Listen, friend, you do not need all the memory-keeping tools and supplies — the focus of memory-keeping is your MEMORIES, not the supplies you used to document them.
Repeat after me: you do not need all the memory-keeping tools and supplies.
I know that one of the struggles that memory-keeping beginners have is not knowing what tools and supplies to buy. There is a LOT of supplies that you can buy and it can get overwhelming if you’re not sure of what you’re looking for. In this article, I want to share with you the best “basics” of memory-keeping tools and supplies. All of these are based on my own personal experience of memory-keeping throughout the years.
There are many different methods of memory-keeping — creative journaling, digital scrapbooking, writing, photo albums, etc. — but in this article, I want to focus more on creative journaling. If you use a different method of memory-keeping, I’m sure that you’ll still be able to find a thing or two in this list that you can use ☺️
If you were to really strip down your list, at the end of the day all you really need are a writing instrument, your photos, and a journal to put everything in. But you already knew that 😉 I’m also going to share the tools and supplies that I think are easy to get but gives you a lot of flexibility when working on your journals.
01. Journal 📔
I want to start with this because whatever you choose for your journal might affect the rest of the memory-keeping tools and supplies you’ll want to get. One thing you need to keep in mind is your memory-keeping method. If you’re more of a mixed-media kind of person, you might want to go for sketchbooks or notebooks with a thicker paper. My recommendations below are great for creative journaling in general (hand-lettering, collaging, writing, etc.) but they might not work well with wetter mediums like acrylic paint.
If you like undated journals/notebooks…
- Minimalism Art Dotted Grid A5 Notebook
- Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook Refill 013
- Midori MD A5 Grid Notebook
If you prefer dated journals…
I’ve only tried Hobonichi Techo A6 and I do love it but they are on the pricier end of the spectrum so I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners who might be looking for a cheaper way to get started with memory-keeping. They’re also a lot more difficult to get a hold of since you have to buy from their Japan website or from resellers in your country.
02. Pens / Writing Instruments ✏️
I have two categories for pens: one for writing and one for decorating. Writing pens are the ones you use to journal, to write captions and paragraphs. Decorative pens are the markers, the brush pens, the colored pens, you know what I mean. I would recommend getting a few pens in each category since they’re multi-purpose and you will find yourself using them a lot, especially if you enjoy writing details down.
My favorite writing pens are:
- MUJI Smooth Gel Ink Ballpoint
- Pilot G-tec C3
- Zebra Sarasa Clip
Choosing a writing pen is a very personal and subjective matter; it usually depends on how it feels on your hand when you’re writing so it might take a while before you find the perfect pen for you. These three pens are the ones I keep coming back to over the years (and many other memory-keepers and bullet journalists also rave about them) so I believe that this is a good place to start.
My most used decorative pens and markers are:
- Zebra Mildliners (in different colors)
- Sharpie markers (just the regular ones in different widths)
- PaperMate Flair Felt Tip Pen (Medium)
- Crayola Supertips markers
There is a very wide range of products to choose from in this category but I always find myself going back to these three. You can make bold titles with the Sharpie, add pops of colors with the Mildliners and draw or hand-letter with the PaperMate Flair pen.
03. Printed photos + camera 📸
One of the questions that I get asked a lot whenever I upload a page from my journal is:
“How do you print your photos? Where do you get your photos printed?”
The short answer is: I print at home.
It’s not the most cost-effective method since you do have to buy the printer, paper and ink but because I tend to do my memory-keeping in frequent and short sessions, this is what works for me. If you prefer printing your photos or memory-keeping in bulk, it’s probably better to get it printed in your local photo printers.
My favorite tools for printing at home are:
- Regular photo printer (I used to use a Canon PIXMA IP2770 and it worked well for me; I now have a Canon Pixma TS5170 since I use it for my sticker shop as well.)
- Matte/glossy sticker paper
Yes, I do print my photos on sticker paper. It’s a lot more convenient than printing on photo paper since the adhesive is built in, plus it’s also thinner and that helps me manage the thickness of the journal. Hot tip for you 🔥
04. Essential Tools ✂️
These are tools that you will most likely use every single time so make sure that you have one on hand!
- A good pair of sharp scissors
- Some kind of adhesive (I love the Kokuyo Dot Adhesive Runner!)
- Date stamp (especially of you’re using an undated journal)
05. Decorative Paper 📜
These are one of the supplies that you can collect over time. I do recommend having a few “neutral” designs on hand:
- magazine pages
- old book pages
- lined/grid notebook pages
- kraft paper
These designs are timeless and will prove to be useful in any kind of layout. I like to save bits and pieces of paper from packaging, gift wrapping, and the like. You don’t need to splurge on fancy decorative paper books when you’re starting out; you can find and repurpose paper almost anywhere!
06. A *few* rolls of washi tape 💎
Emphasis on few 🤣
Washi tapes are decorative tape made from washi paper. Their claim-to-fame is that they are re-positionable and come in a lot of designs. You can easily drown yourself in all the washi tape designs available but I would advice your to start with designs that you’ll use more often:
- solid color washi tapes (like these ones from mt)
- grid-patterned washi tapes (here’s one from shop stellaire)
- patterns that you naturally like: stars, hearts, etc.
