Decorating Your Dorm on a Budget

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Going through some old photos I found some of my dorm room from the first year I was in university. Are you ready for this? Okay, look.

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Did I have way too much shit in that room? Yes, absolutely. But for some students (like me) I think it’s important to take the time to decorate and make a dorm room fun. It was a great way for me to destress, I enjoyed changing up the decorations, and my friends thought it was fun when they came over. It was a tiny single room so making it cheerful was important.

So here are my suggestions on things you can pick up for cheap and incorporate into your decorations. Everything keeps in mind that these things need to be temporary, not damage the walls, and be relatively inexpensive.

1. Gift Wrap

I was always confused why nobody else picked up on doing this. I used to buy rolls of cheap gift wrap from the dollar store (they usually had some solid colours, sometimes metallics) and put them up on the walls for blocks of colour. In my dorm photo you can see that I used an ill-fitting pink wrap to cover the bulletin board. A larger size roll would have covered it completely. It makes a nice base for sticking other things on, too.

2. Postcards and other papers

If you’re like me and have hoarded postcards from travels and holidays, as well as from places I’ve lived, then these make great additions to collages or bulletin boards. Photos work in the same way, but I found that everyone had photos up, so that wasn’t so unique a suggestion. I’ve also put up pages from magazines, flyers from shows I’ve attended, and pamphlets from various things.

3. Flowers 

In an ideal world we would all either be rich enough to buy fresh flowers all the time, or live in a climate where it doesn’t snow. I’m in neither of these categories so I used a lot of fake flowers in decorating my room. They were easy to pin onto bulletin boards, put into empty wine bottles to make a display, or stuck in bookshelves to try and cheer up those textbooks.

4. Curtains

Here’s where I ended up going a little overboard, but who cares? I got adhesive hooks from the dollar store and really cheap curtain rods (or you can use wire or whatever you can find) and hung sheer curtains from the ceiling to make a canopy bed. Was it frivolous? Absolutely. Did I feel like I was living in a cool fort while I studied? Totally. Add in some fairy lights and you’re in a happy study palace.

5. Paper Chains

I would get really tired from reading and buy a big pack of construction paper and work on making paper chains. It was nice and brainless and they were also fun to hang in the common rooms for parties. These are easy to make in school colours so it can be fun. Different shapes are nice too, if you have a lot of spare staples you can join together circles or diamonds and hang them in front of windows for a nice effect.

6. Tissue Paper Flowers

I made a bunch of these for my second apartment, which was much bigger, and I had a habit of decorating it with giant things since I had so much space. I had a big cardboard tree at one point in the corner, too. Anyways, the flowers are giant and fluffy and can be in whatever colours you want. Check out online for tutorials if you don’t know what I’m talking about (or maybe I’ll do a tutorial eventually!)

Do you have other ideas for decorating a dorm room on a budget? I miss the days of being able to do whatever I wanted in a small space like that! It really made the creativity work hard.

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