The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt List for Things to Collect for Art & Junk Journals

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Whether you are just starting in making junk journals or have been doing it forever, one of the things you will probably do at some point is start gathering ephemera and collage supplies for your art journals.

Sometimes this can be tricky – where do you start? Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be hard to find things to use in your art and junk journals – and many of these things can be found for free or super cheap!

{New to Junk Journaling? See our Introduction to Junk Journals for Beginners Here}

For me, finding ephemera is kind of a like a huge scavenger hunt. And  it’s one of my favorite things to do! This list is sure to have you looking at ordinary things around your house in a whole new way!

To help you brainstorm for things to collect and look out for to use in your journals, I’ve made this checklist of ideas for things to find. There is also a free printable condensed version of this list so you can print it out and tape to your fridge or planner to always have a reference list handy for things to keep!


The Ultimate List of Things to Find & Save for Journals

junk journal supply checklist

Old Interesting Books & Magazines: This is probably one of my favorite go-to supplies for junk journals! I love to look for anthologies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, kids books, books of quotes and poetry and of course magazines! Books in other languages can also be fun to use. See my post on How I Get Old Books for Journaling for some ideas and inspiration.

Junk Mail: Another obvious one – you’d be surprised how great junk mail can be! You can use the patterns on old security envelopes for bank and credit card statements, or cover those gigantic glossy post cards with some gesso and use them as a mini-canvas.

Sheet Music: You never know where you might find sheet music or what type you might find! I’ve found some great treasures at Thrift Stores and Garage Sales.

Old Sewing Patterns: These tissue-paper like sewing patterns make for great photo transfer backgrounds and texture in your art journal!

Scrapbook Paper Lots: I’ve rarely ever had to buy scrapbook paper new – you can almost always find lots of unused scrapbook paper on Craiglist and eBay.

Postage Stamps: I like to save these from letters I get in the mail and then use as ephemera in journals.

Stickers: I always find stickers cheap at the dollar store and thrift stores. Just keep in mind if you are shopping at thrift stores, stickers that are older usually won’t “stick” – be prepared to paste them on with a glue stick or matte gel medium.

Playing Cards: Playing cards are great to use as tags or journal cards in your journals. You can also use them to make your own altered cards for Artist Trading Cards or create an inspiration deck.

Old Games: Often times at thrift stores and estate sales I find a lot of old beat up games with assorted paper pads, playing pieces, and game cards.

Bingo Cards: These are super cheap even if you buy them new, but it’s fun to stumble across a vintage pack of them at a flea market too!

Greeting Cards: Finding assorted bags of greeting cards, invitations, thank you notes, valentines, post cards and more is pretty common at most thrift shops.

You can also often find out if any family or friends have old cards – just ask them to save the fronts for you! Envelopes make for fun and easy pockets in any type of journal.

Wrapping Paper: There’s so many ways to use wrapping paper in your art journals! Whether you cut out the pictures and glue them in or use them as texture – the possibilities are endless.

Tissue Paper & Napkins: These can be a lot of fun for adding texture and image transfers on your pages.

scissors and paper
Scissors, Glue Stick & Cutouts From Books & Magazines – Oh and a Composition Notebook of course!

Old Journals, Address Books, Planners & Notebooks: You can find all sorts of interesting journals and binders at thrift stores. These are great for transforming into junk journals!

Notebook paper, Notepads, Stationary: I love looking for to-do list types of notepads and pretty stationary paper.

Paper Clips & Binder Clips: You can always use these in some way in your journals. They are great for keeping pages to stay down flat while painting, use as a book mark, or even use to attach tags, cards, or envelopes in the journal.

Boxes, Organizing Bins & Containers: Confession: I have a small love and obsession for vintage Tupperware organizers for storing craft and art supplies. I’m always on the look out for these and other types of boxes and containers. There are all sorts of great things at thrift stores that can be used for organizing your ephemera and art supplies!

Concert and Event Flyers: You can often find these for free in small restaurants, cafes and bars. Not only for art journals – these are a great way to discover new artists and events happening near you!

