Digital Minimalism on Your iPhone: 11 Ways to Achieve It
Let’s Imagine for a second your iPhone was a room…
It’s probably something like a crowded attic, filled to the brim with shiny trinkets, dusty memories, and that one app you downloaded for a trip three years ago and never used again.
The door creaks every time you open it, and you spend more time rummaging around for what you need than actually using it.
But what if it could be more like a zen garden with bonsai trees?
Let’s set a scene of a clear, open space where everything has its place and purpose. Well, this would be the world of digital minimalism on your iPhone.
So in this article, I’ ‘ll guide you through a digital declutter, turning your iPhone from a chaotic storage room into a serene sanctuary.
From weeding out unnecessary apps to managing your notifications like a pro, I’ll discuss the steps and tools you need to simplify your digital environment and reclaim your time and focus.
It’s Not Your Fault…Your iPhone Is Designed for Digital Maximalism…
It’s not your fault that you may feel constantly connected and overwhelmed with digital clutter when using your iPhone.
That’s because it’s designed for digital maximalism.
What is digital maximalism?
It’s an approach to digital usage that embraces constant connectivity, a high volume of apps, and frequent interaction with digital devices.
It leans into the endless possibilities of technology, often resulting in increased screen time and an overflowing digital environment.
Essentially, digital maximalism says ‘more is more’ regarding our digital lives.
Now, how is the iPhone designed for digital maximalism?
1) The App Ecosystem
The App Store boasts over 2 million apps for everything you can imagine – productivity, social media, gaming, fitness, education, and more.
This abundance encourages users to download more apps, often more than they need or can meaningfully use.
2) The Notification System
iPhones have a sophisticated notification system that alerts users for a wide range of updates – new emails, social media activity, breaking news, app updates, and more.
These constant notifications can promote compulsive checking habits and lead to digital overwhelm.
3) Integration of Services
Integrating various Apple services, such as iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, and Apple Music, encourages users to stay within the Apple ecosystem, potentially increasing their screen time.
4) Regular Updates and New Features
Each iOS update usually brings new features, improvements, and sometimes even new pre-installed apps, encouraging users to explore and use their devices more.
5) Screen Design and User Interface
The iPhone’s aesthetically pleasing design, high-resolution screen, intuitive user interface, and easy-to-use operating system all make for a more engaging and enticing user experience, which can lead to increased usage.
6) Marketing and Consumerism
Apple’s marketing often focuses on the endless possibilities and the enhanced productivity and connectivity that the iPhone offers, encouraging users to use their device to its maximum potential.
11 Ways to Achieve Digital Minimalism on Your iPhone and Turn It Into a Minimalist Phone
Now that you’ve learned how the iPhone is designed to foster maximalist user behavior, you may wonder what you can do about it…This is provided you want to achieve digital minimalism with your iPhone.
So, before you make a more radical move and get a minimalist phone, you can try to turn your iPhone into a minimalist one with the following tips.
1) Audit Your Digital Usage
Start by clicking on the ‘Settings’ app (you know, the one with the gears).
Then you want to scroll down to find the ‘Screen Time.’ Tap that and behold – a treasure trove of info lies ahead.
You will see charts, graphs, and stats – your phone’s usage laid bare.
You can see which apps you’ve spent the most time on.
The social networking app you checked ‘just for a sec’ that mysteriously turned into a 2-hour session? Busted.
The game you play on your lunch break? That’s there too.
But wait, there’s more…You can check out how many times you’ve picked up your phone, the number of notifications you’ve received, and even how your usage compares to previous weeks.
Shocked by the number of hours you’re clocking?
Well, knowledge is power, and the truth can sometimes be pretty painful…
You don’t just want to stick to the surface…Dive into the details.
Click on the ‘See All Activity’ tab under the graph to find a daily or weekly breakdown of your usage.
There’s a list of your most used apps, their categories, and the specific time you spent on each.
Spent too much time scrolling through social media? Or maybe that cooking app took more time than you’d like?
Now you know, and knowing is the first step to making a change.
So, in the end, it’s not just an audit. It can be an uncomfortable revelation.
2) Delete Unnecessary Apps
Like shedding off those old clothes that no longer fit – deleting unnecessary apps is liberating. It makes room for the stuff that truly matters.
First, you want to do a quick walk-through, scroll through your phone, and glance at each app.
If you can’t even remember what it’s for, it’s a good sign it should go.
Next, the interrogation begins…For each app, ask yourself: ‘When was the last time I used this?’ If the answer is ‘last year’ or ‘uhh, I can’t remember,’ it’s time for it to bid farewell.
Don’t just stop there. You also want to ask yourself whether this app brings real value o your life.
If all it’s doing is gobbling up your time and leaving you feeling unproductive or unsatisfied, it doesn’t deserve space on your phone.
Based on what you learned when you did the audit I discussed earlier, you also want to consider removing apps that waste a lot of your valuable time.
Deleting an app doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.
It’s not a goodbye, just a ‘see you when I really need you.’
Most services have web versions you can access without permanently installing the app on your phone.
So don’t hesitate to be ruthless.
