Would you like to go straight to the New York Times article featuring The Art of Doing Stuff?  Click right here.


I used to rip the heads off of my dolls.  It was kind of my calling card as a 6 year old.  That was back in the day when kids played with super-cool things like dolls, firecrackers, and potatoes. I didn’t like dolls.  Me?  I wanted to build stuff.  I wanted to hammer stuff, open it, take it apart, fix it, and recreate it.

Which in the landscape of the mid-1970’s pretty much meant I wanted to be a boy, much to the chagrin of my doll loving mother.

But this isn’t the story of a little girl who became a boy, even though that story would probably make a lot more money and guarantee at least a 13 episode run on TLC, it’s the story of a little girl who grew up to be a woman who got featured in …

And here’s how it happened.

I grew up in a two-story house on a suburban street in a small town in Ontario, Canada.  Growing up, summer vacation was the same all across town. Kids were sent out to play as soon as they drank the last bit of pink milk from their bowl of Frankenberries, and 12 hours later, the street lights would come on and they would scatter like cockroaches.  It was during those impossibly long summer days that I found my fun.  It wasn’t dragging around a doll or dreaming about getting married; my fun was found in the garage.

I spent my summers building forts, go-carts, bird traps and little mounds of nothing that were nailed together.  It’s what I was born to do and nothing was ever going to change me. Until something did.  It all ended in the summer of 1977.  The winter prior, my parents had vacationed in Mexico, and they’d brought home a marble bull, a chess set, and one Mexican marionette with a straw hat named Pablo. JUST like that I hung up my hammer and became an entertainer.  Pablo and I had a 2-month run on my front porch with daily shows that summer for the neighbourhood kids.  It’s like a drug, being able to entertain people.  It’s addictive. And there isn’t a rehab in the world that can control it.

So as it turns out I was wrong, and my mom was right.  I did like dolls.  I just needed a few strings attached.

As I got older I realized being a puppeteer maybe wasn’t a viable career option so I did what every person who doesn’t know what to do with their life does.  I went to university and studied Sociology.

Which, as it often does, led to a 15 year long career as a television host and writer.

Shows came and went and series got picked up and cancelled.  I hosted lifestyle shows, DIY shows, competition shows but mostly I did a lot of commentary.  Just talking about whatever I happened to want to talk about that day.  It was a great way to make a living until I got sick of it.  Instead of complaining about how sick of it I was I quit it all and started a blob.

That’s what my mom called it anyway.

In 2010 The Art of Doing Stuff was born.

The very first post I published was about how I snapped one day, threw out, gave away or sold everything I owned and became a self proclaimed minimalist.

A year later I wrote a post titled “Hey!  Minimalism!  I’m sick of you.”  Looking back on it now, the post features horrible photos, with some questionable accessory choices but … the sentiment was sincere.

I tried to be a minimalist.  I failed. I like stuff. I like surrounding myself with memories and things and life.

It just so happens that a month or so ago a journalist named Jacoba Urist was browsing the Internet researching a story she was writing for The New York Times about whether or not minimalism is all it’s cracked up to be.  She stumbled onto my post.

She read a few more of my posts. She saw my dining room with the built in bookcases (that everyone told me I shouldn’t do) and then she sent me an email.

“Hi Karen,

I’m a New York based journalist who covers art and culture- and am working on a longer form story about why minimalism (as a design ethos and lifestyle) can be overrated- why people can get bored or over it- how life is a journey for many of us and why sometimes, we get sick of minimalism. Anyway- I saw your post- and couldn’t think of a better voice honestly for the story- to share your thoughts and your journey- as voiced in this post.”

 I responded with a single paragraph-long sentence that contained exactly 42 swear words.  But the ultimate answer was YES.  Yes, I would like to be featured in The New York Times. Thanks for asking.

We exchanged a few more emails and conducted the interview over the phone a week later.  That interview was followed up by several, many, copious fact checking emails (because it takes a lot of research to get the news wrong #fakenews) and photographer Donna Griffith coming out to take pictures of my house.

This weekend, in the Sunday edition of the New York Times that piece will be published.

My name and home and stuff will be in The New York Times.

All because I didn’t listen to a society that thought I should play with dolls.

All because I didn’t stay in a job I was starting to hate.

All because I didn’t worry when other people didn’t like my choices.

All because I chose not to be the puppet in my life.

I chose to be the puppeteer.   And so can you.

Have a good weekend!

update: the article is now up and online right here.



