Writing Glossary

What is a Junk Journal?

August 30, 2023 by

Are you looking for a fun and creative way to capture your memories and thoughts? Have you heard of junk journals and wondered what they are all about?

In this article, we’ll explore the world of junk journals, including their definition, history, and three things they can be used for.

Whether you’re an avid journaler, a scrapbooking enthusiast, or simply looking for a new way to express your creativity, this article will provide you with everything you need to know about junk journals.

So if you’re ready to discover this unique and versatile form of journaling, read on!

We’ll be covering the following topics in this article:

Table of Contents

What is a Junk Journal?

A journal used to put memorabilia and ephemera in one place is called a junk journal. Ephemera are items that are supposed to be used once and thrown away.

You might have seen those weird, yet aesthetically mesmerizing, journals on Instagram or YouTube that are made up of scraps of everyday items and thought to yourself, “I wonder what those are?”

Well, to give you a simple answer, those are called junk journals. But what is it really and how did junk journaling come to be?

Ticket stubs, tags, passes, maps, cardboard boxes, or even the price lists from grocery shopping are all ephemera. So the next time you think of throwing anything away, think to yourself, “Can I use them in my junk journal?”

Junk journals are handmade and consist of folders, called signatures, stitched together.

Signatures are a bundle of pages put together so that it represents a single theme from your life, i.e. childhood memories, vacation ephemera, or picture collages. Signatures also contain envelopes, pockets, or fold-outs that hold the ephemera in one place.

You don’t always have to write in a junk journal. Save your ephemera and pictures to be your windows to the past.

In storing and keeping everything in one place from a memorable trip you once had, you will have more vivid memories of the experience than you would from just a picture or some scribblings on a bus tour.

If you think you will be losing on the writing aspect of journaling by starting a junk journal, you are mistaken. In the pages, along with the ephemera, you can also record your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

junk journal example
junk journal example

How to Make a Junk Journal?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make a junk journal.

First, you’ll need to gather some materials:

  • Assorted papers (scrap paper, old book pages, music sheets, etc.)
  • Cardstock or thicker paper for covers
  • Ephemera (tickets, postcards, stickers, etc.)
  • Fabric scraps or ribbon
  • Adhesive (glue, double-sided tape, glue stick)
  • Scissors and/or paper trimmer
  • Hole punch
  • Thread and needle
  • Embellishments (buttons, beads, charms)
  • Stamps, ink pads, and other decorative supplies

Once you have your materials, you’ll want to follow these steps:

1. Plan Your Journal

Decide on the size and theme of your journal. Think about the purpose of the journal and what kind of materials you want to include. This will guide your choices throughout the process.

2. Prepare the Pages

Cut your assorted papers into the desired size for the pages. You can create different sizes and shapes to add visual interest. Consider distressing the edges of the pages for a vintage look.

3. Create the Cover

Cut two pieces of cardstock or thicker paper for the front and back covers. These can be the same size as your pages or slightly larger. Decorate the covers using paint, collage, fabric, or any other materials you like.

4. Assemble the Pages

Arrange the pages in the order you want them to appear in your journal. You can mix and match different types of paper for a varied and textured look. Stack the pages together and make sure they align properly.

5. Add Ephemera and Embellishments

Start adding your ephemera, such as postcards, tickets, and stickers, to the pages. You can glue them down partially or fully, creating pockets or tuck spots for additional items. Add embellishments like buttons, beads, or charms to enhance the visual appeal.

6. Bind the Journal

There are various ways to bind a junk journal. Here’s a simple binding method using a needle and thread:

  • Use a hole punch to create evenly spaced holes along the left edge of your pages and cover.
  • Cut a length of thread (about double the height of your journal) and thread it onto a needle.
  • Insert the needle from the inside of the journal through the first hole, then out through the second hole. Continue weaving the thread in and out through the holes, making sure it’s secure but not too tight.
  • Once you reach the last hole, loop the thread around the edge and thread it back through the last hole to the inside of the journal.
  • Tie the ends of the thread together securely and trim any excess.

7. Decorate and Finish

Add final touches to your junk journal by decorating the cover further, adding more embellishments, or even writing or drawing on the pages. You can also attach ribbons or fabric scraps to the spine for extra flair.

8. Personalize and Use

Your junk journal is now ready for you to personalize and use as you like. You can write journal entries, sketch, add more ephemera, or simply enjoy flipping through the pages and relishing in your creative work.

