6 Minute English

Средний уровень

Have you got too much stuff?

Episode 160512 / 12 May 2016

Do you see yourself surrounded by many items you do not really need? Could you lead a simpler life? Alice and Rob discuss our world of possessions whilst teaching some related vocabulary.

This week's question

Which word means a belief that physical possessions are the most important thing in life? Is it…

a) metaphysics?

b) materialism?

c) existentialism?

You can hear the right answer at the end of the programme. 

Vocabulary

spring-cleaning
cleaning a place very well, especially places you don't clean often

out of hand
not under control

clutter
an untidy collection of objects

get rid of
remove something you don't want

materialism
a belief that physical possessions are the most important thing in life

minimalist
deliberately simple

evaluate
judge the importance of something

overlook
not to see something

labelled
goods or products with a famous brand name

sentimental value
the importance of something because of personal or emotional feelings we attach to it

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Alice
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice…

Rob
And I'm Rob. Now, Alice, what did you get up to at the weekend?

Alice
I did some spring-cleaning, which means cleaning a place very well, especially places you don't clean often. So, I was tidying up my wardrobe, trying to organise things… and suddenly hundreds of shoes tumbled on my head!

Rob
Poor Alice! But why do you have so many shoes? And why do you keep them at the top of your wardrobe? I only have three pairs.

Alice
I like to match my shoes to my outfit – and three pairs wouldn't do the trick. Well, the subject of today's show is having too much stuff. And you're making me feel guilty, Rob. You must have too much of something.

Rob
Yes, plastic bags. I think they're useful, but they're getting out of hand – and that means not under control. They're taking over my kitchen!

Alice
You can recycle plastic bags, you know, Rob?

Rob
Well, you can recycle shoes too, you know, Alice!

Alice
Yes.

Rob
Now, usually I don't have a lot of clutter in my flat – and that means an untidy collection of objects. Clutter makes it harder to find the things you need. And it makes moving house a nightmare! All those boxes full of things you don't need…

Alice
Good point. I have a friend who suggested the three buckets system. You sort things into three different buckets: one you label as 'to keep', one as 'to get rid of', one as 'maybe to get rid of'. Get rid of, by the way, means to remove something you don't want. It's the 'maybe' bucket that's tricky, isn't it? – You never know if you might need something in the future.

Rob
Yes, it would need to be a big bucket too.

Alice
Yes, it would.

Rob
Well, l think we could all live better with less. OK, well, let's have today's quiz question before we talk more about decluttering our lives: So which word, Alice, means a belief that physical possessions are the most important thing in life? Is it…
a) metaphysics?
b) materialism?
Or c) existentialism?

Alice
OK… I think it's b) materialism.

Rob
OK. Well, we'll find out if you got the answer right or wrong later on in the show. Now let's listen to Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home talking about how she and her family have adopted a minimalist – or deliberately simple – lifestyle in their California home.

INSERT
Bea Johnson, minimalist and author of Zero Waste Home
We've really asked ourselves 'what is it that we really need?' We've asked really true questions, and evaluated every single thing that we have. There is nothing that we overlooked. I even came to one day look at my vegetable peeler for example and asked myself, 'Do I really need that vegetable peeler'?

Rob
So one day Bea Johnson decided to evaluate, or to judge the importance of something, to see if she needed it.

Alice
She evaluated her vegetable peeler and decided to put it in the 'get rid of' bucket!

Rob
Yes, and to overlook something means not to see it. Now, I don't blame Bea at all because I don't like peeling vegetables either. And you could actually get the benefit of the vitamins and minerals by eating the skins.

Alice
Very healthy, Rob!

Rob
We can really live with fewer things. But some people can't help looking for the latest version of something or go for designer goods. Writer and journalist James Wallman warns us about this. He wonders how much stuff is too much.

INSERT
James Wallman, writer and journalist
This thing about need is such a dangerous term because what do you need? And I'm not anti-stuff – stuff is good. I'm anti too much stuff and I'm anti the wrong stuff. Don't go out and buy that labelled good that you think is going to make people think something more of you. That's not going to make you happy.

Rob
James Wallman there. Now, Alice, do you buy labelled goods?

Alice
I'm afraid I do. And labelled goods or products are the ones with a famous brand name, like Gucci, Dior, Prada etc. But I do think James Wallman is right – buying things just because other people have them, for example, doesn't make us happy.

Rob
Yeah, that's true, but as he says, not everything is the wrong stuff. For example, I'm very fond of my large schoolboy collection of superhero comics. I might not need them, but they make me happy. So what stuff makes you happy, Alice?

Alice
Oh, well, I like my music CDs and my books – even though I've got the music on an mp3 player and I don't often pull a book out from the bookcase.

Rob
They have sentimental value, don't they?

Alice
Yes.

Rob
And that means the importance of something because of a personal or emotional feeling that we attach to it. Well, I sold all my music CDs online ages ago.

Alice
That sounds like the sensible thing to do. OK, I think it's time for the answer to today's quiz question, Rob.

Rob
Yes, I asked you: Which word means a belief that physical possessions are the most important thing in life? Is it… a) metaphysics, b) materialism or c) existentialism?

Alice
I said b) materialism.

Rob
And you were right, Alice! Well done! The answer is indeed b) materialism. This is the word used to refer to a desire for material things and wealth and little or no interest in ethical values. Now, can we hear the words we learned today please, Alice?

Alice
Yes, of course. They are:

spring-cleaning
out of hand
clutter
get rid of
materialism
minimalist
evaluate
overlook
labelled
sentimental value

Rob
Well, that's the end of today's 6 Minute English. Don't forget to join us again soon!

Both
Bye.