Sick of Your Stuff ? How to Change Everything

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



  1. what an awesome story! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. What a difference.. I love Margaret, she is stunning :)

  3. Karen,You are hilarious!!!! Love how you say things!!! It was like you were talking about me! I have hated my house for YEARS… actually I have never ever been in a home that has been ME. That last few weeks I have been throwing out , taking to goodwill…painting everything white – or soft pink. And I can not begin to tell you how great it feels!!!
    I get what you are saying!
    Have a pretty day!

  4. Thank you so much for featuring this great lady! I am listing the couch and loveseat that I consider a “speedbump” in my house TODAY on craigslist!! Thanks so much for the inspiration!


  5. Addison DeWitt says

    I would love to go all through her website but it is as slow as Christmas. What up?

  6. I recently did the same thing in my office (painting all white) and my mother commented that there was a “spiritual” change in the room. Amazing what paint can do. Love the hysterical style of this post. She seems like someone I would love to laugh with and ham it up at a dinner party.

  7. Another great post. This shows how someone discovers just who they are and what they want their home ot say!!! A house full of stuff is not a home. A house filled with stuff that feels like the homeowner is on its way to being a HOME!! Kathysue

  8. I think I’m giving my house the old stink eye too. This is just what I needed to read. Thank you. Thank you.

  9. I love this post! It sounds like me. Only, I haven’t sold everything yet. I hate my house and want a new one, but since I can’t do that I’m making this one work for me. I had a garage sale last week, and will be having another one soon. I’ve been keeping grocery paper bags in all the rooms, so I can fill them and move them to the garage easily. It does sound so much easier to just donate everything, but use some extra cash too. Anyway, thanks for a great entertaining story!

  10. Tricia Kolsto says

    Wow what an amazing article. Humorous and insightful – I loved it!

  11. Wow, what a transformation, I love it! What were those 2 weeks of transformational chaos like? I can only imagine!

  12. One word: Awesome

  13. If only I were gutsy enough to do that… For the month of January I got rid of 5 things per day- same itch got to me- but still didn’t add up to my entire apartment! Very bold, and sounds like (and looks like) it was a great decision!

  14. I love love it! but – with 4 boys living on a dirt road, If I employed the botox of colors I might also invest in the real botox to take out all my frown lines from muddy handprints on those white walls!

  15. When I read the beginning, I was immediately sad you sold the painting of Margaret. Imagine my relief that you didn’t! Your home is beautiful!

  16. This is amazing & just what I needed to read. I would be divorced is I did this in 2 weeks, but I have been inspired! I am going to do my own version of this. My clutter is bringing my down. I can’t find anything. The Fibromyalgia Flare-up days steal time away & that causes major pile ups of junk mail, magazines, craft pojects, etc. We have been remodeling our house for over 10 years & nothing gets finished. I can relate to looking for the stapeler!! I will blame everyone for taking my scissors & most of the time I have hidden them. I have so much craft supplies & need them organized. Thanks for sharing your house & ideas.

    • elke shulz says

      hello…..hope you dont mind me contacting you……i was diagnosed with fybromyalgia 4 years ago and am just coming out of a major flare-up…….have you got any tips on how to cope……x

  17. Much better. Much, much better.

  18. Very courageous to know what you want and just go for it. I’m sure the new look gives much more joy of home and that’s what it’s all about.

  19. I loved this article! I know exactly how you felt before you cleaned out your old stuff. I’m at that point in my life now. I love/hate my stuff, and I have to either store a lot of it or get rid of it, but last time I got rid of stuff, I regretted it later and wanted it all back! Sick woman, I know! So this time, I think I’ll do what you did. I’ll clear out all of the small stuff and keep just the furniture until I know exactly what I really want to live with. Going from a 4 bedroom townhouse to a two-room garage apartment should be interesting too! Thanks for the great tips.

  20. The tree stump coffee table is, very, very cool…I want one!

  21. Linda Magro says

    I can totally relate to Jan! I sell stuff and then regret it. I have a folder on my computer named, “Things I Wish I Hadn’t Sold”. As an antique dealer, it’s really hard to part with your finds – furniture and smalls alike. Plus, the thrill of a bargain when you know what something is worth is so hard to pass up…and yard sales and thrift stores and roadside finds oh my! My friends that are also antique dealers and I have all confessed that by the nature of our passion we are all hoarders, and interventions don’t work on us!! My hubby has finally put his foot down and will no longer let me store stuff in the garage, which is good. I agree with him. It feels wonderful to open the garage door and know that our cars will fit. I’m too cheap to rent a storage unit, mostly because the monthly rental would make those items that are stored less of a bargain and more of an expensive amount of junk! I now have one spare bedroom in my house where I store extra furniture and décor, mirrors, lamps, paintings, chandeliers, etc…, and am learning to not seek more great finds until I have sold enough to have the space in my one allotted storage room!

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