My first and second years at Oberlin I spent a lot of time and effort personalizing my dorm room. Many people don't care too much how their room looks (and that's totally okay!), but for me the almost embarrassingly careful curation made my room into a home and a sanctuary for sleep, relaxation and social time (no homework was done in my room, ever).
Because the sight of white cinderblock kinda bums me out, my decoration strategy was to cover as much blank wall space as possible and fill my room with pleasing-to-the-senses objects. But also spending a lot of money on dorm decorations is silly when you can save your dollars for textbooks and Kim's oriental burritos. So, for those looking to spruce up your dorm room on a budget, these are some tips and inspiration for you!! But first, *disclaimer*: your room is your new home and you should decorate it as you please!
Clothing on display
To save on closet space and add some color, use clothing/accessories as decoration. Many dorms have long shelves close to the ceiling, and this is a perfect place to store and display your shoes! I also hammered nails into my closet door and walls to hang my hats and my pretty bras (you don't have to use your underwear).
Cost: FREE!!! if you borrow a hammer from a friend, and reuse the old nails left in your wall.
Posters are a fun way of displaying your interests and taste in music/art, but can be expensive. There's usually a poster sale at Oberlin every semester where you can save $$, but for even cheaper, I made my own posters before arriving on campus. I found colorful images on Google, and then took them to my local photocopy place on a USB and had them enlarged onto glossy paper. I then hung these around my bed so I could sleep with my inspirations Big Boi and Nina Simone watching over me. These faux posters aren't very big, but can be made into a groovy wall collage.
Cost: 50¢ -$1 per enlarged image.
You can make anything look good if you put it in a clear jar!
Instead of hiding them away in their original packaging, I put on display:
hair accessories and makeup
tampons and pads (for the adventuresome)
(Cost: jars are cheap! Get them in bulk at Walmart.)
Thrift store finds and DIY!
For the crafty homies, repurposing thrift store tchotchkes into rad décor is very gratifying. My favorite move is using gold metallic spray paint to beautify absolutely everything and making your normal dorm stuff that which would please King Midas himself (cool things can also be done with chalkboard spray paint).
Gold spray paint + brick = luxe gold bar door-stop or bookend
Gold spray paint + dinged up metal cup = royal golden chalice for holding jewelry/paper clips/whatever
Gold spray paint + thrift store frame + any image = priceless work of art
Cost: <$5 for spray paint plus a few dollars for whatever you decorate.
Those are my tips! New first-years - have fun moving in!