What I Learned From a Digital Declutter
When Apple designed the iPhone, they paid special attention to one detail that is excellent at getting the attention of their users notification bubbles. They could have used a calming blue, a pretty pink, or a nature-inspired green for the notification color. But no, they chose a bright, alarming red.
I dont get many text messages or voice mails, and Ive turned off notifications for almost every app. My blood pressure rises significantly, however, when I see a red number one beside the Settings app. Oh, no. Software update!
Now, dont get me wrong. I have no issue with keeping my software up-to-date to avoid glitches and to optimize my smartphone experience. However, every time I go to update my software Im told that I dont have enough storage on my phone. I start grumbling under my breath, and my husband just laughs at me.
Back when I bought my iPhone 6s, I opted for the smallest storage amount of 16 gigabytes (GB) because I was sure it would be enough, despite my husbands raised eyebrows. Even though I keep very few text messages, voice mails, and photos on my phone, I never have enough room. So I asked myself,
What do you need to offload?
Its interesting to me that Apple uses the term offload. The basic definition of the word is to remove something that you do not want by giving it to someone else. But Apples use of the word is very specific. It allows you to free up storage used by the app, but keep its documents and data. Instead of permanently deleting the app, it temporarily removes some of the storage it is using while allowing you to reinstall the app easily.
As I searched for apps to offload recently (thank you iOS 13.3.1), I came to some interesting conclusions:
- I have 57 apps Ive downloaded (not counting the default Apple ones), less than the average number of 80 according to TechJury.
- Of these apps, I use 8 on a daily basis, close to the average of 9 from the same study.
- I use 6 additional apps on a weekly basis (for a total of 15 vs. the 30 per month found in the study).
The rest of my apps are for occasional reference use, so Im only really using half of the apps of my phone. You may find it interesting to see how you compare to these averages as well.
Three Things We Can Learn From Offloading
This exercise taught me three things that are applicable to my minimalism journey.
1. We typically dont look at what we have with a critical eye unless we are up against a physical limitation or an urgent deadline.
A frequent excuse not to declutter is: If we have space, whats the big deal? Im blessed to live in a country where the average home size has increased 30% since I was born in 1980, however, the extra space means that the physical limitation of too much stuff is much higher than if I was living in an RV or tiny house (the equivalent of a 16GB phone, perhaps?)
The only time we feel really pressed to do something about our clutter is if theres an urgent deadline, such as moving. Otherwise, its easier just to hold onto things just in case because we have the space for it and when its out of sight, its out of mind. The clutter police arent knocking at our doors, asking us when we last used our electric milk frother. (Am I the only one who has one of those?)
Ive written before about how artificial boundaries can help us in our minimalism journey. Even if you have huge walk-in closets, limiting certain types of clothing to a certain amount of space (one drawer, a certain number of hangers, etc.) can help ensure your wardrobe doesnt overwhelm you. Why is it that were content to keep socks in one drawer, but other types of clothing are allowed to explode in our closets? Carefully curating our items with physical boundaries allows us to enjoy the space we are blessed to have.
2. If youre not ready to get rid of certain items or behaviors in your life, its ok to take a break rather than break up.
I like that temporarily offloading my apps allows me to free up space and see if I want to keep the app in the future. If its been a few weeks and I havent downloaded it again, I can probably delete it.
In other areas of our life, we can take breaks from things that we think we can do without, and see how this frees us up to do the things that are truly important to us. Courtney Carver recently wrote this about breaks: Taking breaks from things like alcohol, coffee, sugar, shopping, social media and other things I wasnt sure about gave me information I needed on how to proceed based on how I feel instead of what I think I will feel.
Many times we think that we couldnt possibly do without something, but taking a temporary break from it can get us better in tune with what we can gain from removing it from our lives, rather than what we are losing. Ive removed alcohol and have significantly reduced my sugar and refined carbohydrate intake over the past month, and my mood and mental clarity have improved significantly. The benefits have far outweighed the temporary pleasures those things brought to my life.
The nice thing about breaks is, you can always choose to re-introduce those things back into your life but can do it in a mindful, intentional way.
3. Running at near-full capacity is exhausting. It slows us down. When we create space in our lives, we can hold space for others.
When my phone gets close to its 16GB capacity, it starts acting strangely. Apps close without notice. The battery seems to drain quickly. We are the same. When we are overloaded and overwhelmed, our energy is drained. We act in ways that run counter to who we think we are and who we want to be.
When we decide what we can do without (temporarily or permanently), something amazing happens. Whereas before we felt like we could barely stay afloat, suddenly we can breathe. And after you have been breathing in and out for a while, and have the capacity to take care of yourself, you can start to hold space for others. We can openly listen, we can empathize, we can be there in anothers presence without the running to-do list in our heads or our fingers twitching to check our phones. We can give our precious resources of time, attention, and focus and know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
So if your phone doesnt remind you that you need to offload something, let me be your bright red notification bubble. The answer to lightening your load isnt more square footage, a fancier gadget, or being better at organizing your stuff. It isnt hiding in a shiny new storage unit, an online shopping cart, or color-coordinated bins. Its found by looking closely at what takes up your space, energy, and time and offloading what you no longer need to make room for the life you want- and deserve.
About the Author: Emily McDermott is a wife, mother, and simplicity seeker, chronicling her journey atSimple by Emmy. She loves to dance, write poetry, and spend time with her husband and two young sons.