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What’s the Purpose of a Junk Journal?

Junk Journal

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What’s the purpose of a junk journal? It’s probably a question you’ve wondered, especially if you’ve never seen one before. I know it was my reaction when I first saw one. I was intrigued and thought they were beautiful, but I had no clue how you could use one.

So don’t feel guilty for wondering. Given how elaborate and intricate they often are, it’s not hard to wonder how they could be used functionally.  And honestly, sometimes they can’t be – but that’s okay! Junk journals can be gorgeous pieces of art.

In reality junk journals can have any purpose you want them to. Particularly if you’re creating one from scratch – you can make it serve almost any purpose imaginable. Write a novel in it. Use it as a family budget book. Make it into a dream diary – it’s up to you!

(Still learning how to create them? Check out this ultimate guide on how to make a junk journal with step by step instructions and videos!)

junk journal opened

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How to Use a Junk Journal

All that said, there are some popular ways to use junk journals that range from incredibly practical to less than practical (but still entirely awesome).


Use a junk journal as a memory and photo keeper – junk journals tend to borrow a lot of ideas and techniques from the scrapbooking world, so it’s natural that junk journals often become books for keeping memories, photos, cards, tags, and other bits of ephemera that remind you of friends, family and trips you might have taken.


Use a junk journal as a travel journal – speaking of trips, a junk journal can also serve as a travel journal. Junk journals frequently incorporate ephemera into their pages and travel often leaves you with tons of it. Use the rack cards and maps you collect as flip outs and slip them into pockets, use the tags and tickets you collect to create a collage page that will remind you of all the places you visited, and frame your travel photos and slip them into envelopes so you can look back on how much fun you had. (Travel junk journals might be my personal favorite if I’m honest!)


Use a junk journal as a coffee table book –  With all of its intricate details and designs, tuck spots, pockets and envelopes to explore a junk journal can make a perfect coffee table book. It gives an inquisitive visitor plenty of things to look at and explore while you go grab something to drink or snacks to serve.


Use a junk journal as wedding guest book – Another popular use for junk journals are to use them as wedding guest books. These versions tend to be toned down with fewer frills and pockets and lots more blank and tea dyed pages. For people who are having a historic or rustic theme to their wedding, this style of guest book can make for the perfect extra touch.


Use a junk journal as a gratitude or spiritual journal – I’ve seen lots of people using their junk journals as places to reflect  – on things their grateful for, on their religion, on how they want their future to go. The mixed media nature of a junk journal lets you include pieces from a page of a book or inspirational cards and photos, so it works great for this type of journal, too.


Use a junk journal as a piece of art – This is another one of my favorite ways to use a junk journal. Ultimately, a junk journal is a piece of mixed media art and you can treat it the exact same way you do any other kind of art – hang it up, display it, or even sell it.  If you have bare shelves in a living room or entry way, filling them with beautifully decorated books can make them extra gorgeous – and like with a coffee table book, it can be a conversation starter!


What to Put in a Junk Journal

So if you haven’t figured it out yet – you can put almost anything in a junk journal depending on how you plan to use it. It almost always starts with paper or cardstock, but after that you can include so much more.

The best way to get started is often to create a spot on a shelf or if you’re more organized, in a basket, to start collecting the bits and bobs you want to include.

For example, when I created a travel junk journal for a family member last year I started by collecting items for awhile before. I started printing photos and putting them in the bin. I found pictures of the places we’d visited, the hotels we’d stayed and some of the writing we’d done on the trip and put those in the bin as well.

Then I collected lots of details from the trip like tags and tickets. I even rounded up our receipts from our airfare and hotels! I put all of those things together in a bin. Then I laid it all out and tried to decide what else I might need and what color theme I might want to use.

I grabbed a few more things from the craft store – stickers, die cuts, some paper doilies, and some travel themed washi tape. That way when I finally sat down to start planning, cutting and creating my junk journal – I had plenty of materials to work with. (Still looking for junk journal supplies? We’ve got a guide to the best junk journal supplies for beginners.)


What to Write in a Junk Journal

As with everything else junk journaling – you can write anything you want in it. You can journal about your day, reflect on the past, write down family recipes, or just put fun quotes inside to inspire.  All you really have to do is use your imagination.



All right. I want to hear from you – what do you use your junk journal for? What’s your favorite use for them? What do you love to include in them?

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  1. I created a junk Journal with old love letters I received from my husband Who was away from me for almost a year, just three months into our marriage. There is something so beautiful about the hand writing and conversations with a loved one that still evokes emotion and recaptures our love over and over again, especially when it’s made into a beautiful keepsake journal book. It was made 15 years after his death. It still makes me feel loved.

      1. Someone on TV said that we’re living in historic times (pandemic, social equality, presidential election etc). We should all keep journals so we can remember key events, friends family, love and our thoughts and feelings in these times.

    1. That is a really good idea. I’ve been trying to come up with something to display the letters he sent me plus little notes I have hung onto. My husband passed away 2 years ago this is a good idea as a rememberable book.

  2. Thanks for the pointers and suggestions. Using the junk journal as a coffee table book is genius. Of course!! I like the idea of using little bits of everyday life to put in a junk journal too.

  3. Thank you so much for your help and all this wonderful information!! I have gathered tons of things for numerous junk journals…but never put them together. I can’t wait to use the techniques you’ve taught! Thank you again! 💗

  4. I’m making a Junk Journal for a 14 year old because her Aunt saw some of the others I’ve made, for myself. This is so different when you don’t know the person, but actually I’m really having such fun trying to figure out what a 14 year old will like. Thanks for the article, I feel like I am on the right track.