  1. Melissa Cross says:

    Congratulations Karen. You always make me laugh. Now you will make New Yorkers laugh.

  2. Paula says:

    Wow! That is fantastic, congratulations!

  3. Gwen Bosben says:

    I may quote you in a speech I am giving to the senior class in a few weeks. Every kid can use that advice for the future. Congratulations!

  4. Jennifer Daily says:

    What I want to know is what took them so long ? I will be making a purchase of the times this weekend!!

  5. Rina says:

    That brought tears to my eyes. In a good way !

  6. Heather J Tebbutt says:

    Congratulations Karen, going to reserve a copy of NY Times at Chapters/Indigo tonight. Your blog is the ‘Greatist’!

  7. Jack says:

    Great post this morning. Look forward to interview. Your closing comments helping me form my realignment.

  8. Brenda WATTS says:

    Congratulations Karen, you so deserve this. I am so proud of you, it is huge!!

  9. Beth says:

    Happy for you in the NYT, but also really like this post – it’s good to inspire others to be their own puppeteer, whether or not they ever get recognized for it.

  10. Debbie D says:

    Congrats! Will we be able to read the story on line?

  11. Terri says:

    Omg. This could be life changing. Maybe…. congratulations!

  12. Deb J says:

    Wonderful. Looking forward to reading the article. Congrats!

  13. MaryJo says:

    Woo-hoo, way to go, Karen; you totally rock!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks MaryJo! I don’t rock though. I just work really hard. Actually no, at the moment I feel like perhaps I do indeed rock. ~ karen!

  14. Maggie Van Sickle says:

    Congrats Karen

  15. Marie Anne says:

    Way to go! When Jacoba discovered your blog… I bet you she read one article after another after another… Thinking “cool! I’m gonna try that! and” you can do that? ” and then all of a sudden laughing so hard there were tears! You’re awesome and this is the best blog / blob ever!

  16. Renee says:

    Congratulations, Karen! I can’t wait to read the article!

  17. Kristin S. says:

    Hell yeah Karen!

  18. Mary Ann Gerard says:

    I am so proud of you! Our very own Blobber in the NYT!!!! Congratulations!!!!

  19. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Who’d a thunk it?? Great big deal for sure! I’m so happy for you. And it’s a pleasure to share this with the world. Encouragement to follow one’s own path is always positive. Will you be able to post a link to the article? I hope.

    • Karen says:

      I’ll post it on my Facebook page on Sunday Sherry. And if I remember I’ll also include a link in Monday’s post. (a better blogger would be certain to remember … me .. not so much) ~ karen!

  20. Debbe Van Ness says:

    That is fabulous. Congratulations! I will definitely read it.

  21. Trish says:

    Oh Christ, now i have to change my whole life. Again.

  22. whitequeen96 says:

    WOW! It couldn’t happen to a better person! They picked the right woman for this article. I hope she mentions how many loyal fans you have and that we love you for so much more than decorating – the humor, the philosophy, the truly gross stuff!

    • Karen says:

      It’s always about the gross stuff with you people, lol. ;) I think they’ll stick to the decorating but that’s O.k. I know the importance of my loyal fans and that’s what matters. Kind of. LOL!! ~ karen!

  23. Tracie Berry says:

    Karen, that’s fantastic! Although, as one of your many millions of followers, this is not coming as any sort of surprise. You, my girl, are definitely one of a kind…and I applaud you. Congratulations!!

  24. TucsonPatty says:

    Way. To. Go. I’m impressed, and I’ll be trying to track down the article in order to read it!! You are so good at keeping secrets! I’d be out there screaming about someone from the Times simply emailing me!! I’m proud of you, and and please know that I love your blob!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Patty. :) You’ll be able to read it online if you like. I’m getting the hard copy because I’m old fashioned like that. ~ karen!

      • Suzanne says:

        Sooo happy to learn that the article will be online. In French Québec it is somewhat challenging to find the NYT on newstands…Congratulations, you work hard, you deserve this!

  25. Brenda says:

    omg – all I would be able to think about would be … omg – I have to clean my home and wash my hair, etc

    CONGRATULATIONS (cue ticker-tape BIG balloon bursting and releasing all that stuff that falls from the sky on New Year’s Eve in Times Square at midnight – with everyone screaming and kissing) YA

    • Karen says:

      LOL, thanks Brenda. But the entire paper isn’t dedicated to me. Just a small section in a story, lol. ~ karen!

