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In 2012 the average American smartphone owner had 41 apps on their phone, up from 32 a year beforehand. And that’s trend that looks set to continue. But how many do we actually use and how many are just clutter harming our productivity?

As we’ve already looked at, electronic clutter, both on your smartphone and computer, eats up memory, slows down your device, and, most significantly of all, acts as a mental barrier to peak performance. Here’s how to get rid of it once and for all.

Clean up your desktop or home screen

Look at the icons on your computer’s desktop or your phone’s home screen and try to remember when you last clicked them. The whole point is to offer quick access to the things you need most often, so if you haven’t clicked an icon in the last week, it’s wasting valuable space.

To manage your desktop, you could use a wallpaper with sections marked on it to create different categories or an app like Fences which organises and hides icons. For your phone or tablet, a smaller screen makes it even more important to be economical with space – so put the things you need front and centre.

Get organised

Take a long, hard look at the files and folders on your computer and delete or archive anything you don’t need anymore. Then look at the structure of your filing and consider whether it’s as efficient and easy-to-navigate as it could be. If it isn’t, reorganise. A consistent way of naming your files and folders is a good place to start, and it could also help to separate files you’re working on now from ones you’ve finished with.

There are apps that can help you keep your files in order:

  • Duplicate File Finder finds and deletes identical files by comparing content, rather than file names alone.
  • Elyse lets you add tags to your files to identify the content.
  • Belvedere lets you automate lots of file-related tasks, for example making sure downloads are saved in the appropriate folder, not just in ‘Downloads’.

Use the cloud

Why take up precious memory on your device when you can store things in the cloud? Services like SkyDrive and Evernote allow you to access your files or notes wherever you are and from multiple devices. They can help reduce duplication, because you can access one version on whatever device you’re using. When it comes to your phone or tablet, automatically syncing to the cloud can save a lot of stress if you’re unlucky enough to lose or break it.Similarly, consider getting rid of music stored on your device if you also use a streaming service.

Cut down on apps

Ask yourself if you use your apps regularly, and also if they’re really useful; you might play that addictive game every day, but it could be eating away precious time. Delete the apps you don’t use regularly, ones that waste your time, or free apps that you don’t use often and can download again when necessary.

You should also take a look at the apps that are running in the background – not only do they eat up data, drain your battery and slow down your phone, constant notifications can be distracting too, so consider turning them off.

If you try any these ideas, let us know how you get on. And if you have any decluttering tips of your own please share them below.

Image credit: Steve A Johnson 

This is part of Nokia’s Smarter Everyday programme, which aims to inspire you with the latest ideas on productivity, collaboration and technology adoption. To download our latest ebook on designing your day, visit