Reader Erik submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
How do you keep your cell phone uncluttered? I occasionally realize I have contacts I don’t even know who they are or never call and aren’t sure whether to keep or delete them. My text message inbox also fills up quickly and I can’t delete all of them as I like to keep some. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks for all you do!
Oh, Erik, I know your pain. I currently have four cell phone numbers for my friend Stephen, even though he only has one cell phone. So, read this advice knowing that I try to follow it myself but am far from mastering it.
If you regularly sync your contacts between your phone and computer, set the controls to prompt you before merging the data. Even if you don’t have conflicts in the data sets, it’s still a nice opportunity to review the contents of the files.
When entering new contacts into your phone, capture as much data as you can. If the data is incomplete, be sure to enter notes that will prompt your memory. One of the contacts in my phone is “Veterinarian, Dr. Judy.” It’s not accurate, but it serves my needs. I’m not even sure that I would know she was our cats’ vet if I used her actual last name.
As far as deleting is concerned, I vote for doing it whenever you come across someone you don’t remember or no longer talk to on a regular basis. Create an Excel file on your computer of names and numbers that you’re deleting if you’re worried that you’re deleting in error. My thoughts are, though, that unless you are the only person in the world with someone else’s number, you can always find a number again. A quick e-mail to a friend of a friend, or a call to 411 is usually all you need to do.
Unused and irrelevant contact information on your phone increases the chance that you’ll misdial or text the wrong person. And, in my case, it means that I never call my friend Stephen because I don’t remember which number is actually his.
I delete text messages right after I read them if they don’t contain any information I want to reference later. When I sync my phone with my computer, I also have an option to download my text messages. If you have this option, you might wish to consider doing it and getting the messages off of your phone. If your phone is ever lost or stolen, do you really want a stranger or thief to have access to all of your personal correspondence? If you don’t sync your text messages with your computer, you could also take a picture of the text message on your phone’s display. Then, you have the memory of the text message but it’s not taking up space on your phone.
Thank you, Erik, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.