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Why I’m Keeping My Old Journals

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me . . .

“Do you hold onto your old journals? And where do you store them?”

For years I shredded my old journals because it was a cathartic exercise; it was a way of letting go of old stories, horrible first drafts, and negativity. Earlier this year, I decided to start keeping my journals because they hold a lot of notes and ideas for my next book. The book idea is still developing and nothing is set in stone, but I want to be able to refer to those journals in the future.

Right now I’m storing my journals in “my office.” My office is a small cabinet space in our little house. It’s a shelf in our kitchen where I keep odds and ends, like my camera, knitting stuff, stationary, 3×5 cards, and empty mason jars too. I don’t have much stuff, so storing my journals isn’t a problem (at least not yet). They don’t take up much space and I can tuck them away and pull them out when I need to refer to them.

What do you do with your old journals?

Be well,

P. S. My writing class is filling up quickly; forty-one people have already signed up! Registration closes on Friday and I’m limiting enrollment to 50 people. Be sure to get your spot!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cynthia July 31, 2012, 12:15 pm

    I also shredded my old journals for similar reasons. I haven’t keep a journal in a while but am about to start again and wonder if I should keep them…I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel about it, especially if they start to accumulate again! Really looking forward to the writing class!


    • Tammy Strobel July 31, 2012, 12:26 pm

      Hey Cynthia – I’m looking forward to the writing class too! It’s going to rock. I finished writing all the content last week and I’m excited to share it with you.

      It will be interesting to see how many journals I accumulate over the next year. I already have five on my shelf. 🙂


      • Cynthia July 31, 2012, 12:41 pm

        After re-reading my comment above, I realize just how much I need the writing course…and maybe a little editing refresher lol! It is absolutely going to rock!

  • Terra July 31, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I have never discarded a journal and thus have a “personal record” stretching back three decades. I keep them right out in the open on a bookshelf in the home office I share with my husband — he would never dare to violate my privacy by reading them (yes, he is that great). I’ll often pick one off the shelf and thumb to the current day/month five years, ten years, twenty years earlier. I could never get rid of them — it would be like killing all the previous versions of myself.

    • Tammy Strobel July 31, 2012, 12:27 pm

      @Terra – That is SO cool! If I end up accumulating a lot of journals I might do something similar. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Kait Bird July 31, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I remember coming back to my mother’s house after my freshman year of college and kind of gutting out my old bedroom. I found the journals, glanced through them, realized how much I didn’t like my pre-college self and threw them all out in the dumpsters with much of the other stuff I’d left behind in the room. It was definitely cathartic, and much of those emotions I don’t care to ever remember, so it’s best they are gone and I have some closure. Nowadays, I keep notebooks full of random lists, ideas, notes etc more than “journals” exactly, but I use them until they are full, then generally just toss them. Things that were important to remember have already become outdated or were used or written down elsewhere.


  • Teri Kojetin July 31, 2012, 1:42 pm

    I have journalled off and on for 12 years and have kept all my journals. I scrapbook and I use them to refer back to when I’m doing the journalling part in my albums.
    My mom kept notebooks for several years where she journalled daily events. I used to sneak looks at them. Eventually she destroyed them all. I wish she had kept them. Now that she is gone I would love to be able to read what she wrote about living at our place in the country.

  • Sandra Pawula July 31, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    Like you, I’ve released my old journals on many occasions. Now, just this year or two, I’m keeping them as they may have writing material. I use a small size journal (5′ x 7″) so they are not too cumbersome to store. I also find it interesting to go back and read through them every few months or so as they outline the themes of my life and where I need to work for personal growth. I have separate notebooks where I keep writing ideas, but the journals may have the raw materials!

    May the ideas for your new book keep percolating happily!

  • Scott July 31, 2012, 3:16 pm


    What do you put in your journals? This probably sounds kinda silly. But do you keep to do lists, daily journal entries, notes from lectures and reading, ideas for books and writing, etc all in one journal or do you keep separate journals for specific things? Maybe you could take a few pictures of your journal pages and share them with us. I’m fascinated by this idea of journal keeping.


    • Tammy Strobel August 1, 2012, 9:26 am

      @Scott – I write about all kinds of things, from personal letters to first drafts of blog posts and I do a lot of mind-mapping too.

      I’ll take a few photos of the interior of my journal for ya.

      • Scott August 1, 2012, 10:22 am

        Excellent! Thanks!

  • Eva July 31, 2012, 3:21 pm

    Ugh, I don’t know what to do with my old journals, so they’re in a box. They are all from early years of my life, ages 12-17, which were a particularly grim period for me–they recount some experiences which I don’t wish on anyone and don’t wish to revisit. Stylistically, they’re exactly what you’d expect from someone that age: who wants to read that kind of adolescent angst? And yet I’m not sure I really want to destroy them. Maybe I should, it’d be cathartic. Maybe I shouldn’t, when I’m 60 I’ll want them.

