WASHINGTON – “Anything on the tables. Take it, "he announced to the room, after calling everyone's attention with the golden ping of a Tibetan bowl.
"The shelves. Check the shelves and, if there is anything you want, take it. Bedding, plates, cups, take them, ”she said, running her arms across the shelves from floor to ceiling. “And please, take at least one of the champagne glasses home with you. After you've had your mimosa. "
Throughout Saturday, people came in and out of Karen and Fritz Mulhauser's cozy Capitol Hill cottage and cleaned them. The guests came out with canvas bags and boxes full of cups, pots and pans, plates, candles and tablecloths. The Mulhausers were delighted.
Presentation of the staff reduction party.
Instead of leaving the books, the old candlesticks, the collections of seasonal tablecloths, the Mali baskets and the Tibetan bowls, among lots of other treasures, to be extracted at a sale of goods, this elderly couple decided to take a different place. approach to the difficult situation of modern overabundance.
They sent invitations, served food and poured cuddles in 200 glasses of champagne that said "Happy 60th Karen" (she has just turned 77; they have been collecting dust for years) while people they met during their 45 years in Washington, DC, came and took his stuff.
A stroke of good fortune came when another friend named Karen announced that she was going to turn 60 this month. Take a few dozen, Karen!
"Maybe it will inspire others to turn painful reduction into a fun party," (the original) Karen said.
The Mulhausers are moving just a block away, to a new condominium building. They had to be in a one-story unit because mobility problems are beginning to make it difficult to navigate the two-story house.
His party was full of envious people.
He is not envious of his things. It was, after all, an opportunity to take whatever they have coveted. But they were envious of the approach.
"I had to deal with reducing the size of my parents' house," said Laura Henderson, 60. "It wasn't easy. Something like this would have made it much easier."
What the Mulhausers did is similar to the Swedish practice of "death cleansing", an organizational and personnel reduction philosophy as pragmatic as Marie Kondo's, but also with some magnanimity.
"Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance," writes Margareta Magnusson, in her book, "The gentle art of cleaning Swedish death: how to make the life of your loved ones more easy and your own life. More Pleasant. "
The Swedes call it döstädning. "Dö" means death and "standing" means cleanliness, writes Magnusson.
Perhaps the Mulhausers have created the American version: the cleaning ritual that comes with a party. And we should totally call it "Mulhausing."
Piiiiiing! The Tibetan bowl rang again.
"Go ahead, take cuttings from the plants, please," Karen announced. "And don't forget the mimosas."
The idea came up for the Mulhausers as they contemplated the enormous task of moving decades of things.
It is only the second time they consider moving in their 45 years at Capitol Hill. The first time was in 1978, after Karen was raped at gunpoint by two men who broke into her house while Fritz was away and her son was upstairs, asleep.
They had only been in the house for four years when that happened.
"But we decided to stay," he explained, when I first met her last year, when she organized a surveillance party in that home for sexual assault survivors who felt uncomfortable seeing confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court to choose. to Brett. Kavanaugh alone.
Karen has had 41 years of good memories mostly in that home. And she is ready to leave it on her own terms.
They promised the largest furniture as donations to community groups. And they reserved enough things to furnish their small and elegant new place. Everything else? Outside!
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Friends came and went all day. The younger employees who worked with Mulhauser on the Women's Information Network got help to furnish their Spartan places.
Old friends came to hook something they had always liked.
Old friends came and tried to simply visit without taking anything (and left with something anyway).
Among the most popular items were the mounds of political paraphernalia that had been collected for years: posters, stickers, posters, buttons. Both Mulhausers have been active in politically charged issues for years. Fritz worked as an ACLU lawyer in emblematic cases of police abuse and freedom of expression. Karen was active in feminist causes, becoming one of the first executive directors of NARAL before founding her own firm.
Then they had buttons from McGovern to Mondale. (Yes, I admit that I took an old ERA button. Guilty).
And when each pot or cup of clay left his house, Mulhauser told a little story to accompany her.
At the end of the day, almost everything had disappeared, each element had been explained, collected and conducted to begin a second act.
The Mulhausers looked around the house more empty and exhaled. They are ready for their second act.
This story was originally published on washingtonpost.com. Read it here.