Junk and How to Journal it

I’m from North Carolina and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia three years ago. Even now I still get asked “How is Georgia?” or “What’s Georgia like?” and I still don’t really know how to answer. I could go stereotypical and talk about how everyone in Atlanta seems liberal and it’s so much more diverse than my hometown, but I’ve been warned not to go to certain cities not more than an hour away alone or at night because my brown skin could mean something different to them. Or I could talk about the entertainment industry that’s growing faster than condos can be built. I tend to find myself saying “It’s like New York but with southern hospitality.”

An open notebook with scraps of paper covering each page. There are vintage style images that say Facebook and Twitter, a slip of paper that says Forever 21. There is also a Buffalo Wild Wings sticker. The space under and around these things are full of decorative papers and polka dotted washi tape.
This graphic is Orange Smashbook 2012 by Marlenn Arambula shared under CC 2.0.

I’ve recently discovered junk journals and now I think the best way to explain what my experience of Atlanta is like is to show it through the things I collect and the art I’m moved to create. These journals works for me because I have never been able to pick just one art style or art form.

Junk journals are similar to normal journals, except that they involve more materials and many more visuals. They can be constructed out of just about anything, from a blank composition notebook to a journal handmade from paper bags, and they can include anything from receipts, to ticket stubs, to pictures. There are no rules! However, for most the construction of a junk journal is to minimize waste and save things that may normally be considered trash but are too interesting or pretty to get rid of, or to use up old craft supplies in a beautiful way.

A stack of flyers, tags, and stickers of various origins

For this junk journal I will be focusing on using materials that I find in Georgia. I already have quite the collection and I’m excited to be able to have a journal to look back on and remember what this time in Georgia was like.

I will be constructing this journal page by page and encasing it in an three ring binder. For materials outside of what I find, I will be using things I already have including but not limited to: scissors, mod podge, tacky glue, acrylic paints, markers, pens, and pencils. I will be including notes in the journal and on this blog of where I got the materials I use and the events that led me to them.

Therapy Journaling

I used to journal with my words almost every day. I would keep a notebook with me and write what I was feeling, especially when those feelings were negative and I needed to vent. Lately I’ve found that writing about my negative feelings actually does little to alleviate them, and is more likely to make me wallow in them longer.

This is why Junk journaling has become such a passion of mine. It’s therapeutic to take time to slow down and cut out cute images, finger paint, and collage stickers and decorative tapes together.

White paper with streaks of light blue, a darer more turquoise blue, and orange, with specs of glitter in some places.

Is this a masterpiece? Maybe not, but It’s aesthetically pleasing to me in a very basic way and it was so easy and fun to do by finger painting that I don’t feel bad about covering it up with other images. Sometimes Junk journaling is just about taking the time to let your mind slow down and focus on just creating something unique that you like.

The same painted paper, but with newspaper clippings glued on.

For this page I used:

  • Glitter poster paint
  • Apple Barrel acrylic paints in tropic orange and bimini blue
  • Newspaper and Magazine clippings that I found at the East Branch Library
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors

East Atlanta Branch Journaling

I officially moved into an Atlanta apartment that isn’t university housing two weeks ago. The first official thing I did was to get my library card! I plan to get comfortable in the public library as I graduate and lose my GSU library privileges.

Just walking in it was very clear that I was going to have a majorly different experience here. The library nearest me, the East Atlanta Branch, is one story and seems to be one large room with the children’s section on one side and adult and non-fiction on the other. Despite this I walked out with 6 books and a handful of free papers, brochures, and notebooks.

A newspaper, a collection of brochures, and a couple of magazines

While my partner and were a little taken aback by how small it was compared to libraries in our hometown and our college libraries, I think we will grow to appreciate how quant and relaxed it is. The staff members were nice, the other patrons quiet, and when we can’t find the book we’re looking for at this branch we can always put it on hold and have it sent here.

My favorite find at this library was the Q magazine. This magazine focuses on queer people and aspects of LGBTQ+ culture . There were two issues available for free and many of the images were too stunning for me to bring myself to cut them out. These will sit on my coffee table for a while before I use them for any project.

Two magazines branded "Q". one has the title "Yes, Mother!"


For this spread I cut images out of the other newspapers and brochures and left these intact. I also used:

  • Glue stick
  • Two sharpies
  • Scissors

Tybee Journaling

This past weekend a couple of my friends decided to treat me to a weekend on Tybee Island and in Savannah, Georgia. It was my first time in both places and Tybee was very different than any other beach I had ever been to. The best way I can describe it is to say it’s a ‘Suburban’ beach. That is to say it’s mostly condos, beach houses, and families.


This is drastically different from my other beach experiences, which are almost exclusively Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is in South Carolina and the parts I go to tend to be full of a more diverse crowd of people, with long strips of restaurants, clubs, and souvenir shops. Tybee’s version of this strip was much smaller and had ice cream shops where the tattoo parlors of Myrtle Beach would have been.

A newspaper with a snapshot of a firework and the caption "Visit Tybee", laying beside a magazine with an image of crab legs on the cover and the title "Where to Eat at the Beach; Tybee-Island.com."

Outside of gas stations and on a few populated corners I found some newspaper boxes with up to date magazines and papers! I love finding these because though they tend to go unnoticed by many tourists, and especially by people who already live there, they contain free paper pieces that I can use in projects. These pieces are always super relevant to the location they’re in and have information on destinations in the area.

Clippings of various images from magazines and newspapers.

After flipping through the ones I brought home with me I cut out any images that I like as well as the pages and logos for the places we actually visited. For a few of the newspaper pieces I actually ripped them out to add a little texture.

While gluing and taping these pieces down I wasn’t going for a planned look at all. I tried to start with the bigger pieces and then place the smaller pieces around them, but other than that I just chose each item as I came to it in the pile and placed it where I thought it would look nice. For some images I framed them in washi tape or with doodles before putting the next image down.

Two sheets of paper with magazine and newspaper clippings glued down. One page has mostly restaurant logos while the other is miscellaneous images of people and a completed crossword puzzle.

I’m really happy with how this spread came out! This was my first time doing a collage like this on a piece of loose leaf paper rather than in a pre-bound journal.

For these pages I used:

  • Glue stick
  • Clear tape
  • Washi tape
  • Two sharpies
  • Newspaper and magazine clippings found in Tybee