I asked Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff to guest post today about how she completely revamped her home in a matter of weeks.  Karen’s blog is currently one of my top five favorite blogs, her writing style, well, you’ll see.  And..

Look at her abs!  Besides having abs of wonder, she is a Jill of all trades and a television host in Canada.

Hi everyone!  I’m new here, so I should probably introduce myself.  My name’s Karen and I do stuff.  You may remember me as the girl who inspired Nester’s tree stump table!  The basic premise of my site The Art of Doing Stuff is,  “If I can do it, you can too”. It’s not that hard.  Any of it!  Except math.  Math’s usually pretty difficult.

I’d like to thank Nester for inviting me over here today.   The invitation came after I commented on her post about editing her house into a place of calm.  She methodically got rid of her stuff until her house felt, not empty, not soulless, but peaceful.

And she did it in a totally reasonable, accessible way that anyone could accomplish.  Nester said … and I quote “I didn’t start by emptying out a room and selling everything.”.

Conversely …. I did.

Yes.  I really did.   Two years ago I sold every single thing I owned and painted my whole house white. Within 2 weeks.  I’m a bit extreme like that.

And this is how it happened …

When I first moved into my home 12 years ago I didn’t own a thing.  Aside from the contents of my hopeless chest, which contained a small juice glass with the Coke logo on it and a set of salt and pepper shakers (shaped like mason jars),  I had nothin’.

Sad but true.  I could finally afford to buy my own house, I just couldn’t afford to put anything in it.  Luckily the house I bought was a 170 year old brick cottage.  This worked to my advantage because when you put old junk in a new house it looks like old junk.    When you put old junk in an old house, it blends.

Over the years I slowly acquired a whole lot of old junk.  I either bought it at an auction, at an antique store or when I was really lucky, I found it at the side of the road.  In amongst the cigarette butts and dried up worms, I found things like perfectly good soiled chairs.  I stripped, painted and disinfected for about a decade.  The home I ended up with was very cozy and comfortable.  Picture Granny’s house without Tweety Bird.


My living room then.

Literally everything in it was old and every piece of furniture had a folded up piece of cardboard under at least 1 leg.  Without the cardboard stuff had a tendency to tip over and hit you in the shin.  I had red velvet curtains and a red velvet couch and my dining room was painted red.

My dining room then.

The decorating wasn’t exactly spastic, but boy oh boy, wherever you looked there was some sort of antique assault followed by a one two punch of colour.   For the first year it was cozy.  For the next decade it was oppressive.

I never created proper storage, which was desperately needed.  In the olden days people only owned one coat and a bar of lye soap so they didn’t need closets.  Being that it was built in the olden days, my house didn’t have much in terms of closet space.

Because of this I never had anywhere to put anything.  Things were shoved under the couch, books were scattered from one end of the house to the other and I could never find my stupid stapler!!

One day I took a look around at my very cozy, grandmotherly house and screamed.  Oh my Lord, who lives here???!!   I got itchy and claustrophobic and I’m pretty sure I even developed a twitch.  You know when something isn’t right in a room and you keep moving things around to make it better?  That wasn’t working anymore.

My foyer then.

I hated, hated, HATED every inch of my house.  I hated it like it had wronged me.  It was personal this rift between me and my house.   I felt sweaty and disorganized and frankly a little bit curious about all those medications everyone on Intervention seemed to love.

And then one day my fella spotted a couch that he liked.  It was a taupe, minimalist, sectional sofa.  I liked the couch too.  The problem was, that couch would look stupid in our house.  Completely ridiculous.  Which depressed me.

We came home couchless from the couch shop, I took one look around at my retirement home house and it happened.  And it was instant.

I full-on snapped.   Within 2 weeks I sold everything I owned and painted my whole house white.

My living room today.  And yes, that’s the couch that started it all!


It’s been 2 years since “the incident” (not to be confused with “the great centipede purge” of 2007).  I have filled the house back up with things I love.  Some of them old and some of them new.  There’s even one thing that I found at the side of the road!  I installed floor to ceiling book cases and found a place to store everything.  And let me tell you … white is the botox of paint colours.  We both look younger and fresher for it.

My foyer today.

photo by donna griffith for style at home magazine

My dining room now.

This larger than life portrait is one of the few things I kept.  When my father died 10 years ago, my mother gave me and my sisters $2,000 with the stipulation that it be spend on a piece of art in memory of my dad.   I bought “Margaret”.  I will never get rid of Margaret.  Even if you go through the same thing I did and sell everything you own, save the things you truly love and have meaning for you.  Things like Margaret.

photo by donna griffith for style at home magazine

My twitch is gone and I feel much calmer and much more comfortable.   I was a bit worried that going so extreme with the white was going to make my house cold and sterile.  That when guests walked in they’d break out into a sweat, worried they were in store for some unexpected surgical procedure.  But it isn’t cold at all!  As long as you add in a few fuzzy things (cats count), white can be very cozy.  Think of our friend the polar bear.  What’s cozier than one of those?

And you wouldn’t believe how much easier your life becomes when you just have somewhere specific to put the extra toilet paper.   And the board games!  Go ahead!  Ask me to find my Scrabble board.  I can do it in 30 seconds flat with time left over to grab the Boggle!

Plus, since redoing my house, it’s ended up in the pages of Style at Home magazine.  That would never have happened with Granny’s house.  Ever.

I’m savin’ time, I’m savin’ money’ (I’ve had the same stapler for the past year) and I’m not walking around with a bunch of cartoon squiggly swear words over my head all day.

I figure I’ve gained at least an extra half an hour a day because I’m no longer wandering around trying to find stuff or trying to figure out where to put stuff.  That totals an extra 3 1/2 hours a week, or 7 1/2 days in a year.  An entire week’s worth of time was gained by clearing out the crap I didn’t need and finding a proper place for the stuff I did. Of course, I’m just estimating here, but it seems like a reasonable estimate to me.  I worked it out on paper and it all seems right.

Want me to staple it together and send it to you?   ‘Cause I can!  In an instant.

Visit Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff