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The decluttering trend

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Introduction

Do you have too much stuff? If so, you're not alone. These days people tend to buy and keep more things than they used to. But what do we do with it all once we've had enough of it? Recently, people have been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of stuff that they own. Rob and Neil find out all about the latest decluttering trend, how to do it and why in this 6 Minute English programme!

This week's question

The vacuum cleaner is a machine we use to clean our houses. When were the first mechanical floor cleaners, which later became vacuum cleaners, invented? Was it:

a) the 1860s?

b) the 1890s? Or c) the 1920s?

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

floordrobe

collection of clothes untidily kept on the floor rather than in a wardrobe.

clutter

untidiness caused by having too many things - to declutter is the process of getting rid of things

to tackle (a problem)

to deal with a problem and try to fix it

sentimental

with an emotional and/or nostalgic connection

shift

change

make do and mend

an expression that means to use what you've got and fix something if it breaks rather than buying new things

Transcript

Note: This is not a word for word transcript

Rob

Hello. This is 6 Minute English. I'm Rob.

Neil

And I'm Neil.

Rob

Now, Neil, are you a tidy person?

Neil

Me? Oh dear no! You should see my floordrobe!

Rob

Your floordrobe?

Neil

Yes. Tidy people keep their clothes in a wardrobe. I just dump a lot of my clothes on the floor, so - a floordrobe.

Rob

Ah yes, well it sounds as if you could use a bit of decluttering. Clutter is the word for general mess and untidiness when you have too many things, too much stuff. These days the idea of decluttering is very popular.

Neil

Oh, I love a good declutter - trouble is, I hate throwing things away.

Rob

Well, we might have some advice for you in today's programme. But first, a question. It's about cleaning up. The vacuum cleaner is a machine we use to clean our houses. When were the first mechanical floor cleaners, which later became vacuum cleaners, invented? Was it:

A) the 1860s?

B) the 1890s? Or

C) the 1920s?

Neil

Well, you know what? I have no idea! So, I'll say the 1890s.

Rob

OK, well, I'll have the answer later in the programme. The decluttering techniques of Marie Kondo are very popular these days. A UK decluttering expert, Lesley Spellman, appeared on the BBC radio programme You and Yours to discuss the topic. She was asked to describe the basics of the Marie Kondo method. What's the first thing she recommends people start with?

Lesley Spellman

She basically says you have to do things in a certain order. You have to start with your clothes. Then you move on to your books. Then you move on to paperwork. Then you go on to something called 'komono', which is kind of everything else: kitchens, bathrooms, garages, lofts etc. And then finally you tackle sentimental things.

Rob

She says that you have to start with your clothes before moving on through different categories of clutter.

Neil

The verb she uses for dealing with these things is to tackle. To tackle something means 'to deal with it, to sort it out'.

Rob

And the last things she says you need to tackle are sentimental things. These are things that you have an emotional connection to, such as old letters and photographs. I have to say those are the things I find most difficult to get rid of! I'm very sentimental like that.

Neil

I think you just have to be ruthless, Rob! Either that or buy a bigger house. Right, let's listen to Lesley Spellman again.

Lesley Spellman

She basically says you have to do things in a certain order. You have to start with your clothes. Then you move on to your books. Then you move on to paperwork. Then you go on to something called 'komono', which is kind of everything else: kitchens, bathrooms, garages, lofts etc. And then finally you tackle sentimental things.

Rob

So why is it that decluttering is such big business these days, and there are many people and companies offering advice and services? Here's Lesley Spellman again with her thoughts on this.

Lesley Spellman

I think there's been a big shift really. So my generation, my parents, you know, definitely came from that 'make do and mend' era post war in the sort of 20th century. And then all of a sudden people started to get a little bit more money. Things became more affordable. You can buy five tops for five pounds each and people have done that. And that's allowed the consumerism to kind of go crazy in the 21st century.

Rob

So what does she put our need for decluttering down to?

Neil

Well, first she says that there has been a shift in our behaviour. This is a way of saying that there has been a change in the way we behave. We used to make do and mend much more. This phrase means that we made full use of what we had and if something broke, we tried to fix it.

Rob

And these days, we seem to have more money and many goods have got cheaper, and we just like buying stuff - or as she says, consumerism has gone crazy. Let's listen to her again.

Lesley Spellman

I think there's been a big shift really. So my generation, my parents, you know, definitely came from that 'make do and mend' era post war in the sort of 20th century. And then all of a sudden people started to get a little bit more money. Things became more affordable. You can buy five tops for five pounds each and people have done that. And that's allowed the consumerism to kind of go crazy in the 21st century.

Rob

Time to tidy up today's vocabulary, but first, let's have the answer to the question. Earlier I asked you: When were the first mechanical floor cleaners invented? Was it in:

A) the 1860s?

B) the 1890s? Or

C) the 1920s?

And Neil, you said?

Neil

I guessed at the 1890s.

Rob

Sadly not! The correct answer is the 1860s. So, well done anyone who got that right. Now on with today's vocabulary . The first word we had was floordrobe.

Neil

Yes, this is a word to describe a pile of clothes that someone keeps on the floor rather than in a wardrobe.

Rob

Well I don't have a floordrobe, but I do have a chairdrobe - I guess you can work out what that means! Anyway, it seems we both have too much clutter, which is the untidiness caused by having too many things.

Neil

And this leads us to the popular pastime of decluttering, which is throwing away things to make our homes neat and tidy.

Rob

Clutter, in my life, is an issue I haven't tackled yet. I haven't tried to fix it or sort it out.

Neil

One area that the experts say you need to tackle is sentimental things. These are things which you have an emotional connection to - maybe old letters and photographs for example.

Rob

We then looked at the word shift, which was a way of saying 'change'. There has been a shift or a change in the way we think about things.

Neil

Yes, rather than an attitude of make do and mend, which means an attitude of 'being content with what you've got and fixing things if they break', we have become part of a consumerist culture where we like to buy more and more stuff.

Rob

But we still find it hard to throw things away!

Neil

Yes, indeed, we do. Well it's time for us to collect our scripts and declutter the studio. We look forward to your company next time and until then you can find us in all the usual places online and on social media, just look for BBC Learning English. Bye for now.

Rob

Bye-bye!

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