Tip: you can move several apps at the same time. While dragging one app, continue holding it and use another finger to tap other apps. They will join the app you’re currently dragging and they all will move together.

App Folders

If you have several apps that you’d like to group together, you can create an App Folder. Not only does this allow you to organize apps, it saves space on your Home Screen.

To create an App Folder, Tap and Hold an app and choose Edit Home Screen, the same as above. Drag the app on top of another app that you’d like to group it with and drop it. This will create a folder that contains both apps. You can add more apps to the folder by dragging them on top of the folder and dropping them in.

If the folder doesn’t open when you create it, just tap on it. From here you can arrange the apps inside the folder, as well as tap on the folder’s name to change it.

To remove a folder, move all the apps out of it.

Tip:: it can take a few tries to get an app to drop inside a folder. Sometimes, the other app (or the folder) will move out of the way when you approach it. If you move slowly, you can more easily drop the app inside the folder.

Home Screen Pages

You can create several pages on your Home Screen to have a more organized view of your apps. Again, everyone will have a different approach to this. I like to create pages that contain related types of apps. For example, my first Home Screen page is for apps that I use regularly (messages, phone, mail, etc.), the second page is for reading apps (news, books, social media, etc.), and I also have a page for games.

To move an app to a different page, Tap and Hold an app and then tap Edit Home Screen, the same as above to move an app. Now drag the app to the edge of the screen, and hold it there for a moment. The Home Screen will change to the next page, or if you’re dragging to the right edge and a page doesn’t already exist, a new, empty page will be created and you’ll move there. You can now place the app anywhere on this page.

As noted above, the Home Screen will stay in jiggle mode until you tap Done in the upper right of the screen or press the Home button.

Tip: Once you’re no longer in jiggle mode, you can quickly move between pages by tapping and dragging the page indicator at the bottom of the screen:

Tip: to quickly jump to the first page from another page, swipe up from the bottom of the Home Screen on newer iPhones, or press the Home Button.

The Dock

The Dock is the area at the bottom of the screen that holds apps. The Dock is shown on every Home Screen page so is the ideal location for your most used apps. You move apps onto and off of the dock the same way you rearrange them, as described above. The dock holds a limited number of apps, so you may need to remove an app before you can drop one.

Note: the Dock can also contain folders. Just drag and drop a folder in the same manner as dragging an app.

Other Areas to Declutter

Here are some other other apps to consider while organizing and decluttering your device. I won’t go into details for these (I may in future posts), but you might want to take a look at each app if you use it.

  • Email: it’s so easy to just leave messages in your inbox or other folders and forget about them. Go through your inbox and folders and delete old emails you no longer need to keep.
    • Tip: you can enter a year in the search box, then tap that year under “Dates” section to limit the list to emails from that year. This makes it easy to look for old emails.
  • Notes: If you often create a quick note to jot something down you could end up with a lot of old, unnecessary notes. Go through your notes and delete those that are no longer needed. (I’ll have an in-depth look at the Notes app in an upcoming post.)
  • Reminders: if you use this app for tasks or shopping lists, as I wrote about here, this is a great time get rid of old items. Tap the menu button in the upper right and choose Show Completed. Then swipe left to delete a reminder. Or choose Select Reminders from the menu, choose the ones to delete, and tap the delete button at the bottom.
  • Safari Tabs: it’s very easy to end up with many tabs open in Safari. When you tap on a link in an email or other app, it often opens in a new tab. I wrote about managing tabs here. Closing all those tabs makes it much easier to find the one you want.

Starting Fresh

There is something cathartic about organizing and cleaning, and it’s no different with your digital devices. I hope these tips help you to have a fresh start to 2021 and make it easier and more enjoyable to use your devices. Look for more on cleaning up storage space in my next post.

I’m happy to be making a fresh start myself by writing here again after a year away. Happy New Year!

Cover Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

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