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. Pam'a says:

    Our little girl is all grown up! Or something… I remember when you were just a budding blobber, so I can confidently attest to how richly you deserve this.

    Congratulations, Karen. :)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Pam’a! Yup, you’ve been around pretty much since the beginning! Thanks for that. :) ~ karen

  2. Thera says:


  3. Brenda says:

    That is fantastic, congrats! Reading the (your) Times article really hit home with me. Right around the time I hit 40 I started feeling like I need to find and hang onto things from my childhood/teen years. I’m drawn to antique & ‘junk’ shows. Often times I don’t buy anything but treat them like a stroll down memory lane….makes me feel cozy and comforted. Being able to see my memories in my home and being able to tell my girls about them makes me happy!

  4. Erica says:

    Love it! Your house photographed beautifully!

  5. Kimberly Babin says:

    Hello from you’re old sleepy hollow of a town.
    Congratulations on your success. You are evidence of finding what you love to do and making it happen. Truly inspirational.
    Can’t wait to read more of your fun frolicky stories.

  6. Barbara Cooper says:

    Well said! However, you did make me laugh…the kitchen photo with you standing there with your signature “cleaver” was a perfect touch!

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The Art of Doing Stuff