Planning + Productivity

Take Your iPhone Home Screen From Blah To Beautiful In 3 Easy Steps

Here’s the best way to sort your iPhone apps to help you limit distractions, increase productivity, and create a home screen that makes you smile.
 This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.
 

I didn’t intend to get lost in my phone—do any of us, really?!—but Joseph was busy with RV “stuff” (filling fresh water, dumping tanks, etc) and I couldn’t do much from the passenger seat.

So instead of pulling up Instagram like usual, I explored the many forgotten apps I had downloaded but never used.

Then I did something crazy.

I started deleting those apps—one right after another.

Clearing the clutter was so addicting that I quickly transitioned into organizing the apps on my iPhone, too. My fingers tapped out headings for new folders and I turned some of my favorite apps into Home Screen Widgets.

Thirty minutes later, I held out my phone to Joseph so he could ooh and ahh over my changes. (Being the good man that he is, he humored me.) 😂

Not only did my 1 1/2 year old phone feel brand new, everything was much prettier and easier to use!

Before I read these tips, my phone was a completely cluttered mess. I didn't think digital organization mattered too much, as long as I could eventually find what I needed. But this post taught me all about how to declutter, gave me the scoop on widgets and how to use folders to create a beautiful home screen. Plus, now I know why it's important to keep things organized in the first place!

Our Constant Companion

Most people view their phones as an extra appendage. In fact, you’re probably reading this post on your phone!

The average person checks their phone at least 80 times a day. So far, my phone has recorded 39 pickups as of 4:30pm. 😬

While the principles in books like Digital Minimalism inspire us to limit this unhealthy attachment to our phones, the truth is, we use these “rectangles of knowledge” for most everything—from checking our budgets to setting a timer for dinner.

It makes sense to spend time organizing an area of our life that we use so often.

With a neatly organized phone:

  1. You spend less time on your phone. If you can find everything you need within a couple of seconds, you’ll be less likely to forget why you opened up your phone in the first place. And as I’m sure you know, it’s easy to pick up your phone for one thing and get totally distracted by another if you have to spend too much time tapping around!

  2. You’re more likely to use the apps that actually improve your life. From habit trackers like Streaks to a closet organization app like Stylebook, your phone can simplify your life outside your phone.

I’m going to share the best way to organize your phone along with the apps I use and how to make everything look pretty and cohesive. But before we can jump into the fun part, we need to practice some digital housekeeping first.

Kalyn sorting apps on her iphone

Step 1: Declutter Apps You Don’t Use

Whether it was a free app of the day or one you tried three months ago but never used, now is the time to not just remove that app from your home screen, but to uninstall it all together.

  • To uninstall on the iPhone, hold the app icon and choose “Remove App”.
  • To uninstall on an Android, hold the app icon and drag to the top of the screen.
How to remove apps from iPhone and sort them

This clears out the dead weight so you can make room for the apps you actually use! As a bonus, your phone will run a little faster.

Step 2: Sort Remaining iPhone Apps

Now comes the fun part—organizing! Let’s tackle your Home Screen first.

Home Screen:

In my opinion, your Home Screen should be sacred territory. I have to really love an app (a.k.a. use it every day) for it to take up prominent space on that first screen.

Move the apps you access often (or want to access more often) to your home screen and slide the others to another screen for now. Since the handful of apps I use didn’t fill up my entire screen (and might not on yours either—it’s good to be picky!), you might want to experiment with Widgets.

Widgets take up more space, but also provide more at-a-glance information.

example widgets to use on a smartphone

For example,

  • I use Notion for most of my digital organization and blog planning, so I added a square widget to my Personal Dashboard (the page that lets me access most everything) to the top of my screen.
  • I also want to see what time blocks are coming up on Google Calendar, so I added a long rectangle widget to the middle of the screen.

To find out which of your installed apps support widgets on iPhone, hold the background of your screen until the icons start jiggling. Then click the “+” button in the upper left corner. This screen brings up all the widgets your apps support. Play around and see which formats you like best!

It’s a similar process on Android: tap and hold any open space on your home screen, then tap Widgets to see what apps are available.

How to add a widget to iPhone homescreen

Curious what apps take up real estate on my home screen?