07. Stickers! 🌟
We all probably had that moment when we were younger where we hoarded all the cute stickers in a sticker book. I’m so guilty of being afraid to use up my stickers and it’s silly, really, because what else would we use stickers for if not to prettify our lives? So go crazy and USE UP THOSE STICKERS, friend!
The sticker world is overwhelming (as with most stationery) so here are some of my recommendations:
- Circle stickers in neutral and/or your favorite colors (here are some made by @plannedbyjysla, @booksandteacupsshop, and yours truly)
- Nature-themed stickers — think: botanical motifs, clouds/sky, furry pets and animals (here are a couple from @deerbambino, @minniesmall and @jordan.e.clark)
- Daily Life themed stickers — think: household chores, sleep, lounging, food (a few from @fromseatostars, @inthemood.for and @yayitsvica)
Like decorative paper and washi tape, it’s best to build your sticker collection over time rather than buy in bulk. That way, you’re sure that your collection is always current with your taste. Trust me, your taste will probably vary over the years and you’ll find it harder to use older stickers that no longer fit with your current style.
Here’s a quick recap that you can use as a shopping list:
- journal / sketchbook
- writing pen
- decorative pens / markers / highlighters
- printed photos
- adhesive (glue stick / adhesive roller / double-sided tape)
- date stamp
- decorative paper (magazine, old book pages, notebook paper, etc.)
- washi tape
Only the first six are true necessities to get started, really. Everything else, you can get as you go along your memory-keeping journey. Remember, the mission is to tell your story.
If you’re just starting out and this list of memory-keeping tools and supplies is enough for you to get started on memory-keeping, I created A Week Of Small But Certain Happiness, a free downloadable guide which include seven memory-keeping prompts and layout inspiration that focuses on discovering and documenting the little joys that can be found in your everyday life.
But if you’re curious and experimental, I have a couple more recommendations for ya!
The Curious + Experimental Set
If you have all the basics down and you want to get a little “fancier,” here are some memory-keeping tools and supplies that you can get a lot of use out of. Pick and choose the one that you think would work well with the memory-keeping method that you’re doing.
01. Stamps 💮
Stamps are on the pricier side but they are great investments since you can pretty much use them forever. You can also probably find clear stamps on just about any theme. I recommend getting alphabet and number stamps that you can use for titles, lists, and more. These stamps are a good place to begin with:
02. Ink Pads 🎨
If you have stamps, then you definitely need to get a couple of ink pads 😅 And no, ink pads don’t always have to be black… you can find ink pads in range of colors. I definitely recommend getting a black one + a couple of colors that you like 😊
I like pigment ink pads because they’re fast-drying (not instant so give ’em a few seconds!) and opaque. Usually, the color you see on the ink pad is the same as when you stamp it on paper. Light-colored ink is also visible when stamped on dark paper since the paper doesn’t absorb the ink, as it does with dye-based ink pads.
03. Ephemera Packs 🎟
If you want to quickly build up your collection of “paper things” that you can use on your layouts, ephemera packs are a great way to do that. Basically, it’s an assortment of decorative paper that are usually themed. You can get these in most crafting stores or online. I recommend getting specific themes which will make it easier to actually use these packs.
- Vintage Expedition/Travel-themed ephemera pack by Tim Holtz
- Botanical-themed frames and tags by Carta Bella Paper Company
- Destinations-themed by Cavallini & Co
04. Embossing Label Maker 🏷
Yep, the old school label maker is making a comeback! I love using this to add depth and texture to any layout. And also, I just love how it feels to the touch~
You can use these for titles, short captions, or to emphasize specific words in your layout. It’s a great design element in itself if you love the look of it. I use this one by Motex and it does the job.
05. Dot Pens/Markers 🖍
I’ve recently discovered these Kuretake ZIG Clean Color Dot Pens and I love them! You probably don’t need a separate marker to create dots/circles but these just does the job perfectly. It’s super easy to use and you can even vary the size of the dot using pressure. They’re also translucent to a certain extent so you can use it to mark days on a calendar or highlight text.
06. Brush Pens/Markers 🖌
Going along with the theme of specialty markers, brush pens/markers are perfect for hand-lettering titles. I’m personally still working on my hand-lettering skills but if you love lettering, you’ll probably enjoy using these:
07. Sticker photo printer 🖼
I mentioned earlier that I print all my photos on sticker paper using a photo printer at home. If you want the same convenience without investing on an actual printer, you can get one of these sticker photo printers. They do need a special kind of paper but it’s definitely convenient and perfect for portable memory-keeping!
And that’s it!
I’m sure there are a LOT of supplies out there that are great for memory-keeping (I didn’t even include any wet medium like watercolors in this article!) but this list is a solid place to start. You can create a lot of amazing layouts with just these memory-keeping tools and supplies! You can always expand and experiment with new things as you become more familiar with your own style and what you enjoy playing with the most.
I cannot stress this enough: you do not need all the memory-keeping tools and supplies in the world to get started. The first six supplies that I shared are the only true essentials. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you use the basics or the fancier stuff — if you’re documenting the memories that you want to look back on and if you are telling your story in our own unique voice, you’re doing great 💫