App Junk, Brain Junk (Part One)

I've been wondering whether it might be worth my while to try to think of my devices the way I try to think of my house. The idea is that it's best to fill your space with beautiful, useful things that you know to be the best to help you work the way you want to work (or substitute play, or learn..). 

The thing about the phone (and the tablet, and the computer) is that the hazards of accumulating shiny, exciting, useless or poorly-made (or simply poorly-suited) Stuff don't play out the way they do in a house. There is very little agony in the disposal of an app: you simply tap on it (if on the phone) and it goes away. And you always know that if you want it back later, it's there. 

With physical objects, there is the agony of deciding how you Really feel about the thing, then whether the thing is in good enough shape to donate or should simply be thrown out, followed by the spasms of guilt that come from vivid imaginings of your own collective landfill contributions. (And then the terrible sense that, while it would be great if you'd never gotten so much stuff in the first place, it's really too late to turn back now)

When discarding an app, however, there is no waste, and no guilt! Except that there is waste. I spent - I'm estimating, with horror, because of course I didn't time the exercise -" fifteen or twenty minutes this morning saving a selection of iPad wallpapers from my favorite website in the size to fit the screen of my new device (my old iPad was a 2nd generation, from before the retina screen). I can recognize that chunk of time because I spent it all at a go, but it illustrates what a spendthrift I am with what I am itching to call untasks on digital devices.

How much time do I spend each year moving all my data between different to-do apps, testing out new clever composition apps, or searching for an idea I know I wrote down through the half-a-dozen note-taking options I have on my device at any one time? And all that is just in the category of glorified word-processing.

I need a new system, and I'm afraid I'll have to be a little rigid with myself. I'm starting with my phone, because it's the device I interact with the most, and also, I suspect, subject to the greatest accumulation of crap (Crapapps, Appcrap! The possibilities!) I do also have a Teensy bit of a storage problem, but I'm working on that by actually listening to the podcasts I've already downloaded before pulling down more.

I've taken a first step, and gotten rid of redundant apps. So, instead of a whole folder of photo-editors, I now have one camera app (VSCOcam), which lives on the first screen of my phone, one additional photo editor (Litely), one collage-maker (Moldiv), and the native Photos app (though my photos have a limited shelf-life in there, since I back them all up to Dropbox & Google+, and again, I need the space). 

That's the most successful example from my first round of cutting down, but I followed the same principle with the rest of my folders: I kept only what I actually use, and got rid of anything I don't. 

But now I'm gearing up for the next step: I want to get rid of not only the things that I don't use, but the things that I shouldn't use. I'm going to try to pay attention to what apps are distracting me from more worthy activities (I'm allowed to read the news, but reading about braids I will never even attempt to execute is not a good reason to postpone work). So, in the interest of coralling my behavior into the more fruitful laneways, I'm going to take this next week to take a bit of a survey. I'm hoping to ferret out my time-wasters and decide what I really need on my phone and where I've been kidding myself. 

And my hope is that, once I've made a good go of cleaning up my digital life, the momentum will carry me into the renewed burst physical-space organization that I fantasize about continually.

À la prochaine!