Interview With A California Artist On How She Stays Organized

Interview With A California Artist On How She Stays Organized

Jana Botkin Pencil Drawing

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a very talented artist in California (seriously, she’s freaking amazing). She lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and tries to live a simple life style. Her name is Jana Botkin and you can visit her website at If you’d like to see inside the mind and life of an artist you can follow her on her blog.

One of the things that amazes me about Jana is how committed she is to living a simple life style. She doesn’t buy things she doesn’t need, and if she has something she doesn’t need or use anymore, she donates it. At the same time her home is cozy and feels inviting. She hasn’t taken such a steep minimalist approach that her house feels empty and cold.

Jana is very careful with her money and her tips reflect that. We could all learn something from this amazing and talented woman. Below is the first half of my interview with her. I think you’ll enjoy her honesty and sense of humor. I know I did.

I’ve been to your home and your studio and I didn’t see piles of paper anywhere. What is your secret?
I’ve developed the habit of sorting and tossing – while seeking a recipe, an address in my address book, a phone number in my studio, a book to read – any time I am looking for something, I take the opportunity to dump or erase the no longer viable things. There’s no need to turn it into an event – I just make it an ongoing habit.

That is a great idea! What about mail? How do you handle that?
I’ve been opening my mail by the trash for years – it’s a great help! It forces me to make decisions instead of putting those undecided items into a pile to be sorted and tossed later.

I know you enjoy reading. What is your advice on books?
The library is the best place to get books because then I don’t have to own them. The exceptions are business books that have things I need to refer back to again and also the novels by Maeve Binchy. Since she died last month I guess my collection is complete 🙁 Oh, and bible study books. We’ve become dependent on books and workbooks written by other people in order to study the Bible. What would I do without Beth Moore???

What about magazines?
Subscribe to nothing. Magazine articles are shallow and quickly outdated, and the ads just cause dissatisfaction. If there isn’t time to read it when it comes, it will multiply in the dark.

Ok, let’s talk about my favorite things! Shoes and purses!
If shoes hurt, rub, pinch, slop around the heel, make me trip, or in any way, ANY WAY cause me to hesitate before putting them on, they are GONE.

I should really abide by that rule. I have several in my closet that I just can’t wear because they hurt or slip off. What about purses?
I only own two purses: a Coach that I finally saved enough to buy in 1996 and a little Sack. Do they still make those? They are crocheted and lined. I have that one for when I dress up. I bought it on eBay for about a tenth its retail price!

So I’m guessing you don’t like to go shopping.
If you don’t use shopping as a recreational activity, you won’t see things to buy that you don’t really need.

Let’s talk about the Kitchen. That seems to be the biggest problem area in everyone’s home. How do you keep your kitchen so clean and organized?
No one-function-stuff is allowed in my kitchen. It has to perform three tasks or it is GONE. The exceptions are the juicer (which I use once a year for making jelly – *as a side note, Jana makes pomegranate jelly and it’s awesome!), the popcorn popper, and the blender. I don’t have woks, angel-food pans, bundt pans, nut grinders (a big knife works great), garlic presses (they are terrible to wash – use a big knife for that too), etc.

I know you like to knit. There is so much beautiful yarn out there. How do you keep yourself from buying it all of the time?
When I have an urge to buy more yarn, I sort through my stash. If I loved it enough to buy it a year or two ago and haven’t used it yet, I’ll probably still love it and will feel as if I have something new to knit with. I probably have three years of yarn, even while trying to be a minimalist. And I am, compared to other Knitters. “knitters” don’t have stashes- “Knitters” do. I am a Knitter. This principle of going through what you have that you may have forgotten about can be applied to anything – earrings, shoes, fabric if you are a quilter, tools, stationery, art supplies, colored tee shirts, etc.

Your house is so beautiful and cozy. Anything you want to share about your home?
My house is really out of style. If Perkins (Jana’s cat) dies, I will get a new couch. Then the rug will look wrong. Then the shabby stained armchairs will be pathetic. After that, the faded curtains will no longer be acceptable. But I’d rather have Perkins than a new couch. He is a couch destroyer, but the thought of being catless is incomprehensible to this childless woman!

There you have it! A look into the minimalist lifestyle of an artist. Do you think you could do it? I can hear my 30 plus purses crying right now. Hold on babies, mama’s coming. I lover her kitchen ideas and I really do need to follow her shoe rule. At this point many of my shoes have become decorations sitting on my closet shelves.

Friday Jana will be back! She will list her advice and other ideas so make sure to check back then! Oh, and don’t forget to check out Jana’s website and her blog See ya Friday!