Interesting Business Cards: Vintage business cards can be a lot of fun – or you can always create an artful directory with business cards from people you know for a creative address book. Many people even collect and sell vintage business cards.

Coffee Cup Cozies: Next time you are at a coffee shop, save one of those cardboard coffee cup cozies – they make for great texture in a journal or collage!

Matchbooks: I would recommend removing old matches safely of course first – but many vintage matchbooks have some pretty nifty designs.

Ticket Stubs: If you go somewhere with tickets, hang on to the stubs! This is great ephemera to have when you are making travel or memory-keeping types of junk journals. I also like to keep the tickets from 50-50 raffles and basket raffles.

Travel Brochures: My kids love to load up on those travel brochures you see at rest stops and welcome centers whenever we are going places. Reading through them keeps them quiet in the car for hours. But what do you do with them once you get home? Well, you use them in your journals of course!

A great example of these travel brochures? This “Historic Pithole City” brochure snagged from a recent camping trip over the summer. While it may not sound like the most exciting of tourist attractions, I loved the images & the story of this little booming little town that disappeared as quickly as it was built.

travel brochures for journaling

Receipts: Why clutter up your purse or wallet with old receipts or spend hours shredding all of them? Paste them into an art journal and cover up with some gesso and paint!

Bar Coasters: These are great texture and often have neat and interesting designs on them. I admittedly don’t go to bars like ever, but I have a few good friends who always think of me and save me a couple anytime they see one interesting to use for junk journaling.

Broken Costume Jewelry: These are great to use for adding beads and charms to your pages. You can also get creative and use them for covers, decorating the journal spine, or even adding some 3-D elements to the page.

Old Keys: Old keys are another great thing to keep an eye out for. I am always finding old keys at estate sales or even in my own garage – and I have no idea what the keys ever went to! Often times these are little keys for combination locks, though once in awhile I get lucky and find some old vintage skeleton keys.

Photographs: If you have old photos, scan them into digital format to preserve and print out for artwork! This is a great way to include those old vintage photos of family members and friends without damaging or destroying the originals.

Maps & Atlases: Need some direction? Maps make for great texture and background pages in all sorts of types of creative work!

Fabric Scraps: There are so many great ways to use fabric scraps. Whether you are making a fabric textile collage or using them to create journal covers like I do in this video – there are lots of great options!

Ribbons, Yarn, Twine and String: You can use ribbons and twine to add some decorative flair to almost any journal, or even tie around the binding of a composition notebook to give it some strength as you start adding in more papers and items. You can also use embroidery thread to hand stitch some neat patterns onto your pages or journal covers.

Mail Order Catalogs: I like these types of catalogs because there are often a lot of neat things you can cut-out and use just as you would for magazines. Some of the catalogs we regularly get from my husband’s business are more like telephone book newsprint paper, and these are great for adding texture or even paper mache projects.

Cereal Boxes: Cereal boxes are great to use for journal covers since they are made of a nice cardboard. You can also use the plastic cereal bags to add texture or use for stamping into paint for making some interesting backgrounds.

Candy Wrappers: Have a favorite type of candy? Why not save the wrapper and add it into the journal? This can be a lot of fun to do with different types of wrappers for all sorts of texture and theme ideas.

Tea Bags: Living with three kids means I almost always find loose tea bags no longer in the packaging at the bottom of a drawer or cabinet – and I have no idea how old it is or what it has come into contact with. So, rather than throwing them out, I use these to create tea stained background paper. If you find yourself enjoying a nice hot cup of tea, it’s also fun to save the wrappers and tags from them to use in junk journals.

Fruit/Vegetable Netting: Oranges, Lemons, and Onions often come in bags that is made of this plastic mesh netting. That netting is perfect for adding texture into your art journal pages with gesso or even using as a stamp when using a gel plate.

texture acrylic painting technique

Old Erasers: Speaking of Stamps, old erasers that simply don’t erase well are great to keep to carve into stamps! You can carve lines and shapes of all sorts into them and then stamp into paint or ink to use on your pages.

Packaging From Things You Buy: There’s always inspiration to find in packages from things you buy. Maybe it’s the assembly directions for a piece of furniture you bought, or an interesting design on some sort of product package. Maybe those packing peanuts from that package in the mail could be used as stamps!

