FAQs About Junk Journaling: 20+ Tips You Need To Know

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If you’re new to junk journaling, I imagine you probably have various questions – just like I did. I hope you find the answers you need below, but as always, I’m only an email away if you ever need to ask anything else.

In this blog post, I’ve covered all the questions I had when I started making journals 3 years ago, plus the questions I often get asked today.

Of course, that means I’ve covered a lot, so feel free to use the “skip ahead” links below to jump to the sections you’re most interested in:

The Basics

What exactly is a junk journal and why is it called that?

A junk journal is a handmade book, journal, diary, planner, etc, usually made from found, recycled and repurposed materials, such as packaging, junk mail, random pieces of paper and much more. That’s what the “junk” in junk journal usually refers to.

While this probably sounds like junk journals are made from a hot mess of things you’d normally throw away, the result is often beautiful, unique and super interesting. It’s amazing what you can create when you think outside of the box!

Inside my Secret Garden lapbook junk journal
My Secret Garden lapbook junk journal made from a book cover, envelopes and packaging

But it’s also worth noting that junk journals have evolved over the years. “Junk journal” also refers to a sort of “style” a handmade journal can have – even if no junk has been used to create it.

Some people take issue with that, but I don’t because one of my favourite things about junk journals is that there are NO RULES!

Perhaps, then, a more accurate definition of a junk journal is this: “A junk journal can be anything you want it to be. It can look however you like. There are no rules. Simply enjoy being creative.”

READ NEXT: What is a Junk Journal?

What’s the point of a junk journal?

At its very core, a junk journal is a diary, planner, journal, etc you write in. Maybe you’d use yours for your daily thoughts or planning? Or maybe you won’t write in it at all and simply store mementoes and keepsakes from a milestone event like a wedding or once-in-a-lifetime trip? It’s completely up to you.

For me, I get the most enjoyment out of making junk journals rather than writing in them. But I do have an “ideas/inspiration” journal I use each week, as well as a journal where I keep happy mail and thoughtful notes from my friends and subscribers. I’ve also recently started making notes about nature in a botanical-themed journal because I have a desire to learn more about plants and botany.

READ NEXT: 52 Junk Journal Prompts To Help You Write In Your Junk Journal

What are signatures in a junk journal?

A signature is a collection or group of papers you bind together to make a journal.

You might have heard people refer to their journals as having one signature, two signatures, or three or more signatures. So these would be one collection of papers, two collections of papers, three collections of papers and so on.

Close up of hidden spine junk journal binding
Notice this journal has three signatures

You can use almost anything to make your signatures – from writing paper and pretty images to book pages, envelopes and even greeting cards!

READ NEXT: Everything You Need To Know About Junk Journal Signatures

What is junk journal ephemera?

Junk journal ephemera is usually defined as: “Anything you add to your junk journal.”

This could include tags, journal cards and other writing spots, as well as pockets, tuck spots, bellybands and even genuine vintage ephemera.

READ MORE: What is Junk Journal Ephemera?

What are junk journal embellishments and how do I use them?

Junk journal embellishments are anything you use to decorate a page, pocket, tuck spot or journal cover such as clusters, charms, ruffles, snippets, die cuts, fussy cuts, etc.

Another close up of a cluster
A simple cluster inside my “Lilacs & Lavender” fairy journal

You might be surprised how pretty a blank page or envelope can look once you’ve added something to it.

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What is a junk journal kit?

Junk journal kits, also known as digitals or printables, are digital papers you can buy from designers on platforms like Etsy or Creative Fabrica and print yourself at home.

House of Mahalo digital papers
Some of my junk journal kits printed out – all of which are available from my Etsy shop

These kits usually include papers you can use inside your journal or to decorate covers and ephemera with. Sometimes, they’ll also include ephemera, such as pockets, tags and scans of vintage ephemera.

It depends on the kit, the theme and the designer exactly what’s included. Just like with handmade journals, junk journal kits are unique and varied.

Note: Junk journal kits can also be physical kits you can buy; although these are less common than digital kits.

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Can it still be called a junk journal if I use digital papers?

Speaking of digital kits and papers, can you still call it a junk journal if you use them? In my opinion, yes.

I’ve already alluded above that junk journals have evolved over the years to be more of a style than just the base materials you use to make them.

But I also love using digital papers to decorate junk itself, such as packaging, envelopes, etc. That’s usually how I make ephemera for all of my journals.

Remember: There are no rules! If you want to call it a junk journal, treasure book, art journal, scrapbook, handmade journal, etc, that’s entirely up to you. Again, this is just my opinion.

Making Junk Journals

How do I get started creating a junk journal?

Before you actually sit down and try to create your first full-sized journal, I’d encourage you to do the following first:

  • See what supplies or materials you already have around the house you can repurpose (rather than buying a load of stuff you might never use!)
  • Start by making ephemera and embellishments as they’re easier and quicker to make
  • Try out different themes and styles so you can figure out what’s best for you

Then, when you feel ready to make your first journal, you might want to consider making one of these beginner projects first. Small notebooks, single-signature journals, mini junk journals and simple folios are all fun to make but often don’t come with the overwhelm you might feel for a larger project.

READ NEXT: How To Start Junk Journaling – My Top Tips & Ideas For Beginners

How long does it take to make a junk journal?

This is a tough question to answer because it depends on many things, such as:

  • How long you’ve been making junk journals
  • What type of journal you’re making
  • Whether you already have ephemera and embellishments to go inside it

A simple notebook would probably take you as little as an hour or two. But for larger projects, you’ll probably want to set aside at least a weekend to finish a one-signature journal plus extra time if you’re also making lots of interesting ephemera or embellishments for it.

