Junk journals are a fun and unique way to create a customizable keepsake of your life that you can use as a diary or just for jotting down notes. Of course, you can do this on any scrap piece of paper. Still, if you’re looking for something more finished and pretty, there is a wide variety of commercially-available cardstock junk journal kits that you can use to create a more refined product. In this article, we’ll cover what a junk journal is, how to make a journal, and DIY your own junk journal ideas so you can take your creativity to the next level.
What Is a Junk Journal?
A junk journal (also known as a collage journal) is a handmade book that you can create personalized art using various types of paper attached to make the pages.
Why Is It Called a Junk Journal?
“Junk” or found objects, repurposed materials, and other different ephemera such as tickets, photographs, illustrations, and even old book pages are the inspiration for the name Junk Journal.
What Do You Do With a Junk Journal?
A junk journal can be whatever you want it to be! For example, some people use their junk journals to document daily events, keep a dream diary or sketchbook, give as a gift, or even write mind maps for brainstorming. Others use theirs as a travel diary or scrapbook, record memories like a photo album, or capture the things that inspire them.
What Does a Junk Journal Look Like?
A junk journal can be of any size. Some people prefer small pocket journals that they can carry with them, while others like large ones that they leave on their coffee table or nightstand. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the size of your book; it’s all about what you prefer! It is common to create junk journals by mixing and matching items and styles as in a collage or scrapbook. Including papers, pictures, ticket stubs, memorabilia from sporting events, and more creates a beautiful book for your memories.
History of Junk Journals
Junk journaling is not a new concept, as it has been around since the 1800s. Take a look at how junk journaling has evolved over time.
The First Scrapbooks
The modern scrapbooking movement began in the mid-1800s when women would create “memory books” from pressed flowers, sewing patterns, and other ephemera to document their lives. In the 1930s, American women were encouraged by magazines to cut out family photos from their holiday greeting cards and paste them into memory books. Paging through these books is equal parts quaint and nostalgia-inducing.
“Big Business” Scrapbooking
In the early 1980s, We R Memory Keepers started selling scrapbooking materials in kits. It is largely responsible for making this hobby mainstream. Quirky-themed stationery kits with matching envelopes, ribbons, cards, and stickers sold well in craft stores like Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, and Michaels. By 1998, 10 million Americans were scrapbooking, according to Time magazine. As scrapbooking became more popular and kits developed, people started to take note of the cool things they could do with collage and other mixed media techniques.
Junk Journaling: Rebellion
As the trend of creating a keepsake of memories became more popular, more people began rebelling against the idea of typical expensive modes of creation. Instead of relying on pricey kits with one-use materials, people began to look for ways to create art with items not typically viewed as beautiful. Envelopes, cereal boxes, scrap paper, junk mail, and old to-do lists suddenly were being used to create personalized journals in a new and fun way. This mindset inspired the modern-day junk journal.
Recessions Breed Creativity
Various historical times came with economic hardships where fewer funds were allocated to nonessentials like scrapbooking. Hard times force people to get creative in new ways, and scrapbooking was no different. Instead of buying new premade scrapbooking materials, people looked to what materials they had available. Suddenly, newspaper clippings and paper scraps could take on a new life in a journal. Photos and other ephemera were included to commemorate personal memories but were now enhanced by recycled materials turned into art.
The Evolution of Junk Journals Over the Years
Over the years, junk journals have taken many forms and styles based on their creators. What originated as a way to use recycled and found materials to create art journals during hard times has evolved into a hybrid form of junk and purchased items. Many creators use junk papers and recycled materials while also purchasing decorative items to beautify their art journals. No matter the design of the junk journals, each is a fun, personalized memory book that celebrates individual style and memories.
Benefits of Using a Junk Journal
Many reasons lead to the creation of junk journals. Whether you do it as a hobby, reminisce on old memories, write, or give it as a gift, they’re cheaper than regular scrapbooks, and they’re whatever you make them. To personalize your product, you can use photos, ephemera, cutouts, and sheet music. Junk journals allow people to gather their memories and write about them. Using various ephemera gives people the freedom to tell more stories and create something truly one-of-a-kind.