      • Brenda says:

        WEeeeEee KNOW – still pass the champs – yippp yippp peeee

        Maybe Margaret can hold the gilded frame holding the high-lighted copy (with bits of ticker tape perfectly squeezed in between the glass & copy)

  26. Inger says:

    Congratulations, Karen! Oh, the places you will go!

  27. Judy Okey says:

    That is very exciting. You deserve it because of your hard work and you are an original!

  28. Carole Larose says:

    You are too cool!

  29. Megan says:

    That is fantastic news. You inspire middle-aged me and you inspire the young me who also refused to play with dolls. Thank you for Doing Stuff and sharing your story!

  30. Alex says:

    Yeah!! Maybe Betty will finally say, “Yes. You ARE a writer” And now that you have achieved richly deserved fame and fortune, here is your next project –


    • Karen says:

      Well I didn’t write the piece (that would be enough to make me faint!!), so I don’t think I’ll qualify as a writer to Betty yet. But I’ll keep trying. ;) ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      And yeah. That looks like my kindda place. :) ~ karen!

  31. Kate says:

    Can’t wait to read it!
    Your posts always make my day. I’m guessing the wider audience will agree. : )

  32. Christine says:


  33. Brandy Ballard says:

    Yay!!!!! Congratulations!!!!

  34. Raymonde says:

    Woohoo!!!!! Good for you!!!!! :-)

  35. Loralee says:

    So awesome, Karen! #lifegoals

  36. Isabella says:

    Way to go. I knew your light would shine through brightly. I tell everyone to read your ” blob”.

  37. Lynn says:

    Congratulations Karen for being you. Being brave enough to be you an not just a puppet on a string. You are a leader and a very good one at that.

  38. Kristin Conley says:

    Thank you and congrats!!
    I get a great belly laugh (rare these days) reading about your adventures Karen… I too used to rip the heads off dolls, so I feel we could be kindred spirits….
    I now have a farm in Oregon (lots of projects) so your blog is so helpful!

    • Karen says:

      Well! We’re kindred spirits then. And also, I can look forward to possibly owning a farm in Oregon one day. ;) ~ karen!

  39. Tina says:

    Congrats! I may even have to buy an honest-to-god print newspaper! I haven’t done that in years! All I need to do now if figure out where to get one. Damn.

  40. Cynna says:

    Very cool! I’ll be sure to read it.

  41. Barbara H. says:

    Hip Hip Hooray!!!! Congratulations. You are a great puppeteer.

  42. Lizzy says:

    So exited for you!!!love you girl!!
    Keep being awesome!!!

  43. Carrie says:

    Congratulations! Not just on the NY Times article but on making your life the way YOU want it. That’s scary and not many people do it :)

    • Karen says:

      I’m gonna be honest with you Carrie. There were and are a lot o scary moments, lol. Thank you. ~ karen!

      • Lynn says:

        I am sure you know–bravery is not the absence of fear–it’s being afraid but doing it anyway. We think of bravery as a battlefield kind of thing but it applies to many of us in real life. Just do it–it may turn out a little wonky but you will learn so much & the next time, maybe there will be a little less ‘wonkiness’! Congrats!!

  44. marilyn meagher says:

    You have to march to the beat of your own drum…good for you Karen. Well deserved.

  45. Robert says:

    Looking forward to it Karen!
    You at the top of the Style (am guessing, or is it gonna be T Magazine) section on the NYTIMES app!
    I think this deserves a large bag of potato chips

  46. Laura Bullock says:

    It’s about time!!!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! It’s all thanks to Jacoba, the journalist. She literally just picked me out of a crowd of … well millions I suppose. :) ~ karen!

      • JoAnn says:

        And we all know that you are one of a million!! Congrats!

        • Miriam says:

          Totally agree with Joann, and CONGRATS Karen! As a person who came to your blog a long time ago via ‘how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe’, (and loved your Mom in that video too!!!), I’m thrilled to read a blog that features in the NYT!
          I hope it’s available online, cos I don’t think it sells here in Ireland, but we do have a puppet theatre!
          https://lambertpuppettheatre.ie If you ever make it over to here, give me a shout and I’ll give you a tour!


    It could not happen to a better, more deserving, crazier individual than you!

    I LOVE IT!!!

    Sometime good things DO happen to good people!

    I’ll be smiling all day for you!

  48. Mark says:

    Congratulations Karen!

  49. Debbie from Illinois says:

    So cool! Congratulations!

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