3) Clear Digital Clutter
iPhones have made photographers of us all…However, do you really need 37 shots of your cat sleeping in the same position?
How about the blurry photos from that concert three years ago?
So you want to set aside some time, scroll through your gallery, and start deleting.
And don’t forget about the ‘Recently Deleted’ album…Those photos you thought you got rid of are still taking up space for 30 days unless you delete them from there too.
Remember those voicemails, old texts, WhatsApp messages, and other Chat App Messages (e.g., Threma, Telegram, etc.) that have been gathering dust?
Those can go, too. If you can’t delete these files, you can at least delete the chat histories, videos, and other related media files you downloaded during a chat conversation.
These apps and media files are not just cluttering your phone but your mind.
And let’s not forget about the downloads folder.
That PDF you downloaded for a quick read, the presentation you needed for that one meeting, the GIF you saved for that one text – if you don’t need them anymore, out they go.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-and-done deal. You want to do this regularly to keep your iPhone “clutter-free.”
4) Clear Your Home Screen
So, you’ve kicked out the unwanted apps. The thing is, your iPhone may still look like a teenager’s bedroom after a weekend at home.
It’s time for the next step: tidying up your home screen.
The home screen of your iPhone is like prime real estate. It’s the first thing you see when you unlock your phone, setting the tone for your digital experience.
Start by asking: “Which apps do I use every day?” These could be apps like your calendar, to-do list, email client, or maps app.
These essential apps have earned a place on your home screen.
Next, let’s deal with the rest. Ever heard of folders?
You can group related apps into folders based on their function – think ‘Work,’ ‘Fitness,’ ‘Social,’ ‘Photography,’ and so on.
Not only does this cut down on clutter, but it also makes it easier to find what you need.
You may also want to consider leaving the first page of your home screen blank or with just a few essential apps.
It’s like a breath of fresh air whenever you unlock your phone.
Plus, it adds an extra step before you can open an app, which can help curb mindless browsing.
You can also take it a step further with widgets.
They are those little blocks that provide information at a glance without opening an app.
Your weather forecast, your next calendar event, a motivational quote – you choose what’s most valuable to you.
However, don’t get dragged back into maximalism…The goal isn’t to cram as much as possible onto your home screen but to create a calm, focused, purposeful space.
It’s about making your phone work for you, not the other way around.
5) Manage Notifications
Imagine notifications as doorbells.
Some are friends dropping by for coffee; others are the cliché used car salesman trying to sell something you don’t need.
So you want to ensure your digital doorbell only rings for the guests you want to see.
First, again you want to do an audit. This time it’s your current notifications.
Go to your settings and check out what’s been allowed to send you notifications.
You might be surprised at the liberty some apps have taken. Now, consider each one.
Does this app need to interrupt your day? If not, switch off its notifications.
But what about the apps that do need to notify you sometimes?
The solution for this case is banners, sounds, badges, and the Notification Center.
Customize how each app notifies you.
Do you want a sound, a vibration, a pop-up message, a number on the app icon, or just a note in the Notification Center? You decide.
And then there’s your lock screen.
Only the most essential notifications should make it here.
Think about messages, calls, reminders, or navigation apps. Everything else can wait until you actively decide to check your phone.
You may also want to consider batching your notifications.
This means setting specific times to receive notifications from certain apps.
Rather than having your phone beep every five minutes, why not get all your emails or social media notifications at once, say, twice a day?
It’s like getting your mail in one go instead of having the postman ring the bell every time there’s a new letter.
6) Use Greyscale Mode
Like turning your iPhone into a classic film noir, this happens when you activate the greyscale mode.
It strips all the colors away, leaving just black, white, and grey shades.
It might sound a bit dull, but that’s the whole point…Those bright, candy-like app icons are designed to grab your attention and tempt you to open them.
When they’re in greyscale? Not so much.
It mirrors a chocolate chip cookie turning into a piece of plain toast.
Well, you can still enjoy it if you’re hungry, but you won’t eat it out of boredom.
So, try switching to greyscale mode (you can find it in your accessibility settings) and see if it helps reduce mindless browsing.
7) Get a Minimalist Wallpaper
Similar to giving your eyes a peaceful sanctuary in a bustling digital city is when you set a minimalist wallpaper for your iPhone.
It’s one of those tiny tweaks that can create a surprising amount of calm and focus.
Our brains are pretty smart.
They notice everything, including that busy, colorful, distracting wallpaper.
And if you want to calm down with such a wallpaper, it could be compared to trying to meditate in the middle of a rock concert – not impossible, but definitely harder.
On the other hand, a minimalist wallpaper reduces visual noise, allowing your mind to focus on what’s important.
Think of simple colors, subtle textures, or serene nature scenes.
It’s your digital Zen garden, ready to greet you whenever you unlock your phone.
By the way, here you can learn how to change the wallpaper on your iPhone (in case you don’t know already).
8) Limiting Mobile Data Usage
With unlimited data, it’s easy to binge, gobbling up content without a second thought.
But when you set a limit, you must choose what’s worth your time and data.