    To avoid this dilemma, more recent journals have been electronic. I don’t really like it, but I’m a prolific writer, and I move often.

  • Aime Lopez July 31, 2012, 8:56 pm

    I still keep my journals in a box, but since I start a year ago reading your blog and other minimalism blogs start to clear the house of stuff, I’m just avoiding to clear my bookshelf with all the books and notebooks and journals I have.. 🙁 at least I cleared my closet and kitchen and only have what I really use… but I have to start with the studio room, and start with the books and old notebooks I have.. is the hardest part for me, I LOVE paper Books… and I have issues buying notebooks and journals.. I just love the Moleskine notebooks… and can’t stop buying them… you are totally right, I should get rid of the old ones, and just keep the newest ones, and this weekend I’ll start to take out books for donation.. 🙁 my precious precious books… :'(

    This is a nice posting by the way!! Thanks!!! 😉

  • Mark August 1, 2012, 2:55 am

    I started journaling a little over a year ago as a form of self-inquiry. I’ve filled two Moleskines since and discarded them when filled. For a variety of reasons, I rarely if ever read back through any of what I had written. I’ve since switch to using a Livescribe smartpen which automatically digitized everything I write. It amazingly allows me to search through my handwritten words with ease and also to transcribe everything to a typed format which I sometimes do in order to export it to my word processor. It will also save on space if I choose to start archiving my journals. I haven’t decided yet. Alternatively I could just write using my laptop, but there is something about handwriting that forces me to formulate my thoughts and ideas with much greater clarity. So far, I’m loving this mix of technology with the traditional.

  • Wendy August 1, 2012, 5:38 am

    I’m on the path to living with less. With my bookshelves becoming more bare, I’ve been wondering why I need all my journals. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  • sgl August 1, 2012, 7:27 am

    I don’t regularly keep a journal, but i did keep a journal during my 3 month trip to europe, and my 6 week trip to asia. now, 20-25 years later, i can re-read those journals and still remember details that i didn’t write down, but reading what else was going on will trigger the recall of more memories.

    also, my grandmother keep a journal from about age 16 till her thirties. reading her entries from the mid 1920’s is fascinating. including the courtship with my grandfather. little bits of family lore, plus little slices of what life was like back then. so, for the sake of your children and grandchildren, you might want to consider keeping your journals.

  • Carolyn August 1, 2012, 8:20 am

    In the past, my journals were used to vent negative feelings and anger and I would burn them because some things said in anger shouldn’t see the light of day. Now, I often write my thoughts as a prayer to keep them in a positive light and I often draw a picture to go with it.

  • becky August 1, 2012, 9:41 am

    one of the most unusual things i’ve seen someone do with old journals comes to mind. she was a fabric artist/journaler so she combined the two interests. she created a beautiful paper “quilt” wall hanging out of colorful wristbands from music concerts over the years, pieced together with strips here and there of her handwritten journals. it was a colorful, fascinating new take on old quilt patterns. she had a price tag of $2500 on it. she said she’d received a lot of positive comments on it from restaurant customers where it is displayed. she’s greatly enjoyed the feedback, but she said, “i could never sell it. there’s way too much personal history in it!”
    personally, i keep going back and forth on this decision. we recently “downsized” into a 10×20 storage unit, sold our home and are living fulltime in a 23 ft. winnebago view with 2 medium sized dogs! it was kind of a rush to move out of the house by the closing date. i remember carrying my old journals out to the trash but i honestly can’t remember if i discarded them or changed my mind and packed them into storage. now that we are “on the road” and living so much smaller, simpler and more joyfully i’m hoping i let them go. it seems increasingly that everything i’ve read, seen, experienced has led up to this new way of living. it’s all there, inside of me. in my bloodstream now, fueling me forward daily..i no longer need much in tangible form.

  • Hailey Rene August 1, 2012, 4:09 pm

    I have every journal I have ever written. I love them and they are one of my most treasured possessions. They cronicle my life. When I want to remember who I was, I can just read my own words. I can remember past lessons.

  • Brinstar August 1, 2012, 11:46 pm

    I’ve kept my journals from when I was a teenager. They’re in a box in the closet. I’ve rarely taken them out to look at them, but I have done so, particularly to refresh my memory about past events. I’ve purged a lot of my possessions over the past 1.5 years (books, clothing, videogames, etc.), but journals are amongst the items I haven’t thrown out. Not sure it I ever will, as for me, they captured moments in time. These days, I continue to keep paper journals for contemplative/deep musings for myself, and have spaces online where I keep my friends updated on my life or less contemplative content.

  • Rose Byrd August 4, 2012, 7:49 am

    Old journals are often the best journals, Tammy! I am amazed at some of my younger-days thoughts! They really help me focus today!