  • WeatherBug
  • IG Content (a Shortcut to my Instagram Notion page)
  • Things (my to-do list app)
  • Google Keep (for quick ideas and notes)
  • Streaks (my habit tracker)
  • YNAB (budgeting app)
  • Clock
  • Calculator
  • Goodreads (I add new books to read almost every day)
  • PocketCasts (for podcasts)
  • Stylebook (an app to organize your clothes)
  • Instagram
Other Screens:

The rest of your apps should now be located on your second and third screens. The easiest way to sort these apps on your iPhone is through folders.

You can create folders based on the type of app.

sorting iPhone apps into folders

For instance, I organized my second screen like this:

  • Google Maps Widget on the top (our travel lifestyle necessitates this!)
  • Office Folder (Google Drive, Gmail, scanning app, etc)
  • Social Folder (all social media and communication apps like Marco Polo)
  • Travel Folder
  • Health Folder (RunKeeper, AllTrails Cycles, etc)
  • Editing Tools Folder (all my photo and video editing apps)
  • Finance Folder (banks, Venmo, etc)
  • Entertainment Folder (phone games, YouTube, and streaming services)
  • Bible Tools Folder
  • Shopping Folder (stores I frequent often as well as reward apps like Fetch and Ibotta)
  • Restaurant Folder
  • Read + Listen folder (any book/audio-type apps)
  • Utilities Folder (the App Store and any settings-type app that came with my phone)

Don’t worry too much if not all your apps fit neatly inside a folder. You can always toss them onto the third screen or create a Miscellaneous folder!

 
 

Step 3: Ongoing Maintenance

The key to sticking with any organizing system is ongoing maintenance.

After all that hard work you put into decluttering and sorting the apps on your iPhone, you’ll want to do your best to keep it that way!

I practice this decluttering/reorganizing process now on a monthly-ish basis. You could set a calendar reminder to make sure you get this done regularly, or simply make a habit of clearing out your phone each season.

I love to switch out my phone background based on the current season and then coordinate my apps to go with it to keep everything fresh. So this gives me the perfect excuse to glance over everything again and get rid of what I don’t need (or organize a newly downloaded app into the appropriate folder).

Here’s a video on how to create a pretty home screen with custom icons (for free!):

The only annoying thing is the Shortcuts banner popping up whenever you open up your new app, but you can disable that setting using this tutorial.

What Everyone Will Say When They See The Sorted Apps On Your iPhone

The next time you’re browsing your phone and someone sneaks a peak over your shoulder (shame on them, by the way!), I have a feeling they’ll ask you to share all of your phone organization secrets—especially when they see such a pretty home screen!

Joseph was so inspired by the way I rearranged my phone that he gave his phone the same declutter and organization treatment. Since he’s a podcast junkie, his favorite change is adding a “Play” widget to every screen so he’s just one tap away from his current listen.

That’s the power of an organized phone—everything you actually need to use is just one touch away instead of buried three screens deep.

Unless of course, you’re trying to overcome an Instagram addiction and need to move that icon somewhere not so easily found.

Let’s chat about all things phone organization!

Let me know in the comments if you’re ready to declutter and organize your phone, or want more details on a specific app I mentioned!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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12 Comments

  1. Have you done a tutorial on Shortcuts? I’d like to use some of the Widgets but they take up too much real estate on my Home Screen. I’m wondering if shortcuts might help.

  2. Whoa. I’ve been going down the rabbit hole with apps that make screens look pretty but all cost $$$ or have kinda ugly designs or require you to watch a hundred videos. You just hacked all that with such a simple and do-able approach! Thanks!

    1. Hi Catherine. No, both are still needed. But you can remove the app from your home screen so the widget is the only thing that shows on your home screen. The original app will still be in your app library!

  3. This is so inspiring! I only recently discovered Widgets… and now you have me wanting to create a cohesive look to my icons (and something that is more calming to look at). Thanks for the run-down in your video! Looks so do-able. Something fun for a rainy day.

  4. This is awesome and exactly what I need. Thanks for sharing! I didn’t even know about widgets.

    There doesn’t seem to be any link for “Here’s a video on how to create a pretty home screen with custom icons (for free!):” Also, the next one about Shortcuts isn’t working, either.

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