Suddenly, those endless social media scrolls and video streams don’t seem as appealing.
It’s about using your phone as a tool, not an all-you-can-eat buffet.
You can use your iPhone’s built-in settings to set data limits for each app or even turn off mobile data for apps that don’t need it.
This not only saves data but also encourages more intentional usage.
You can think of it as digital portion control, helping you enjoy a balanced, minimalist digital diet.
9) Set App Limits Use Social Media Mindfully
Setting app limits is a gentle yet firm way of saying, “Enough for today; let’s rest and recharge for tomorrow.”
And it’s pretty simple to do with your iPhone’s Screen Time feature.
For example, you could set a one-hour daily limit for social media apps.
Once you reach that limit, your phone will gently remind you to log off.
You might initially feel slightly resistant, but you’ll appreciate these boundaries over time.
This ties into a generally mindful use of social media.
Mindful social media use is comparable to savoring a fine dining experience rather than wolfing down fast food.
It’s about choosing quality over quantity.
Instead of endlessly scrolling through feeds, you consciously decide which posts to engage with and when to log off.
You’re not just passively consuming whatever is thrown your way but actively selecting content that brings you joy, inspiration, or knowledge.
Similarly, with entertainment apps, rather than binge-watching the latest series or playing games until your thumbs ache, you enjoy your digital entertainment in moderation.
It’s about setting boundaries, like designated ‘no phone’ times, or even removing these apps from your phone and accessing them on a computer or tablet.
10) Use Do Not Disturb Mode
Suppose you had a personal assistant who could shield you from unnecessary interruptions and help you focus on what truly matters.
That’s what the Do Not Disturb mode on your iPhone can do for you.
With Do Not Disturb mode activated, your iPhone stays silent, letting you focus on an important task or rest undisturbed.
You can schedule it for specific times or switch it on manually, ensuring you’re not interrupted during important moments like work, sleep, or quality time with loved ones.
11) Use of Technology to Assist Digital Minimalism
As already mentioned earlier, there are countless tools and features right there on your iPhone that can simplify and streamline your digital life.
Features like Screen Time provide insights into your digital habits, much like a mirror reflecting your behavior at you.
Apps like Forest promote focused work periods, acting like a personal coach cheering you on.
And don’t forget your settings. They’re like the rules of your digital house, helping you manage notifications, set app limits, and switch on Do Not Disturb mode.
There are even minimalist apps designed to provide functionality with less distraction.
Technology doesn’t have to be the enemy of minimalism. It can be the very tool that helps you achieve a more balanced, focused, and serene digital life.
It’s Not Enough to Just Turn Your iPhone Into a Minimalist Phone.
One thing is to turn your iPhone into a minimalist phone from the technical side. Another is maintaining it as such. The latter depends much more on your behavior and habits.
So how do you prevent “losing” your new minimalist iPhone?
It depends greatly on how well you make a true “digital habit change.” In my digital minimalism guide, I covered this topic more in-depth.
To sustain a true habit change, you better make the changes gradually in little steps. So you don’t suffer from a relapse turning your minimalist iPhone back into a maximalist one.
And this habit change would need to flow in the following behaviors and actions…
Mindful Consumption of Content and Apps: Be selective about the information you consume and the apps you download after you just got rid of some during your declutter earlier.
This could mean limiting news intake, being picky about who you follow on social media, or only subscribing to podcasts or newsletters that add value to your life.
The same is true for the apps you choose. Only download apps that add value and enrich your digital experience without cluttering it.
Mindful Communication: You also want to be intentional about communicating with others.
Rather than responding to messages immediately, set specific times for catching up on communication.
Regular Digital Detox: You want to use regular periods or days where digital usage is limited or avoided completely to rest your mind and realign your focus.
Regular Digital Declutters: Even after decluttering, it’s easy to download new apps or start accumulating digital clutter.
Regularly review your app usage and declutter as necessary.
Ongoing Notifications Management: Similar to regular digital detoxes and declutters, you want to deal with your notification settings.
New ones may creep in with the newly downloaded apps. It’s a dynamic process that involves keeping in sync with your evolving needs and preferences, enabling you to maintain a serene and distraction-free digital environment.
Physical Environment: The physical environment also influences your digital habits.
A dedicated place to store your phone when you’re not using it, like a drawer or a specific spot on a shelf, can help reduce unnecessary usage.
And then there are also these timed lock boxes if you want to take this up a notch.
Balance Digital and Offline Life: While your digital life can offer information, connectivity, and entertainment, it’s crucial to step away from the screen to enjoy the tangible, sensory-rich experiences that the offline world provides.
Just as you wouldn’t eat only one type of food, nourishing your life with digital and real-world experiences is vital to ensure a healthy, well-rounded existence.
By the way, speaking of habit change…If you need additional help, you may want to check out the following books…
- “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg, with the “Habit Loop” (trigger, the habit itself, and the benefit from executing the habit)
- Implementation intentions
- Replacing negative habits with positive ones
- On average, 66 days of consistent practice so the new behavior becomes automatic (so it should be rather a 66-day digital minimalism challenge, I guess)
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.