Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recycle X 5: Junk Mail Journal

For my final Recycle X 5 project I wanted to go totally green and make a journal out of other recyclable materials I have on hand. One thing I receive a ton of every week is junk mail, and this time of year is when the gift catalogs begin arriving by the dozens, too. I generally use unwanted gift catalogs as work mats for things I apply glue stick adhesive to (the pages protect my work surface, and when I want to glue something else I just flip to the next catalog page for a new work surface.)

There are some especially beautiful catalogs I receive in the mail like Victorian Trading that I hate to mess up with glue or part with because they're so neat to look through, and I picked one of my older catalogs intending to cut it up and use some of the product illustrations for some journal pages. I even hated the idea of that, and then I thought, why don't I recycle the entire catalog by making into a journal?

To make my junk mail journal, here's what you'll need:

One piece of cardboard that is as tall and twice as wide as the size journal you want to make, folded in half

A junk mail catalog large enough to serve as pages for your journal

A glue stick

A heavy-duty stapler (long arm is best, but one you can open up and use to fasten something bulky will work, too)

Staple remover

An old stretchable school text book cover (if you have kids, you probably have a dozen of these sitting in a drawer somewhere. If not, you can probably find one at your local dollar store)

Scissors and/or paper trimmer

Assorted used paper that has one blank side

To start, first make sure the catalog you're using is large enough to serve as pages. If it's larger, measure and mark where you need to trim it:

I used a combination of scissors and my paper trimmer to cut down my catalog:

When you're done, your catalog should look like this:

Now find the center of your catalog (where you can see the staples holding it together. Remove the staples on each end of the catalog, and then restaple them to your cardboard cover in the same places the old staples were. If your catalog is too bulky for this step you may need to remove some of the pages to reduce the size.

Once your catalog is stapled in place, cover your cardboard with your stretchy book cover (optional: glue or staple the cover in place.)

Outside of journal:

Now begin adding your blank-sided paper to each page of the catalog to create writing spaces by covering the used side of the paper with your glue stick and placing it on your catalog page:

If there's an image on the catalog page that you want to show, trim your writing paper into a shape that it doesn't cover it:

If you have some really gorgeous pages in your catalog, you can also use vellum so that the images show through the paper:

You can theme your junk mail journals according to how you want to use them -- for example, I'll be using mine as an idea journal for the Disenchanted & Co. series. If you'd rather make a sketch journal, use an old art supply catalog and some used, blank-sided sketch paper for your pages. Writers, if you have an old, skinny writing mag, use it with old manuscript pages to create a new story idea journal. Readers, one of those old book catalogs you pick up at your local chain bookstore would serve as a neat background for a reading journal. Or, if you're working on holiday plans, use a holiday gift catalog as a base for a winter planner, and some blocks from an old calendar as your writing spaces.

This project was a lot of fun, and (forgive the pun) got me thinking outside the box about how I reuse recyclable materials. It was also a nice recharge for my creative batteries. The next time you're stuck with some wasted cardboard I hope you'll try making it into something you can really use, too.


  1. Love the idea - and especially love the use for those stretchy book covers. I'm picturing them as sort of pre-cut fabric covers. They're never the right size for our homeschool books anyway, and they're too small to go on binders, which is where the kids would really like to use them.

    1. This is a good, kid-friendly project, too, Shawna -- can help the youngsters see new uses for junk mail, maybe preserve a few of their favorite toy catalogs. :)

  2. This post inspired me to take a boring planner and get a little creative with it! I wish I could do more sewing stuff--I love the patchwork things you made on the Disenchanted blog. But a little glue made this project possible for me!


    1. What a great spinoff project -- thanks for sharing the link and exploring the idea, Joely. :)


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