The ultimate guide to digital spring cleaning

The ultimate guide to digital spring cleaning

The concept of spring-cleaning is a familiar one, I’m certain, but how many times have you applied this practice to your digital life, even more so, your smartphone? This week, we’re giving you some tips on digital spring-cleaning so that you can get your online life organized - right from the comfort of your palm.

Spring is commonly associated with beautiful things like blossoming flowers, the warmth of the sun, mild temperatures, and generally, a feeling of hope that the worst of winter is over. It is also often accompanied by spring-cleaning for many people. The whole idea of performing a major cleaning right at the start of spring has been floating around in my head as part of my new year's resolutions. Nonetheless, physical spring-cleaning should also be accompanied by digital spring-cleaning. Let us see how we can declutter our smartphones.

Spring-cleaning your smartphone

If we were to do a smartphone audit at the moment, there are several areas in which we can look into that will help make the entire experience smoother. This guide will provide relevant information or link you to the articles that explain the different options in greater detail.

Of course, our tips are not explicitly meant to be implemented only in spring and should be done far more often throughout the year if you would want to keep your smartphone in prime operating condition. Are you ready to get started? Who knows, you might even be interested to do more after you watch "Tidying up with Marie Kondo" on Netflix!

Quick links:

Clean up your smartphone memory

The first rule of smartphone memory: delete everything that you do not use. Not only does this create space for other apps, games, and media that you use frequently, it also ensures that the smartphone runs faster. The DiskUsage analysis app is perfect for showing you which particular apps hog up all of your memory. 

A 2D area diagram depicts the directories or files that take up the largest space in your smartphone's permanent storage. All you need to do from there is to remove the offending app(s) by uninstalling them, and you're good to go - assuming you don't use the aforementioned app(s).

DiskUsage
Should I keep my WhatsApp Voice notes? / © NextPit

This analysis will often show that most of the available space is used up for media (videos, pictures, music), by app, app data, and temporary files stored in the cache. It is worth the effort to go through this tedious step because there are some large files that you might want to keep for sentimental reasons or simply for work. If your Android memory is constantly full, here is how you can maximize your smartphone's RAM.

Get organized with Google Photos

Google Photos has been my tool of choice for the longest time when it comes to backing up and sorting out my photos. Since I'm up to my neck in the Google ecosystem, I let everything that comes up with me settle in effortlessly, regardless of whether it's the photos that I take with my smartphone camera, memes I received over WhatsApp, or screenshots that I capture for NextPit.

Free up more space

I don't look at a lot of my stored pictures, but do I keep stashing them away in the cloud thanks to the Palo Alto tech giant. Google has shaken up the photo cloud storage space with Google Photos because you can simply stash away everything there from your smartphone, and also delete them by selecting the "Free up storage space" function. This can be accessed by launching "Gallery" and then selecting "Manage".

You can even let Google provide an approximate calculation on just how long your existing storage space will last you based on your current usage pattern. But you probably know by now that things will change at Google from June onwards. To date, you can store an infinite number of slightly compressed images into the cloud without having them count against your 15 GB of overall storage space. 

This will no longer be the case in the future because Google is limiting its photo service so that at some point you run the risk of using up the free 15 GB. If you want additional storage space, you will have to resort to Google One - which is a paid storage service. Thankfully, the entry price remains affordable (for now) with an annual €20 subscription fee for 100 GB or €1.99 for a monthly subscription. 

Archive Images

Spring cleaning is not only about freeing up existing space, but also about getting more organized. In order to achieve this, it can be accessed via the "Archive" function on Google Photos. Accessing it is the same as "Free up space", so select the "Gallery" button and then "Manage", where you can finally select "Move photos to archive".

From there, you have the option to hide photos from Google Photos and move them to the archive. According to the motto "out of sight, out of mind", you can then view pictures in your gallery that you actually feel like looking at. 

It is important to note that the photos still remain in the albums to which they were added earlier, and you can also find them in the search results and folders on your smartphone. In the archive, you can not only view the corresponding photos, but also restore them in case you change your mind. 

Google Photos Archive
Google lets you archive photos for a more organized photo gallery / © NextPit

Check app permissions

Perhaps you are familiar with this situation: You are in a rush or intently look forward to a new app, and therefore after downloading and installing it, you accept all of the requested authorizations required for this application in one fell swoop. "I will change it later," you say to yourself. How many times has that happened, and has it ended well? In fact, just how often do you check on all your apps and know just what kind of permissions that these apps have?

Sure, I expect a weather app to want access to my location. That makes sense, how else is it supposed to keep me informed? But why the heck does a flashlight app also have to have access to my microphone? You see, a thorough digital spring-cleaning session also includes a complete review of your apps and its permissions. You can read about it in our detailed article below.

Oh, and while we're on apps and spring-cleaning: Have a look at "Subscriptions" under Google Play. From there, you can check out just which apps you have subscribed to for a fee, how much it costs, and when the next payment is due. Perhaps there are also apps/subscriptions that you no longer require or use, so you might as well take advantage of the situation and cancel it. 

Reorganize your contact list

As part of our spring-cleaning, it is also highly recommended that you go through the list of contacts on your smartphone. With Android, there is a good chance that the contacts there will be managed via the corresponding Google app. If you want to really do a deep dive, delete ex-boyfriends or even merge duplicate contacts, then you can, of course, do all of it from your smartphone. However, it is far easier if you were to do it through your desktop via Google Contacts

I would like to take the opportunity to refer to one of our articles that would come in handy as you clean up your contact list on your Android-powered smartphone.

If you still have the intestinal fortitude to work with your contacts, perhaps you can then follow up that effort by doing the same with your social media profiles. It is practically a jungle out there here to deal with if you have been on social media for many years, and it is definitely a complex topic that we should do a deep dive for a future article. Just let us know if you would like to know more about cleaning up one's social media profiles.

Clean your smartphone

Finally, let's get down to the literal cleaning part. If there is one thing that we have learned right from the beginning of the pandemic, it's sanitizing your hands regularly. This is especially important for objects that we hold in our hands countless times every day - like a smartphone. Therefore, our smartphone is also a common contact point for dirt, germs, bacteria, and viruses of all kinds. 

There are different ways to clean a smartphone, but there are also some wrong ones. The best way to proceed, the do's and dont's are found in the following article:

We have come to the end of this guide and if you have managed to do all of the above, you should now be a proud owner of a clean, optimized smartphone with more space to work with than before. We are always open to suggestions, so do share with us what are some of your favorite tips in performing a digital spring-cleaning? Please let us know in the comments.


This post has been completely rewritten, so the author's name has also changed. We have retained your old comments for the sake of legacy, context, and out of respect for your reactions. 

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  • storm 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    With a little Tasker/IFTT you can synch your new phone files to your private server as easily as to google and have better security.


  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    Jan 30, 2020 Link to comment

    To control the apps permissions is crucial. Done it several times and had some real big surprises. It may not save space but it is extremely important in deciding what apps to keep and what to eliminate or substitute with less invasive ones