Tags From Clothes and Fashion Accessories: I love saving the tags from clothes I buy for myself or the kids, because they are already the perfect size and shape for my journals. These are perfect for painting over with your own designs or even using as-is.

Labels from Soaps and Bath & Beauty Products: Not only are soap labels cute to decorate with – often times they can add a nice soft scent to your journal! It’s also the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a nice bar of your favorite soap!

Cardboard Boxes: I love cardboard boxes because there are so many ways to use them for journaling and other different crafty projects.

Paper Roll Tubes: From Paper Towels to TP rolls, these are great to use for all sorts of things! Glue some foam shapes on them and you have a fun texture roller for your paint. Flatten them and they are the perfect size to use as pockets and envelopes for tags. These can also be used for mark making and stamps!

Anything else that is flat and can be glued down: If it’s flat – it can go into an art journal or junk journal easily!


Where to Find These Supplies for Your Junk Journal

free and cheap junk journal supplies

Many people ask where I find all the different supplies I use for art journals, and most of my favorite places are super cheap and easy to find!

Thrift Stores & Flea Markets: Probably one of my favorite sources to find cheap supplies! $10 at a flea market or thrift store can definitely go a long way. I especially love church rummage sales and flea markets as they usually have bag sales towards the end of the sale.

Estate Sales: There are a lot of estate sales and these too are a great way to find different things to use in your journals cheaply. You can even shop many estate sales online – just be sure to read the rules, since most online estate sales require you to pick up and transport anything you buy in person at a specific time. Something to keep in mind if you bid on a heavy and bulky item like a full shelf of books!

Garage Sales: These are most common in the spring and summer, and a great way to find cheap treasures! Shop early in the morning for the best selection – shop later in the morning or afternoon for the best prices!

Local Craigslist: I always find all sorts of great lots for sale on Craigslist. I usually type in words like “scrapbook, crafts, sewing, fabric, books” etc. to find all sorts of interesting things. You can also have a lot of success if you post in the “Wanted to Buy” sections.

Local Facebook Buy/Sell Groups: These are gaining more and more popularity. While there are craft & junk journal specific swap groups, you can often find really good deals just by browsing your local buy/sell flea market types of groups. You can also post a “items wanted list” for things you are looking to buy or get free and cheap.

eBay: eBay sells all sorts of beautiful ephemera lots. Some of the items are listed there at collector value, but you can also find really great deals on all types of old ephemera. {See some of my favorite lots here!} If you love bulk lots or really love vintage, you can find a lot of great things there!

Etsy: More and more sellers are starting to offer all types of different items on Etsy as well. You can find ephemera lots, junk drawer lots, mixed media supply lots, and more! Shop Ephemera lots on Etsy Here.

Dollar Stores: I love dollar stores, because there is always something fun to find there inexpensively. I even love just looking through the – and if you don’t mind ordering in bulk, you can actually shop Dollar Tree online and pick up at any store near you later. How cool is that?

Ask Family & Friends: Your friends and family members likely have a lot of old stuff they’d like to get rid of for you – and some may even be willing to save specific things for you. If they are cleaning out something like an attic, basement or garage they will definitely be happy to know you are going to put it to good use rather than it being thrown out.


Free Printable: Junk Journal Supply Checklist

scavenger hunt checklist for ephemera

Want a reference list to keep on hand for types of things to save? Feel free to print out and use this printable for your own personal use!

This printable is a PDF file and is in a condensed checklist format of all the materials listed in the blog post.

Click Here to Download

Use it to keep track of things you find – or better yet, print out multiple copies and give it to family and friends so they know exactly what types of things they can save for you and your creative habit!

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8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt List for Things to Collect for Art & Junk Journals”

  1. It’s a shame that most movie theaters give you those computer-printed tickets now, but there are still some venues that give you those old-fashioned colored cardboard tickets. Another thing to use is old train or transit schedules.

    Reply
    • Wallpaper is a great idea! One of my friends gave me once and said, now here’s a giant altered book project for you! 🙂

      Reply

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