How to Make a Junk Journal
The evolution of the junk journal has come a long way since its conception. Once just scraps of paper and photos glued together, these personalized memory books have become works of art that incorporate many different styles and techniques. Read on for a more modern take on creating a junk journal.
Step 1: Select Topic and Purpose
Junk journals are great as diaries, sketchbooks, notebooks, memory books, photo albums… you name it! Before creating themed journals, think about the primary purpose of this book and let that direct the design process. Will the journal be used as a keepsake or have a functional side as a planner? The purpose and topic can help decide the materials needed for this unique piece.
Step 2: Decide How the Book Will Be Bound
When you have completed your journal, you need to decide how to bind it. The binding method depends on the number of pages, thickness, and material type. Below are some strategies to bind journals.
- Staples / Duct Tape: if your junk journal is not very thick, using staples a half-inch from either end can hold your pages in place. Use decorative duct tape to cover the binding area of the journal once stapled in place.
- 3 Hole Punches and Brads: thicker junk journals with more pages can be held together with sturdier materials like brads. Use a three-hole punch tool to create the holes, then secure the pages with the brads.
- Binder Clips: once all the junk journal pages are in place, binder clips are used, similar to staples, to secure the pages in place.
- 3 and 5 hole pamphlet stitching: pamphlet stitching entails using thread to stitch journal pages together from premade holes for the more advanced journal creator. This design creates a mixed media art product with paper goods and thread.
Step 3: Collect the Junk Journal Supplies, Tools, and Materials
With the purpose and binding established, gathering materials can begin. This is the fun part! Personal style can influence materials used in the journal. Materials can include recycled, and found materials such as magazines, envelopes, greeting cards, pictures with family, scrap paper turned into tags, magazines, washi tape, pages from old books, and more. Necessary tools can include a paper trimmer, tape, base paper, scissors, paper clips, binding materials, and anything else the creator wants to embellish the journal.
Step 4: Assemble/Prepare the Base of the Book
Once you have your materials and supplies, it is time to assemble the junk journal. First, decide which type of binding tool will connect the pages. Then, organize your papers by laying them out on a table or floor; this allows for easy design placing and cutting of materials. When creating your design, prioritize the first thing you see when looking at the journal, then work your way backward. Once all materials are in place, it is time for assembly! According to the chosen method, staple or punch holes through your pages and bind them together. After assembly, it is time to embellish the journal. Think about what makes this book unique for the person who will use it. Embellish with scrapbook supplies, washi tape, doodles, and more!
DIY Junk Journal Ideas: What to Put In It
There are various junk journal page ideas! Think about what makes the journal special and let that inspire the contents of each unique book. YouTube offers a wide selection of instructional videos on using junk journals for those getting started.
Junk journals are more creative and individualized than your everyday journal from the store. After including the desired paper and decorative tags, the creator can use this junk journal to record events of the day, feelings and emotions, and memories with family and friends. This art journal has daily function and beauty.
Using the journal to plan out the day, week, or month is an exciting way to be creative in your planning process. Junk journals can help you stay focused on your goals and priorities by decorating each page with different colors and patterns. Incorporate paper calendar templates into the junk journal to help you keep track of important days, events, and memories. Include personal sketches for each month to give it extra style.
The memories you save are worth keeping forever! Memory books can help you organize and re-live all of the precious moments. These books can display special moments in the past with family and friends, finished projects, favorite memories, or even remember vacations passed. It is a great idea to use pictures and other memorabilia such as ticket stubs, receipts, and doodles for reminiscing on life’s precious memories. Personalize the front cover to maximize style.