If I were to sit down and make a single-signature journal right now, and without any interruptions, it would probably take me 2-3 days. And that’s after 3 years of practice!

READ NEXT: 35+ Types Of Junk Journals You Can Try Making

What materials are typically used in a junk journal?

You probably won’t need to buy anything special to make a junk journal because you can make them out of pretty much anything. That said, you’ll need some basic supplies to begin, which include paper, scissors, glue and maybe some sort of trash or packaging.

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What is the standard cover size of a junk journal?

Generally speaking, many crafters (myself included!) aim to make a cover approximately 9 inches tall by 6 inches wide. This size means you can fold A4 or letter-sized paper in half to use as your pages and they’ll fit perfectly inside your cover – likely zero trimming needed.

Lilacs and Lavender fairy junk journal
My “Lilacs & Lavender” fairy journal features a standard-sized cover made from an A4 envelope and fabric

That said, don’t feel like you have to stick to this as there are no rules in junk journaling! You can make journals of all different sizes and types – from mini to MEGA and everything in between.

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What paper should I use for a junk journal?

You can use any kind of paper for your journals. But bear in mind that paper varies in weight, thickness, finish, absorbency and much more.

You’ll also need to take into account how many pages you’ll be adding pockets or embellishments onto. The last thing you want is for your pages to rip because you added something heavy to a piece of paper that’s far too thin or flimsy. You’ll get a feel for this over time.

If you’re printing digital papers to use in your journal, I always recommend using 100gsm Presentation Paper (like the one I use!) and a high-quality printer setting to get the best results.

Is there a right or wrong way to make a junk journal?

One of the things I love to repeat over and over is this: there are no rules in junk journaling. Not a single one. There are only guidelines you can either choose to follow or not.

You can make your journals out of pretty much anything you like and in any theme, style, colour, size, you name it. The choice is totally up to you. And please, please, don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

READ NEXT: How To Make A Junk Journal From Scratch (Step-By-Step)

How can I make my junk journal unique and personal?

Junk journals by their very nature are just that: unique, personal and one-of-a-kind.

Just like a painting on the wall, even if two artists follow the same pattern or template, their results still won’t look exactly alike.

We all have different supplies, skills, experiences and styles that influence how our projects turn out, so simply enjoy seeing where your creativity takes you.

That said, if you really want your journals to be unique, I’d be cautious of using digital papers too much. I love using them myself (I’ve even started designing my own kits!), but I personally wouldn’t use just those to make a journal. I feel it’s best to mix digital kits with other supplies, materials and paper, so you get something truly one-of-a-kind.

Centre page inside my forest waterfall journal
My forest-themed waterfall journal has a good balance of digital papers mixed with book pages and other types of paper

Decorating Junk Journals

Should I decorate junk journal pages before or after binding them in?

This is where many journal makers disagree and the answer is: it’s up to you because you can do it either way.

I personally fill and decorate my journals after I’ve bound the pages in because I find it far too fiddly to try and do the binding after everything’s inside. The pages are heavy and things will want to slip and slide all over the place.

One word of caution if you fill your journal after binding it: keep an eye on how chunky your journal’s getting. Otherwise, you might find it becomes too chunky to close properly. This is known within the JJ community as “gator-mouth”.

READ NEXT: 10 Junk Journal Binding Ideas & Tutorials To Inspire You

Should I plan out themes or sections or is it better to just let my creativity flow and see where it takes me? 

Once again, it’s completely up to you. While some of us like to plan our journals and the themes, colours and styles we want to use, other crafters make truly eclectic journals that don’t follow any kind of pattern or theme. Neither way is the right or wrong way to do it, so I’d encourage you to try making journals both ways and see what works best for you.

How can I make sure my journal is both visually appealing and functional?

I believe junk journals should have a good balance of writing space and beautiful illustrations or colours. This writing space could be plain pages for writing on or lots of tags, journal cards and journaling spots to write on instead. When I make my journals, I try to leave every other page (at a minimum) as a writing page, which seems to work well for me.

Fairy door flip up writing spot
Here’s a writing page directly opposite a flip-up pocket inside my “Enchanted Woodland” journal – plenty of writing space and beautiful things

Bonus Tips & Suggestions

Do you have any tips for organising junk journal supplies?

My biggest tip is to store your supplies “like with like”. By this I mean having a space where all your trash and packaging go, another space for all your paper, another for fabric, glues, stickers and so on. That way, you’ll always know which part of your craft room to go to when you want a particular type of supply.

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Where can I find inspiration for junk journaling?

You can find inspiration practically anywhere, but my favourite places include:

  • YouTube (there are so many amazing crafters out there!)
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook & Instagram
  • JJ Facebook Groups (here’s ours if you want to join!)
  • Outside (I make a lot of nature-themed journals, so I always get inspiration from my adventures out and about whether it’s a change in weather, scenery or because I’ve spotted different kinds of flora and fauna)

Sometimes, I also get inspiration from simply sitting with my supplies. I don’t put pressure on myself to make anything. I simply have a look, maybe a fiddle and before you know it, I have an idea for a piece of ephemera or embellishment I could make and sometimes an entire project materialises in front of me!

Are there any online communities for junk journaling enthusiasts?

There sure are! There are lots of fabulous Facebook groups you can join. Here’s the link to ours; we’re a friendly bunch, so please do come and say “Hi!”

Read More About Junk Journals

I’ve written a whole bunch about junk journals on my website, so I hope you find something else that’s worthy of a read. You can see all my articles about junk journals here, or maybe you’d like to start with one of these first:

Do you think someone else would find this list of FAQs about junk journaling helpful? Would you consider sharing it with them?

FAQs About Junk Journaling: 20+ Tips You Need To Know
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