19 Responses »

  1. Wow. Great ideas. I recently went through my store of shoes and got rid of over half of them. I have also been trying to utilize the “opening the mail near the trashcan” approach. Since I have children, I have the burden of going through all of their papers that gets sent home. I have a folder that I keep important notes in concerning school events. Once the event is over, the note gets tossed. I look at all school work. Some may go on the fridge, but the rest is tossed. Unless it is artwork. Artwork either gets displayed on our “art wall” or it is placed in a three ring binder that each child has.

  2. Wow Jana, I can see the artist in you not only in the beautiful picture Shannon provided but also in the way you view things in your own life, everything with purpose and meaning. We should all look at our lives and everything in it and decide what truly has purpose and meaning here. Great interview!

  3. Aw shucks, Hollie. Shannon is brilliant at making me look better than I really am. There is a driving force in me for authenticity in everything. (As a little girl, I always said I didn’t like “Phonies”, meaning people whom I perceived as fake!)

  4. … my kind of lifestyle. I own three pairs of shoes … shoes for work, tennies and Birkenstocks, which are resoled when needed. Question is … any suggestions for convincing hubby to part with 30 years of National Geographic? 🙂

    • Diane, if I were you, I’d sneak them into the trash, 1 or 2 a week, until the stack is a manageable size (unless he actually reads them!) I’ve actually done this (shhh, don’t tell Michael).

      And you are my shoe hero – WOW, 3 pairs?? That’s phenomenal. I am ashamed of myself for having so many shoes. It is so hard to know when they have truly worn out, and then I “need” navy, brown and black in every style. I’m looking forward to hearing what Shannon has to say about this – probably just a great organizing tip!

      • I have so many pairs of shoes! I keep my every day pair by the side door so I can grab them on the way out the door. I keep my running shoes in the closet by the front door because that’s the door I use when I go for a walk. I keep my flip flops by the back door so I can grab them on the way out to the pool. And all of my fancy sandals and heels I keep in my closet so I can match them to my outfits. I’m not sure that’s organized but that’s as good as I can get 🙂

  5. Jana you are a wonder women!…I love your style and love for life. Artists seem to have an insight on people that keeps them
    above our understanding.

    I love all that you do and draw…

    Your friend always,


  6. I am a “Jana Botkin Junkie” when it comes to her artwork…I have two commissioned pieces and several others. I can attest to her minimalist, yet cozy home and cabin. I paticutarly love the cabin she shares with her husband, Michael in Mineral King…lots of warmth in it’s simplicity.
    I have plans to go through my closet this week and Jana’s suggestions are motivating me to be very thorough.

  7. Cathy, how fun to see your comment here! You are very generous with your praise. Good luck with your closet – call me if you need a cheerleader!

  8. No magazines? Oh my, I would struggle since I get so much inspiration from mine and love that they are there when I only have a limited amount of time to read (I can make myself put down a magazine so much easier than I can books!). They do get recycled once read though. I do love those kitchen ideas!

  9. Maybe Diane with the National Geographics can donate them to a library for one of their book sales or at least recycle them. Trash should be the last resort!

    • I saw a cute idea in a magazine (giggles to self over the irony of that comment). Someone collected Nat’l Geo’s and they built coffee tables for them. Picture one shelf of a book case (complete with back and sides) but instead of it going side to side it went up and down. Does that make any sense? It didn’t have a front to it or any shelves and it was just as wide as the magazines. The magazines were stacked from top to bottom in this thing. They put a lamp on top and sat it next to a chair. It looked really cool.

    • Marjie, your idea about donating to a library is better than mine. I know I am terrible about throwing things away. After I left a job, for an entire year when the boss couldn’t find anything, my spies reported to me that he usually said, “Jana probably threw it out.”

      Jean, I bet you are a waaaay better cook than I am!

  10. No magazines — GREAT idea! One of my chief problems with hubby-clutter. (I get “This Old House” and plan to get rid of back issues after going thru and scanning anything I like so I’ll have those nuggets for future house building.)

    Also agree with the ‘domino effect’ of one change in home decorating. Like her “cat vs. couch” decision, we need to really think things through when making decorating changes. If you’re not ready for a wholesale change, perhaps you should make peace with the item bugging you.

    • Diana, your plan to scan your magazine articles is excellent! If that is too much trouble, you could just tear out the ones you like and stuff them in a binder. Okay, not stuff them, maybe put in those clear binder sheets. I did that once, and NEVER went back to reread them. Then I put it in the trash (sorry Marjie – I really do get a charge out of tossing things. Just sick, I guess.)

      And I’ve sort of made peace with my shredded couch by tossing a throw over the worst part. I love my sweet Perkins, in spite of the damage he has done.

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