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Everything you need for DIY dorm room décor

From thumbtacks to washi tape to your first toolkit.

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Another college school year is nearly here, and with it comes the need for new dorm furniture, school supplies, and decorations. If you or someone in your life is headed off to a college dorm in a few weeks, you may be on the hunt for items that will help cut costs, especially with rising inflation.

DIY projects are a great way to save money on decorations, especially when you're in college, but even self-directed craft projects require a few base tools to get you started. Whether you're simply hanging up your pictures from home, or looking to give your new space a fresh, personal look, here are some of the tools you'll need to ramp up your dorm décor for less.

1. Handy thumbtacks

Two images of bulk packs of thumbtacks, one clear and one rose gold.
Credit: Yalis/Reviewed

Thumbtacks can help you make a room yours.

College will really teach you that thumbtacks can do just about anything. Whether you're hanging up posters, hanging frames, or even hanging up your tote bags, thumbtacks will get you through. Some people prefer to use Command Strips in dorms, but a lot of Command Strip reviews note that the seemingly mark-free adhesive can actually tear paint away from walls. These thumbtacks from Amazon come in a pack of 1,000, so you'll have enough for yourself and your roommates. You can also get a smaller pack of rose gold thumbtacks, in the event that you want to cultivate a more sophisticated look.

Rose gold pushpins for $4 at Amazon
Clear pushpins for $8 at Amazon

2. String for macrame projects

An image of a roll of white macrame cotton string.
Credit: Flipped/Reviewed

Get crafting with macrame.

Woven, texture-heavy decorations like macrame wall hangings and planters can lend a dorm room a sense of homey coziness that might otherwise be absent—as a bonus, the string required for macrame is pretty cheap. If you failed to get on the macrame trend that was circulating on Pinterest early in the pandemic, college might be the time. You can purchase this 109-yard roll of cotton macrame string in 38 different colors, and over 6,000 reviewers gave the product a 5-star rating.

$8 at Amazon

3. Contact paper for old countertops

Two images of the same contact paper in pale gray and white marble print. One image has the contact paper rolled up, the other has the paper adhered to a desktop and applied.
Credit: Amazon/Reviewed

Contact paper can transform dull or unpersonalized furniture in your space.

Contact paper can help elevate a space, especially if the space you're redecorating has old, plastic countertops or a surface you'd prefer to see covered. This marble-print contact paper will adhere to your countertops and can be cut down to the dimensions you need. Over 15,000 reviewers gave this glossy grey and white contact paper 5-star ratings, but if you plan on achieving a different look, there are plenty of other options and styles available at Amazon.

$7 at Amazon

4. Washi tape for just about everything

An image of a rainbow set of washi tape in various colors, half-unrolled so that the spools sit upright in a row.
Credit: Knaid/Reviewed

Tape up posters, set up gallery walls, or organize your bookshelves with washi tape.

Whether you're creating a gallery wall, organizing your notebooks, or embarking on a new journaling journey for the start of the school year, this washi tape will help you customize your space (and your organizational tools). This tape set comes in a variety of different options, with different patterns and colors in each set. Reviewers noted that the variety of colors in each box of tape made them great for decorating other objects like plant pots, cardboard, and more.

$16 at Amazon

5. A tool set for building and renovating

An image of an orange toolkit with several different tools including a wrench, Allen keys, a tape measure, a screwdriver, a hammer, and more.
Credit: Amazon / Reviewed

Get the job done (with the right tools).

A tool set is one of the best things you can buy someone who's headed off for college. Not only will they be able to undertake home improvement projects on their own, they'll have the opportunity to get creative with their decor solutions if they have the tools to do it. This beginner's toolset comes with a screwdriver, pliers, a wrench, a tape measure, Allen keys, and utility scissors. It's also available in a variety of colors, like pink, red, and blue.

$20 at Amazon

6. A sewing kit for the truly crafty

An image of a half-unpacked sewing kit next to a packed, organized sewing kit. The kit itself contains multiple small spools of thread, needles, scissors, and other small sewing tools.
Credit: Coquimbo/Reviewed

DIY projects are made easy with a stocked sewing kit.

If you plan on undertaking a few projects while at school, or you want to give your college-bound student a way to repair their own clothes and linens, a sewing kit is another great going-away staple. This Coquimbo sewing kit comes with needles, several spools of neutral and brightly colored thread, a thimble, small sewing scissors, and more. 16,000 reviewers gave this sewing kit a 5-star review, with several people pointing out that it made a practical gift for young adults looking to get into sewing as a hobby as well as those that needed a simple supply kit for basic repairs.

$7 at Amazon

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.