Personalized Gift Idea
Junk journals can commemorate any occasion or significant event and are a great personalized gift idea! Wedding journals are a trendy type of personal junk journal. The journal provides the perfect place to write about the couple’s love story, share favorite experiences, and display treasured photographs. Gifted junk journals can also commemorate a birthday, graduation, summer vacation, or any special occasion with loved ones and can include personalization!
The pages of a junk journal can be creatively designed and then used to share that theme or topic with others. A unique cover design introduces the topic and sets the stage. For example, an athlete can design a sports-themed book that would allow them to write about their favorite teams, players, and memories surrounding sports. A musician could use this as a place to list their favorite bands and artists, bands, concerts, lyrics, and memories surrounded by music. Some pages can be left blank to create quality content surrounding their topic or theme. Design a personalized recipe book to save favorite recipes passed down from family members or even add newly acquired recipes. The possibilities are endless!
Junk Journal Turned Art Journal
There are several ways to use the art inside the junk journal. The basic idea behind art journaling is to use your journal to extend your creativity and imagination. It allows you to play with different techniques by simply writing, drawing, painting, gluing, and creating. Make each page unique with inspired style and theme– whether that means creating an abstract painting, doodling with quotations or pictures, or even adding in ephemeral items like coffee or tea. This form of junk journal incorporates mixed media art producing a truly unique piece.
Read our post on how to get free books by mail!
Junk Journal Techniques to Explore
Explore these different junk journal techniques to get started on your personalized book.
Make It Personal
When creating a junk journal, one can get as creative as they like. Each handmade book can include a variety of materials unique to individual styles. For example, when creating, think about color schemes, materials, and paper to use, the theme, and purpose of the junk journal so that it can be everything the creator imagined it to be. Inspiration for this artistic process can come from each person’s experiences, memories, materials gathered, and style. Not only is junk journaling an enjoyable experience, but a functional one when serving as planners and daily journals.
Add Unique Touches
There are many different ways people can add unique touches during junk journaling. One idea is to paint or draw on the outside of the journal and personalize the cover. Another idea is to decorate an already existing book or journal by adding pockets, tabs, labels, and more to create a unique junk journal! Rhinestones, colored tape and paper, stickers, tags, and photos add personalized style to each junk journal page, no matter the topic or purpose.
Varying Paper Sizes and Shapes
Junk journals can include various paper sizes and shapes. For example, try cutting colorful patterns using paper into heart shapes to create Valentine’s day cards; make some large and some small, so they are not the same size. When creating the pages, mix up different color schemes, motifs, themes, or topics to make each page unique. You can use maps to commemorate special events or cut them into fun shapes for the journal. Collaging your papers and materials in the journal can add more style with different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Fun Ideas for Junk Journal
Junk journaling is an excellent hobby for many as there are various methods and styles. One fun idea is to create love journals for a significant other. Include letters, pictures, and other mementos to celebrate moments spent together, and customize a loving front cover. One fun way to add a personal touch to the inside of a junk journal is to add tuck spots. Fill it with souvenirs, trinkets, and treasures from your world. Whether it’s ticket stubs from concerts, dried flowers, or love letters, enjoy adding meaningful finds into various compartments in your handmade book.
Explore Books and Resources
Various online and in-store resources cover this topic for those new to junk journaling. Popular stores such as Michael’s, Joanne Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby are great places to find instructional guides and journaling inspiration. On the internet, YouTube is a website with many instructional videos on beginning junk journaling. Creators of all ages provide examples of their junk journals and ideas to personalize journals of all types.
The Bottom Line
Junk journals are great for people who want to use their creative skills to make unique, personalized crafts. Creating a junk journal can be a fun hobby that allows journalers and artists of all types to exercise their collage, mixed media, and painting talents. You can also use this handmade book for practical purposes, such as planning and daily journaling. Junk journals are unique, meaningful, and special because they are handmade by the creator who can make them anything their heart desires.
Samantha uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others control their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles, and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles. She is now a full-time entrepreneur, freelancing coach, and blogger.