With the recent snow storms in our area, I’ve been wondering what other people are doing to stay warm and safe, without spending a lot of money. Last week I talked about remembering how to dress when the temperature drops. This week I’d like to challenge you to think about other things to do during cold weather to stay warm without stressing your budget.
Without a major home improvement project to add insulation and upgrade the windows, there are simple ways to add warmth to your days, and nights. Here are a few of my favorite, rather simplistic ways that we stay warm in our house during the winter months.
Wear socks and shoes inside. If you are accustomed to taking your shoes off in the house, develop a winter strategy. We have shoes that we wear inside the house during the winter. A quick look through your closet may provide you with some old sneakers that could be used as your “indoor only” shoes. Have a pair of shoes with socks stuffed inside for each person in your family. Place them right inside the door so your feet never have to be anything but toasty warm.
Wear a big old sweater. Wearing a sweater over your clothes will help more than just wearing a sweater instead of a shirt. If you have a shirt or t-shirt on, adding a big old sweater on top will boost your body heat incredibly. I suggest going to the thrift shops and investing in a couple big old sweaters from the men’s department. They are much nicer than the fashionable ladies sweaters. They’re bigger, thicker, and bulkier – all nice things when trying to get cozy. Don’t shy away from those grandfatherly cardigans as they often have nice amenities, like pockets.
Wear a scarf. Oftentimes, it’s the chill around your shoulders and neck that can send shivers down your whole body. A cute little soft scarf can ward off that cold we feel just at the base of the neck. Scarves are fashionable now so you can even get your youngsters to wear them inside.
Use insulating or heavy drapes. I know insulating draperies work well to seal off the drafts around windows, so they may be worth the investment. As an alternative, shop the thrift stores which are packed with all sorts of drapes and curtains. Chose some mix and match patterns and create your own “insulated” drapes by combining several drapes on the same window.
Use door draft stoppers. You don’t need to invest in expensive gadgets, just a little “draft stopper snake“ will do. If you don’t have one, even a rolled up towel will help. It may seem like not that much to worry about, but the air that’s gently seeping around under your door really speeds up when the furnace kicks in and it starts stealing air from anywhere handy. Forced air furnaces have air supplies designed for them, but furnaces are greedy and lazy, and will steal air from anywhere they can get it.
Seal off your fireplace. Think of the cold air outside like water, pouring down your chimney and onto the floor. It’s doubly bad when your furnace is running, sucking cold air down the chimney and right across the floor past your feet and legs. brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. When you are not burning a fire in your fireplace, completely seal it off by closing the draft and covering the screen or door with a heavy blanket, or build an insulated door to seal your fireplace off.
Turn ceiling fans on. If your heating vents are on the ceiling, turning the fans on, circulating the air down, will move the heated air down to where you are. Even if your heating vents are not on the ceiling, heat rises, and just moving that heated air down will help keep you warmer. Why pay to heat the air and have it hover around the ceiling instead of around you?
Close doors to uninhabited rooms. This is something that was done routinely in the old days. Oftentimes, a whole wing of a house would be shut off during the coldest weather, leaving only the kitchen and the rooms surrounding the kitchen open for the inhabitants, sometimes even changing the sleeping arrangements. I don’t suggest that you need to go to this extreme, but do you have a spare bedroom or hallway with the door left open? It could be unnecessarily heated. Depending on the extremes of your area, you may even consider shutting the heat vents to those unused areas, as long as there is no plumbing in that room.
Cook hearty meals. We’re talking soups, stews, and meals that require some serious preparation and cooking time. Not only will the activity warm you up, but the hot, steamy plate of food will warm your belly. Warming the inside is just as important as warming the outside. Remember though, that your oven is not an efficient source of heat, so if you use your oven, be sure to cook two or even three meals at the same time for the sake of economy. And never, never just turn your oven on to heat a room. It is very inefficient and it could be dangerous if forgotten.
Wash dishes by hand. Just soaking your hands in hot water will warm up your whole body. So, why not get the dishes out of the way at the same time. If you’ve got a sink full of hot, soapy water and you’ve finished with the evening dishes, grab a few casseroles or pots and pans that have been gathering dust and give those a scrub. Not only is the hot water warming you up, but the activity is, too.
Get up and move. Instead of watching TV, play a game that requires some movement, like charades. Or do a project, like cleaning out a closet, that you’ve been putting off. Moving around will warm you up… and get that project out of the way.
Add more warm layers to your beds. Along with adding more blankets to the top of your bed, consider adding a blanket or two underneath the bottom sheet. Sometimes, no matter how many blankets you’ve got on top of you, it’s the cold seeping up from below that’s giving you the chills. You may need to invest in heated mattress pads and blankets in extremely cold weather, but that’s an added expense. Sometimes, just a little extra padding under you will help more than you might think.
Don’t forget the pajamas and socks. It may seem simple, but have you gotten out your warm jammies and sockies? Keeping your body, especially your feet, toasty warm at night will help you get to sleep and sleep better. If your feet are warm your whole body is warm. So, it figures that if your feet are cold your whole body is cold, right? Once you are snug in your bed, covered head to toe, your room can be a little cooler for sleeping. No need to heat the whole room when all you need is your little warm cocoon.
These are just a few tips for getting and staying warm during the cold winter days and nights. I’ve learned these “tricks” through years of living in drafty houses when the wind was howling and the snow was blowing. I call them “tricks” but they’re really just common sense.
Of course, when fuel is easy to come by and cheaper than dirt, we don’t think about staying warm – we just heat up the house. When fuel is expensive and resources are depleted, we get resourceful once again and realize that keeping our bodies warm is something apart from keeping our houses heated. Staying warm is as simple as wrapping ourselves up with cozy things, and surrounding ourselves with warm and wonderful people!
I challenge you to look around the next time you feel a chill and see if you can implement any of these simple solutions.