By Lisa M. Petsche
When north winds start to blow and the temperature dips below the freezing mark, it’s tempting to crank up the thermostat to ensure indoor comfort. Better to resist, though, and use the following budget-friendly strategies for keeping you and the person you are caring for cozy all season.
- Layer clothing instead of buying a lot of heavyweight winter apparel that gets used only part of the year. Buy silk long underwear if either of you chills easily.
- Wear heavy socks with non-slip soles or bootie style slippers (with a sturdy sole) around the house, to keep feet toasty warm.
- Put a warm bathrobe on over your pajamas as soon as you wake up, if you don’t plan to get dressed right away.
- Use flannel sheets for increased warmth. Buy a quality set that has a substantial nap, is soft, and is sized generously to allow for shrinkage.
- Substitute a fleece blanket for traditional wool, cotton or other types. Polar fleece warms as well as wool, but is lighter in weight and softer. It can be machine-washed and dried and won’t shrink. Buy a quality brand that is pill-resistant.
Around the House
- Keep woven or fleece throws draped over chairs or across the bottom of beds, for easy access on drafty days and nights. They are competitively priced and come in many colors, prints and textures to suit any decor.
- Use a warm blanket or throw if you find it chilly while doing something sedentary such as watching television. If you’re staying in a cool room but moving around, or there are others with you, use a space heater for localized warmth. Be sure to position the heater where it doesn’t pose a tripping hazard.
Warming your Decor
Don’t underestimate the value of psychological warmth. Follow these tips to create a cozy look and feel for your home during the coldest months.
- Evaluate your lighting, and change it where necessary. Because of the decrease in daylight, you may wish to relocate lamps or bring spares out of storage.
- Add rich, warm colors, such as burgundy or forest green, as room accents. These can take the form of decorative throws, pillow covers, table cloths or skirts, place mats, a mantel scarf, dried flower arrangements, and so on. Brass accessories are also a winter favorite because they reflect light.
- Add texture with warm accent fabrics such as velvet, velour, chenille, or fleece (for example, as throws or removable cushion covers). Needlepoint cushions are another popular choice at this time of the year. You can also add texture with a bowl of pinecones or potpourri, embossed candles, or a grapevine wreath.
- Make generous use of candles, especially substantial pillar types, ideally placed in clusters. Using scented candles – such as vanilla, ginger or bayberry – increases the sensory impact.
Warming your Insides
- Serve soup more often with meals at this time of year, or make a hearty soup of meat and vegetables for the main course.
- Make chili and stews regularly. Be as generous with spices as your family’s taste will allow.
- For between-meals sipping, keep hot chocolate mix and apple cider on hand. Soup-in-a-cup packets work well also. You’ll warm not only your insides but your hands, too.
- Open blinds and drapes fully on sunny days to let solar heat in. Keep window coverings drawn at night to prevent heat from escaping.
- Ensure heat registers and vents are unobstructed and regularly clean or replace the furnace filter. Close heat registers in rooms that aren’t regularly used.
- Get a programmable thermostat you can offset at night when everyone is in bed.
- Check around exterior doors as well as doors to unheated spaces to see if there are any gaps where heat is escaping. Stop up threshold gaps with a door sweep or, in the case of a door that’s infrequently used, roll an old towel to use as a draft stopper.
- Decorative draft stoppers can be found at stores and in mail order catalogs, or if you’re crafty you can make your own.
- Check similarly around windows for drafts. Seal gaps accordingly to keep heat in and cold air out.
- Close the damper whenever your fireplace is not in use.
- Keep to a minimum the amount of time exterior doors and doors to unheated spaces are open.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer who has personal and professional experience with elder care.