What is a Junk Journal Used For?

There is no definite answer here. People use junk journals for different reasons.

Yours might not be the same as the next person’s.

That being said, though, here are a couple of things people use junk journals for:

1. Travel Journaling

Keep everything from your vacations in one place. The tickets, the receipts, and even your travel writings.

Junk journals have pockets, envelopes, and flip-out pages so that you can keep all the ephemera and even maps from your trips in one place.

2. Family Collage

A family photo album is one thing but keeping a family junk journal is entirely another. Junk journals are far better adept at keeping memories alive than flat 2D photos.

Things of sentimental value can be tucked away in the crevices of a junk journal to be nostalgically caressed later.

3. Budgeting

Junk journals are different from scrapbooks because they are not only used for photos. Besides memory keeping, junk journals can be adapted for almost anything.

If you want to keep track of your finances then you can use a junk journal as a budgeting book. Instead of photos or maps, you can use a junk journal to log your finances, and store your receipts, bills, or even wrappers.

Why is it Called a Junk Journal?

A junk journal gets its name from the items that go into making one. All the things that should make up a junk journal are all that, just junk.

Tickets, receipts, bills, or ephemera of any nature are items that are to be used once and discarded.

But junk journalers use these items to remind themselves of cherished memories.

Junk journals are also usually made from cardboard, wrappers, and things of the kind that belong in a waste bin.

The frugal and environmentally-aware junk journalers keep these close by in case they need to make a new junk journal in the future.

junk journal example cardboard
junk journal

What Do You Write in a Junk Journal?

You can write anything you want in a junk journal.

You can set up a junk journal for whatever purpose you wish, i.e. to take notes for studying, for recording your thoughts and ideas, for gratitude, or for any other reason.

Junk journaling is not only a scrapbook where your pictures go or store your ephemera, but it can serve as a normal journal just as well where you would write your thoughts, feeling, or inspirations.

Types of Junk Journals

The following are the types of junk journals based on the type of material that goes into making one:

1. Vintage Book Junk Journal

These junk journals are made of vintage book covers. To add to the vintage effect, you can also use coffee-dyed pages.

Vintage book covers are a trendy style in junk journaling and it is something that you’ll often see on YouTube videos or Instagram.

2. Stitched Junk Journals

Another popular type of junk journal is the sewn junk journal where the signatures are bound together inside a book cover by stitching.

3. Thematic Junk Journals

Theme junk journals use only one theme throughout the entire journal. You can choose any theme you like, i.e. Christmas, childhood, family, roses, gothic et cetera.

To further explore how to make a junk journal, we also recommend this video by Meg:

Brief History of Junk Journals

Junk journaling started out when journaling was getting too elitist. There were (and still are) fancy, specialized layouts, expensive paper, and vintage covers used for journaling.

The whole idea of using expensive items for journaling defeated the purpose of journaling.

In response, by using recycled paper, cereal boxes, cardboard, and wrappers, junk journalers chose to radically reinvent journaling so that it can be less expensive, environment-friendly, and accessible.

The origins of a junk journal start somewhere around the 2008 financial crisis. In order to save up on expensive scrapbooking, journalers made resourceful use of whatever they had available.

Suddenly, ephemeral items of junk became covers, pockets, and envelopes in a new kind of journaling that became known as junk journaling.

Fast forward to the present day, junk journaling has come full circle and has now evolved into art journaling where the use of expensive paper and covers is becoming the norm again.

Final Remarks

Junk journals are a great way to store your ephemera in one place. For a complete record-keeping purpose, junk journals are unmatched as they not only store pictures, but they can be used as holders for maps, tickets, price receipts, or anything small enough that you need to keep in a journal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a scrapbook and a junk journal?

While both scrapbooks and junk journals are used to capture memories and document experiences, there are some key differences between the two. Scrapbooks typically feature carefully curated and organized photos and memorabilia, while junk journals are often more eclectic and freeform, incorporating a wider range of found materials and mixed media.

Why do people buy junk journals?

People buy junk journals because they offer a unique and creative way to capture memories, thoughts, and experiences. Junk journals are highly customizable and can be tailored to suit a wide range of personal styles and interests.

What are the rules for junk journal?

There are no strict rules for creating a junk journal, as it is a highly customizable and freeform artistic medium. However, some common elements may include using found materials, incorporating mixed media, and incorporating personal mementos and memorabilia.