The Space-Hogging Mess You Always Forget About: How To Declutter Your iPhone

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

You put in so much effort to keep your home organized and looking beautiful, but do you give your iPhone the same treatment? It’s easy to let your phone fall into a state of disarray, leaving you with no storage space, searching for apps in a wall of seemingly endless icons, but your phone is almost always with you, and you don’t deserve all that technological clutter. Plus, you’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to tidy up your apps and files, and you can have some fun with it, too.

(Image credit: Sergey Causelove)

Note: Before you make any major changes to your iPhone, you should back up all your data and files either to the cloud, or to your computer.

Check Your Usage

If you’re almost out of storage space, you can go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage. There, you can see which of your apps and files are using up the most storage space. You can delete apps you don’t use that take up space through there, remove songs from your music library, and see just how much space all your photos and messages are taking up—not deleting them can take up more storage space than you realize, so back up what you want to save, then clear it all off your phone.

Clear Out Your Caches

Like any web browser, Safari saves your search and browsing history, and if you never clear it out, all that data can add up and leave you with no more storage space. To clear it, simply open Safari, tap the icon that looks like a book at the bottom of the screen, then on the next screen, tap the icon that looks like a clock on the top navigation bar (that’s your history), and then tap “Clear” on the bottom right corner of your screen.

…On Apps, Too

Apps like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram all save data to your phone without you realizing too, so it’s good to clear that out from time to time. On Snapchat, you can go to your settings, and then under Account Actions, select Clear Cache, where you can clear both your Browser Cache and Memories Cache (which won’t actually delete the photos you’ve saved to Memories). On Facebook, go to Account Settings > Browser, and then select Clear Data. On Instagram, open your Settings, then scroll down to the bottom and select Clear Search History.

Use Folders

If you’ve got pages and pages of apps all over your phone, it’s time to change that. Once you’ve cleaned up and decluttered your files, free up some screen space by putting some of your apps into folders. You can name the folders whatever you like, so try grouping similar apps—like all of your photo and video apps—into different folders. I have four folders on my phone, one for social and chat apps; one for photos, videos and music; one for utilities (like Calculator, Notes, Settings, etc.) and one for all those random Apple apps that come pre-set on your iPhone when you buy it. I leave the apps I use most frequently—like the camera, Twitter, and Safari, among others—out of the folders for quicker access. Figure out what works best for you, and organize from there.

(Image credit: Taryn Williford)

Arrange Your Apps

Aside from putting some of your apps into folders, you can still move your apps around in a way that feels more organized and sleek. For that, you have a few options:

Color Coordinate

If you want your phone to look as aesthetically pleasing as it is organized, try arranging your apps by color. You’ll have to move them around manually, but the payoff? A beautiful rainbow of all your favorite apps. Or convert your phone to grayscale.


Want your apps in alphabetical order? Good news: A few taps of your screen and you can have them exactly right, and you don’t have to arrange them all on your own. Get your folders in shape first, because this trick will include them based on their names. Then, go to Settings > General > Reset and select Reset Home Screen Layout, which will sort your apps and folders alphabetically for you.

Order by Usage

I order my apps by how frequently I use them, and I do the same within my folders as well. Arranging them by usage makes sense if you want to be able to quickly access your apps as often as you normally check them, but it doesn’t look as organized as alphabetizing or color coordinating your apps.

Get Creative with Pages

Your iPhone defaults to having all your apps on one page (or multiple, if there are more than can fit on one page), but you don’t have to have a wall of apps on your phone if you don’t want to. You can drag your apps to create or move them to a new page, and free up some of the screen space. This is especially handy if you have a background photo that you want to show off without apps covering it. I keep my apps to one row on the top to mirror the apps on the bottom app bar, so I have one page of my four most frequently used apps, another of my next four most frequently used app, and a third page with just the four folders. There’s really no limit to how you can arrange things.

Emoji Up your Contacts

If you’ve got a lot of contacts and it’s hard to keep track of them all, try adding emoji to their names. Because you can search your phone and address book for emoji just like you can search their actual names, it makes it easy to quickly pull up the right person—plus, it looks fun and adorable. This works especially well for different situations, like if you have multiple contacts with the same name, or if you need context to remember who someone is.

For friends I frequently contact, I assign a specific, individual emoji that reminds me of them so that it’s easy to remember. For contacts that require context, like people I meet at networking events or matches from dating apps, I assign two emoji—one that represents how we met, and one that represents their personality or something memorable about them. That way, when I go through my contacts later, I can remember who they were. It’s also useful for noting to yourself who you don’t want contact with—sure, you can just block them and delete their number, but sometimes it’s more fun to add the circle-backslash prohibition emoji next to their names.

Re-edited from a post originally published 9.12.2016 – TW