Sunday, February 19

DIY: Notebook Made of Junk Mail

Hmm, here's a ridiculous little project for when you've got too much time on your hands. Maybe you had a really strong coffee and—like me—maybe you recently came into possession of a large quantity of chocolate chip cookie dough, and you make yourself piles of cookies with wanton abandon. That's where your energy comes from.

Look at this: investment companies, radio stations, and
grocery stores are just throwing resources at you.
And let's also say that—like me—you have an endless and unstoppable stream of junk mail flowing into your living space. Further, let's suppose that—like me—you don't have any paper product recycling infrastructure in your neighborhood. Glass and aluminum, sure, but not paper. Weird, right?

(Also, we seem to have a lot in common. Maybe we should hang out?)

You'll need a good letter-opener, some reliable glue-stick,
and a pile of junk mail. It's okay if there's print on one side
and you can only write on the other.
What I propose here isn't a solution to all these problems but it definitely takes the edge off. Today you're going to learn (ha, not that this takes any amount of brain-power) to make a little notebook out of junk mail envelopes. Like many strokes of genius, this project came about out of necessity: I was running errands with my wife when my muse struck and I didn't have one of my several Moleskine notebooks on my person. Stupid, I know, but I didn't. I did, however, have a quantity of junk mail on me because we checked mail before we left the house and I was going to weed through it and toss it in the trash later. Instead, I carefully deconstructed it and attained several pieces of usable blank paper! (Also, this was at a Kinko's, so I had access to a glue-stick. Convenient!) I just needed something to record several templates of story ideas I would create later, and these spread-out envelopes  were perfect for my needs. Plus, there's no shortage of them, am I right?

Yes, deconstruct the envelopes: don't just rip out the edges, but actually remove the flaps from where they're glued to each other. It's difficult and imperfect work, but you just want as much surface area available to you as possible, especially if you can write very small. I can crib micro notes with a 0.025mm-tip Slicci, so one triangular side flap to an envelope can potentially contain a significant amount of information. Otherwise, if you just use a regular ball-point pen, you can make up for this by incorporating a lot of "sheets" of paper in your notebook.

Align all the envelopes by the hinge of the upper flap and
glue them together there, so that the whole mess closes
more or less neatly.
Once you've gotten all the flaps open, obviously the next thing to do is align them all by fold of the top envelope flap. Stack them so they're all facing the same direction (print-side down, top of envelope to left) and simply bind them by gluing the top flaps together. You'll find some of these flaps still retain the glue that should have sealed them to the body of the envelope. Moisten that strip however you like and use it to assist you.

NOTE: As you'll see in the images, I did not think this through initially. I just bound these things together without forethought, so my "spine" is on the right. No biggie, but you may feel the urge of convention to keep your glued-flap "spine" on your left so you're always writing on the recto side of each "sheet." With mine, pictured, I will always write on the verso site, but I'm unruffled. I learned this flexibility in the military.

Some envelopes have printed insides, intended to prevent
anyone from peering through them at the contents. Not
necessary, but you can use one of these not for writing but
for a "decorative" "cover."

  • Trim off the side flaps, if you find them to be in the way, or glue-stick them down to the print-side of the sheet. If you need to, once it's all assembled, shear off the sides so they lay flush.

  • Rather than glue-stick, bind the envelopes with brads, staples, or a spiral binder if you have such machinery on hand.

  • Decorate the cover with stickers, library receipts, fruit ID stickers, beer labels, clips of attractive people from other circulars/junk mail, etc. Just go crazy.

  • In fact, if you like a certain cereal, why not carve out a nice cover from the cereal box? Or beer: you could convert a sixer or a case for this purpose and provide free promotion for your favorite brew. If you use a pizza box (make sure it's clean, obviously), you're getting that much more protection for your documents! The only limits are the trash you have access to and your own imagination!

  • Make a folio or large sketchpad notebook out of the oversized envelopes that can contain unfolded sheets of paper or booklets. Those give you the option of incorporating other envelopes, as you can paste them however you like inside for insane amounts of writing space.

  • I'm about to fill up this The Company Store catalog with
    stuff that's relevant to my life.
  • Cover it with the thick-paper cover from a nice magazine and not only does your notebook suddenly look much nicer, but you may look literate (depending on the magazine you chose).

  • Include one envelope that hasn't been disassembled except for the top flap, so you have a little pocket to hold things (e.g., business cards, bookmarks, personal notes, photos).

  • Keep your eyes open for pens and pencils lying around on the street. Once you open your receptivity to them, the universe will guide these implements toward you and you can amass an impressive, free "found stationery" set.

  • I wrote this post half an hour ago and I'm still coming up with brilliant ideas. If you have an old day planner and you couldn't fill out every single page (or most of them — like me) but it's time to throw it away, how about this: slice out the pristine, unused pages and paste them over the printed side of the envelopes! Now you've got a nice lined writing surface and you've saved even more paper!
    (Otherwise, just paste in the pages that came with the junk mail, front down, to write on the backs.)
Why would you want a crappy-looking notebook like this? Among other reasons listed in this article, say you're doing Morning Pages. The intent is that you'll fill up a notebook with all your stress, grief, and anger, scrawling it all out as fast as you can with no mind for neatness, then throw it away when you're done. I think the aesthetic of this junk-mail notebook is more in keeping with that, and you'll feel far less guilty about throwing this unit away than a nicer pad of paper.

And remember, the advantage of this little notebook is also its downfall: it looks like a pile of junk mail. That means people probably won't go poking through it, but someone may decide to be "helpful" and throw it away for you. Don't leave it lying around — keep it in your backpack or bookbag and they'll only think you're a low-grade hoarder. That's fine, as long as they keep their mitts of your stuff.


Rebecca said...

Make me one for my morning pages, please. No catalog cover, though. I want something pretty.

Christian Fredrickson said...

Absolutely. I'm composing an elaborate model in my head. It'll be fun.

jehnavi said...

OH I love this! I'll have to try this,
CA Glue