  5. I have collected so much STUFF over the years that were preciousto me. Unfortunately it also occupied much space. I decided in the holidays to make a plan. I hauled out my stash, sorted it, and decided to make junk journals from it. I found I did not keep large pieces of favourite fabric if I could bind samples into a journal. I also had some vintage linen and things like my grandmother’s hankies which I am binding in a journal . My favourite little bits of paper and snippets went into a tiny journal and nothing went to waste.
    A great way to create a legacy

    1. Great idea for the fabric samples! I might make a quilt one day but doubt it. Meantime that’s a great way to reduce my fabric scrap hoard!

  6. I decided to clear out my stash and do a good spring clean before starting a year long teaching contract. But there were things I couldn’t just throw out or give away.
    The vintage linen and handmade doileys which were almost 100 years just needed a place where I could enjoy them . I started by sorting out all the bits and bobs I had accumulated. I literally had tiny pictures and inchie-sized precious bits of paper and fabric.
    I started with an A4 journal using fabric and paper depicting roses in all shapes and sizes. This then became a journal with Psalm 145 verses tucked away on the pages.
    The second one was based on family photos, some dating from about 150 years ago, which I had printed on canvas for some inexplicable reason. These i turned into a brown paper bag journal dictated by the vintage photos and reflecting our French, Dutch , Swedish and British ancestry.

    The one I am busy with now uses exquisite hankies,tea-cloths and serviettes painstakingly embroidered a seventy or so years ago. It is a tribute to seamstresses and needle-crafters of whom my mom was my inspiration. It will contain crochet, knitting and tatting snippets, old patterns, my gran’s worn little needlebook, vintage buttons, amazing fabric swatches that have survived the years or were leftover fabric from a favourite frock.
    Now my stash has been reduced to something I can page through when I wish, The discarded bits have gone to an African women’s sewing project and my granddaughters have something of great value to inherit. I hope it gives them the same joy!

  7. I have just started one and while I wouldn’t say mine has a theme it is just quotes, pictures, art and verses that I have treasured and or written. For me it will be something to look back on how my life has changed which has changed me.

  8. Years ago, I gave my daughter a small notebook of my favorite quotes. I had collected them over several years and I hand lettered each quote. When she moved out, I gave it to her. I was actually journaling many years ago and didn’t realize it! I wonder if she still has it? As I read this, I thought that I could do a journal of my thoughts and bequests and wishes that could be something to leave behind after I’m gone. Upbeat, of course, and full of hopeful wishes for daughter’s future. Hmmmm.

    1. Oh wow! That sounds like a beautiful book that you gave to your daughter, and I think that journal sounds like a lovely idea! Definitely the kind of treasures that are wonderful to look back on over the years.

  9. For me the word “journal” was intimidating. I don’t want to write. However, after considering and viewing loads of “Art Journals”, I decided that I didn’t have to write anything. It could just be a book of whatever: new art, test samples, color swatches…I never ended up making one because I stumbled upon “Junk Journals”. The first ones I saw were just that, using any kind of paper to make a journal. Not impressive. But I somehow found more YouTube video’s on junk journals and was amazed at the beauty they held. I know when I make one it will be beautiful, and most likely not have much space for “journaling”. I wouldn’t desecrate it! So many I’ve seen are so gorgeous, and I’d never write in them. I will just look at it many, many times 🙂 Well, that is IF I start it…I’m a VERY SLOW crafter, a perfectionist, so it would take me a LONG time to make it. I am just addicted to watching YT videos!

  10. I made several junk journals. One for my immediate family, one of old, departed relatives, one a mystical one of strange experiences i have had, and another one about the last six pet house rabbits i have had and their pictures and personalities. Another was on family secrets and old loves.

  11. I include in my junk journal unusual stickers I find, magazine word and picture cut outs like a glue journal, ephemera that I made myself, stamping, pieces of string and ribbon, and I had some vintage books that I tore pages from and my favorite, tea stained paper

  12. I just started a junk journal only I call it a Memory Book. It’s a place where I keep all the greeting cards I’ve received from loved ones over the years & I’ve added pictures of them as well. It’s something I can look at often to be reminded of those that have meant so much to me.

  13. I’m starting my first junk journal. I’m planning to tell family stories handed down and my personal history telling the way things were when I was growing up…coal man delivering coal for our furnace, having a cistern to collect rain water for bathing, carrying drinking water from a well. My daughter and nieces are too busy with their own lives right now, but someday they will enjoy reading about their ancestors, their occupations and immigration stories and how much life has changed over the past few centuries..

  14. I haven’t done this yet, but thought it would be a great idea! A Mommy and me journal book! For Moms and Young daughters to enjoy spending time together and chatting, and Mom could write down the things her daughter would say, such as what she wanted to be when grown, her favorite color, songs, stories, food ……! Her dreams and wishes and of course her funny sayings! I am the mother of four boys, and of course, this could be done with them too! My sons are all grown, but I am planning on making several of these “Mommy and Me” junk journals for my granddaughters and their daughters!

  15. A great list of ideas! I have a huge collection of hankies from my great grandmother and grandmother. I chose about 20 different ones and arranged them one at a time on my color printer and made pages with copied handerchiefs. You can even see the textures. Turned out beautiful. I havent written in it yet! Also I made a journal using real ephemera from my great grandmother’s store. Ir turned into a history journal and I used pictures if ancestors, poems written by ancestors, etc to fill it.

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