Junk Journals: An Overview

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A Junk Journal is a notebook filled with scraps of paper (think labels, train tickets, concert tickets, parts of a letter or envelope, etc) mixed in with some art (drawings, doodles), some writing, maybe a list or two, cutouts from newspapers/magazines, printouts of memes and cartoons from the internet, a tag, a birthday card. Most of this stuff you would probably throw away, although some might be kept for a traditional scrapbook.

pile of journals

When I googled “What is a Junk Journal” this came up from the Artsy-Craftsy:

Junk journal is a handmade book made up of recycled items such as papers from magazines, brochures, patterned paper, music sheets, envelopes, packaging, brown paper bags, maps, greeting cards, post cards, doilies, to name a few.

drawin of woman, water paint

I have found that some Junk Journals are more art than junk. And some are more junk than art. It all depends on the creator and the recipient.

I mostly use a spiral bound notebook for mine and often affix two pages together to A) reduce the amount of pages to fill and B) make the pages sturdier to have items attached to them.

My favorites are the ones that mix scrapbooking (mostly meaningful inserts vs. random scraps of paper) with doodles, messages, lists, and other types of handwritten notes.

In recent years I have made and given one to a friend with cancer, one to a friend with a milestone birthday, and one to a relative just because. For each of these, it took months to create as I gathered just the right material for their personality. Examples of what I used included:

  • Cartoons/Memes-  I would copy them into a WORD doc and then print out pages every so often and intersperse them in the notebook.
  • I downloaded images of books and movies one friend had seen and included these in her big year
  • I tracked books we read (we are always sharing/updating our reading lists together)
  • Pictures from things we did together (day trips, bookstore visits, walks)
  • Cutouts from newspapers and magazines relevant to their interests (knitting, England, bookstores, travel, museums, visiting national parks, etc)
  • Recipes
  • What I did today (outlining a daily routine/non-routine)
  • What I’m doing now. This is where I list what I’m reading, watching, listening to, excited about, worried about, planning, working on, crafting, etc. I don’t always use all of these but I do try to do at least a half dozen at a time. I may also note the time, the temperature, gas prices, headline, and other notable things worth mentioning.
  • Share a memory – this can be of you and them or something from your childhood, a recent experience or encounter, or a plan for the future.
  • Create a List sharing information about you. With penpals they call these ‘Tags’ where you list something and then the recipient can respond back with their list on the same topic. Topics might include: Places I’ve Lived; Jobs I’ve Had; States or Countries I’ve Visited; Places I Want to Visit.

I’ve also created Junk Journals as part of swaps for Swap-bot, which is where I first heard about them.  Sometimes they are called “Magpie Journals” because magpies are notorious for collecting bits and scraps which is exactly what this type of journal does.

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Hello! I love all things stationery, papery, epistolary including planners, office supplies, mail, postcards, doodles, desks and organization, postage stamps and mail art.


  1. Mrs. Duffy on March 10, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    I love this idea. What fun!

    • Jackie on March 10, 2020 at 8:06 pm

      I love it! I am finishing one now for swap-bot and will miss it when I send it off later this month.

  2. Hester on March 11, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    Hi I have made several journals and altered books. Fun is the word to describe this and yes they are hard to part with I have kept a couple for myself I am now working on one to log in experiences with my new manual coffee grinder I love coffee too

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