What is a Junk Journal?

What is a Junk Journal?

If you scroll through your social media, you may have found yourself in the journaling community and noticing the trending “junk journal” photos and videos. And if you are reading this, then you probably at one point wondered, What is a junk journal? Is it a smash book? A scrapbook? A diary? A glue book? Well in short, it is all of the above, sort of. 

My Definition of a Junk Journal

To me, a junk journal is a handmade journal, crafted from both recycled materials, found objects, and things you already have around your house. Some junk journalers do not like using new supplies in their junk journals, but I feel it is okay. You can incorporate all types of crafts into your junk journaling. For instance, I used to make beaded jewelry. Now  I use my jewelry making skills to make cute spine dangles for my junk journals. Currently, I am a huge fan of mixed media art and art journaling. So I also incorporate those skills into my junk journals as well. I like to say, “In junk journaling, there are no rules, anything goes.” This is because, to make a junk journal, you incorporate different skills learned from various crafts. Additionally, you can use your junk journal however you want to use it. It can be a keepsake journal, scrapbooking journal, daily diary, or art journal. You can also keep it on your bookshelf or coffee table as a piece of art. I assure you, it will get people talking!

“In junk journaling, there are no rules, anything goes”

Junk Journaling Timeline

To better answer the question of what a junk journal is,  I did some digging, so you don’t have to. A simple “junk journal” Wikipedia search will render 0 results. So, I had to look further; And down the rabbit hole I went. 
I don't want to overwhelm you with too much  on the history of journaling and scrapbooking (because there is a lot of it!).  So I will give you a summary of the evolution from 19th century scrapbooks to modern day junk journals.
  • Scrapbooking as a way of memory keeping by preserving ephemera, photos, journal entries, family history, recipes, newspaper clippings, etc. became popular in the 19th century.
  • Prior to scrapbooks, “commonplace books” (used to store information such as letters, recipes, quotes, and prayers) were popularized by upper class Europeans in the 15th century.
  • Family bibles were also used to keep information (important dates, family member names, births, deaths, etc.) after the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. 
  • “Grangerizing” also known as "Extra-illustrating", became popular in the late 1700s after James Granger published a book with extra blank pages for book owners to personalize and add their own illustrations.
Fun Fact: In 1872, Mark Twain created a popular scrapbook that already had adhesive on the pages and simply needed to be lightly wet before adding photos/ephemera.
  • Personal diaries became more popular in the 19th century with the invention of the industrial printing press and printed materials becoming more widely accessible. 
  • Calling card albums also became popular during this time, not only to record friendship, but also as a way to preserve the beautiful art in the calling cards (which now included color printing). Calling cards are cards that were dropped off when someone wanted to visit another person. If they received the card back, it signified that they were allowed to visit.
  • Cooking magazines (gained popularity in late 1800s - early 1900s) which led to women clipping recipes and storing them in recipe books.
  • Marielen Wadley Christensen spearheaded the scrapbooking industry in 1980-1981. She had been recording family memories in scrapbooks and by 1980 she had 50 albums. That year she was invited to exhibit them at the World Conference on Records. The following year, Marielen opened a scrapbook store named “Keeping Memories Alive.”
  • The financial crisis of 2008 led scrapbookers and journalers to start using “junk” materials they already had on hand, such as found objects, junk mail, old books, ledger pages, old music sheets, ephemera, cereal boxes, flyers, postcards, magazines, etc. to handcraft their own journals and scrapbooks instead of purchasing new materials (which are often expensive).
  • Google trends show that the popularity of the search term “junk journal” has been on the rise since 2017. I believe the popularity of junk journals will continue to grow. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, all the forms of memory keeping mentioned above are very similar. Therefore the term “junk journal” can be a bit difficult to define. Like I mentioned in the beginning, a junk journal is all of the above. Most importantly, for me, a junk journal is creative expression.

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I thank you very much for your research into JUNK JOURNALING much appreciated. I want to put together memories for my children that is more hands on and I think this is the way to do it.

Paula Savae

Thank you for the summation of scrap books and journals! I love learning new things and frankly you’ve given me an historical excuse to while away my time with my nonsensical shabby chic junk journal. Be blessed my friend !💙


In my grieving process I have begun to junk journal more and more, keeping my heart happy even during this period of pain.


That you for this comprehensive article. Having you include a common place book was delightful for me. I look forward to reading more from you.


Thank you! You have done a wonderful job. I so appreciate your explanation of a junk journal.

Susan A Downing

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