By Tyler Calder

A couple months back, in a fit of productivity, I organized my iPhone home screen until all my apps fit neatly into folders categorized by color. Because I’m a glutton for extremes, I even got them all to fit onto one screen (one screen! who do I think I am?!). I was feeling pretty great about my new very color-coded app situation, pictured below, so I took a screenshot and triumphantly slung it up onto my Instagram Story. Who could argue with this impeccable piece of digital art? The responses that followed were both hilarious and humbling.

“Are you nuts?!??!!” (Thank you to my best friend for this one.)

“Oh NO NO NO to this.”

“How does this even… work?”

I’d be remiss to not mention that some were very into it (s/o my fellow visual people), but the people that weren’t into it REALLY couldn’t even bear the sight. The divisiveness of this post was endlessly entertaining for me that day. Friends sent me pictures of their own home screens, with full paragraphs about how they digitally organize their phones. PARAGRAPHS! I hadn’t considered that home screens, like homes, are deeply personal spaces for a lot of people. Now I get it. 

If you don’t have a ~system~ for your apps, endless notifications or digital disorganization can become major stressors. Home screens can also be a glimpse into someone’s (sometimes chaotic, sometimes organized) brain: Are they Type A or Type B? Are they visual or utilitarian? Are they minimalist or more of an app experimenter? There’s so much you can learn. 

Now that it’s back-to-school and Virgo season, and organization is top of mind, I’m thinking about home screens as our digital homes once again. So I recruited the rest of the GNI team to bear it all with me – and share all of our home screens – the good, the bad, and the ugly – in this GNI Investigates exposé that explains each of our approaches to keeping digital scaries (and haunting notifications) at bay. 

Tyler's Method
The Creative Color Coder
"I'm a really visual person, so the way I think of apps is by their color and logo. When I realized I needed a more organized, easier-on-the-eyes system, I took 3 steps: Step 1) I organized folders by color and my folder “labels” were indicated by emojis of that color. So, for instance, all my yellow apps were in a folder labeled 🌼🍋⭐️. This definitely does not work for everyone (most people like labels or themes!), but it works for me. Step 2) I kept my most-used apps outside of folders. For instance, I live in a city and I need to know when it's about to pour so my weather app gets prime real estate on my main screen. Step 3) I chose a ~completed puzzle~ from my favorite game app, I Love Hue, as my background. Not having a crazy pattern or photo helps me focus on getting to the app I need." - Tyler (@tylerkcalder)
Olivia's Method
The Intentional Minimalist
"For me, my phone is a place to communicate with my friends, and I'm known to download apps that either make my life easier or make me smile. I've purposefully created a really minimalist aesthetic (notice the gray background and tidy folders) so that I can accomplish what I want to on my phone and get off of it. Phones have enough distractions as is, so really my hope is to mitigate those and create a space of digital calm, not chaos." - Olivia (@oliviarogine)
Alisha's Method
The CEO and Commuter
"I think my home-screen is lawful chaotic, if you're familiar with that meme. 😂 It's very utilitarian and work and commute-focused, but that's when I need my phone, so I'm okay with that. One thing I could be better at is clearing out apps that I'm just not getting good use of. One recent addition to my home screen that I LOVE is the Calm app. As you can see, based on all the notifications I get, I need as much calm as I can get, so it's been one of the best parts of my phone of late." - Alisha (@alisharamos)
Katrina's Method
The Organized-Presenting Virgo
"Virgo here, reporting for duty! Virgos are known for presenting as super organized but also having some inner chaos. I'd say that's a fair assessment here. My apps are on one 👏 page 👏 in categories, named by what I use them for. "Utilities" for banks, money things, maps etc. "Accounts" for shopping and services, "Food" for loyalty and ordering, and so on. The apps I use most stand alone and I hide most of my badges cuz I don't need them! When I need an app, I just search for it by swiping down on my iPhone, so mostly these categories don't even matter to me. We are called virGOs for a reason – we've got no time, and that's the way I think about my phone too. Also my background is a picture of my dog Otis for happiness and inspo." - Katrina (@Katrinakagan)
Mary Anne's Method
The Soothing Ombré
"I'm going to be really honest with you: My homescreen is arbitrarily color-coded on the first slide (once upon a time I decided these apps look pretty together and I've grown attached to it). On the other slides, I have folders. TBH my last two slides are... a lawless place. My one organizational standby is that I have a "testing" folder of apps I'm not sure I want to keep yet, and I would absolutely recommend this to others who may struggle to keep up with their digital organization." - Mary Anne (@maryanneporto)
Eunice's Method
The Strategizer
"I have everything on one screen, because I try to be intentional with how I use my phone. Any folders I have are max two screens – but barely. I usually just end up needing a second page for one or two apps and I usually do a quick audit and delete if I don’t use the apps after a while. The apps are located in a specific place, too. I’m right-handed, so everything that’s on the lower rows are easy-to-reach, and ones I use the most—especially during a commute. Folders are higher up because they open up in the middle of the screen, or I need them with both hands. It’s all organized to make my phone use easier but also with purpose." - Eunice (@eunibae)

Now we want to know – what approach do you take to creating a digital space that’s free of chaos and helps you take care throughout the day? Tell us in the comments below. 👇