How to keep warm in winter
I know how miserable Winter can be. I used to rent a small mill cottage which barely got any sun even in Summer.
We had no central heating, no double glazing, no loft insulation, damp and gaps under the doors!
It was quite pleasant in the height of Summer if you wanted to get out of the strong sun but Winters in a small village which was prone to power cuts was a nightmare.
But at least I learnt how to stay as warm as possible for as cheap as possible in that house.
With noisy rude neighbours it was amazing I put up with it for so long!
First you need to stop all of those drafts coming in.
You’re going to need:
- Draft excluders
If you can't afford a fancy, designer, novelty sausage-dog draft excluder then can you make one?
I've made draft excluders by rolling up a section from an old duvet and covering it in durable fabric like the leg of an old pair of jeans. You don't even have to know how to sew - just tie the ends of the legs up with a piece of string. Alternatively you can just roll up an old winter coat or towel and lie that in front of the gap under your doors.
Make your un-carpeted floor cosier for your feet by putting down some rugs. Sometimes you can find rugs for cheap in charity and thrift stores.
One Winter I picked up a peg loom and made my own rugs out of strips of old fabric and wool.
- Double glazing film
This is like cling film for your windows and you can use it to cover any window which you're not going to need access to during the Winter. It's not immediately noticeable and doesn't obstruct your view but it will stop drafts coming in. Obviously this isn't a good choice for French windows and perhaps not for kitchen windows either. Other concerns include the problem of mould growing and not being able to get to the windows quickly enough in the event of a fire or needing to escape quickly through the windows for other reasons.
- Padded curtains
Padded and quilted curtains are great at night time if you don't have double glazing. You could also hang old quilts up over your windows or think about adding extra layers to the your current curtains. I recently sewed another layer to the back of my curtains as they're cream and unlined so not actually very useful as curtains. Having longer curtains can also keep the heat in better and the drafts out.
Think about what you can hang from a curtain rod or try adding a hook on either corner of the window. Be aware of the weight as you don't want a curtain rod falling down on you in the middle of the night.
- Loft Insulation
This is the big one that everyone seems to talk about in Winter and it can make a big difference to the amount of heating you need to have on.
Check to see if you can get a grant for loft insulation. I believe that was possible at one point here in the UK.
Energy Saving Trust: Loft Insulation (UK)
This window insulator kit comes with enough film to insulate 5 3ft x 5ft windows. Tape is also included.
Simply tape the film over your windows and use a hair dryer to remove wrinkles and create a tight fit.
If you don't want to fuss about with sewing bits onto your curtains or making quilted curtains how about getting some curtain liners? These liners attach to the back of your existing curtains and can block both the hot sun and cold drafts.
Use the Sun
Use the sun to your advantage. If it's a sunny Winter day then open your sun-facing curtains and let nature's heat in. We have French windows that face east and the amount of heat we get through them is incredible. Of course the downside is that it's such a big window to let in the chill as well.
As soon as the sun starts to go then close your windows to trap in the day's heat. Put up those quilts or whatever else you have to keep the drafts out.
Find a Cosy Nook
To cut down on heating costs think about finding a central room from where to live.
I had a studio space in the spare room at my old house, where I worked in the Summer. In the winter it sometimes got too cold to even go in there so I used it as a storage space instead and worked downstairs in the living space.
This living space then became the only room I heated during the cold period. It was right under the bedroom so any heat that escaped through the ceiling would heat the bedroom (in theory - in practice there were too many drafts in the bedroom).
What to Wear
Once you’ve got your house sorted you need to work on what you’re wearing.
It's time to think about layers.
I love wearing my leggings under jeans, skirts etc in Winter. They work just as well as thermal long johns and are often cheaper and more widely available (plus you can wear them all year round). If you favour jeggings and skin tight jeans then you'll have trouble getting your leggings on under them, of course. It could be a good idea to get some pants in the next size up.
I rarely wear socks during Spring, Summer and Autumn but I've got some thick chunky socks for Winter. I like to put on a thinner pair of socks first and then layer a chunkier pair on top. I also have socks I like to reserve for wearing to bed.
You can get some fabulously warm slippers these days. My favourites are furry slipper boots. This is another area where you can use your crafting skill. I knitted up some lovely felted boots a while back that are made with Icelandic wool.
Vest tops/tank tops can be a great first layer for trapping some warm air next to your skin and they're also useful in Summer. I think it pays to have clothes you can use all year round instead of having special Winter vests. That way you're not paying out for 2 different wardrobes and you're also saving space.
Make sure your sweaters are roomy enough to fit all those other layers underneath. I often wear a long-sleeved t-shirt under my sweaters but you can also wear thinner sweaters underneath too.
If it's cold in your bedroom, I recommend wearing a woolly hat to bed. You'll want to use a hat that doesn't have too much texture or bobbles that might make it difficult to get comfy.
- Gloves and Mittens
Hands can suffer terribly in Winter. Gloves and mittens can be awkward to wear if you want to get anything done. Fingerless gloves are good but your fingers get cold. Consider buying a pocket warmer so your hands warm up between tasks.
Just planning a long relaxing night on the couch?
Why not try a Slanket! This thing will keep you completely covered and cosy for a night of watching TV, reading a book or just relaxing with your loved ones.
When I was learning to knit, I found this book to be incredibly useful.
Stitch 'n Bitch includes a range of great patterns and tells you everything you need to know when you're just starting out, even something simple like casting on.
This won't suit everyone but if you're into learning how to do everything from scratch then this might be a great time to take up warm activities like knitting and baking.
Hear me out, this isn't as crazy as it sounds.
As soon as I used to feel that Autumn chill (usually through closed windows in my old drafty cottage) I had the urge to knit big chunky sweaters. The great thing about knitting is that not only do you end up with a warm and (hopefully) wearable item but whilst you're knitting you have the knit fabric keeping your lap warm as you work on it - even better if you're knitting a blanket. This is why I try to avoid knitting anything but the smallest items in Summer! Go for a warm fibre like wool or alpaca (musk ox if you can get it!) rather than a plant fibre like cotton.
Knitting gives you something to do during those long, cold, dark winter nights.
Once you get confident with knitting you can even do it whilst watching TV, or reading a book (hardcovers or a Kindle (or similar) are best for this because you can lie them flat).
Baking is particularly good if you have a small kitchen - even better if your kitchen is located beneath your bedroom. All that lovely heat from the cooker will rise up and have your bedroom bearable by bed time. If a particularly cold evening crops up why not do batch cooking/baking and make several freezable meals at once. Hot food and hot drinks should give you a nice warm glow for a while too.
How about Exercise?
Keeping your body moving can warm you up and work off all the calories from the baked goods you've been cooking and eating. The only problem with this is the inevitable cooling down that comes later.
There are many exercise videos available online. I find that a 40 minute circuit training video can keep me hot (and red in the face) for up to an hour afterwards.
Use a dodgy old laptop.
OK, so this option may be a bit tongue in cheek but the old laptop I use for word processing chucks out a ridiculous amount of heat. Even with a book between me and the laptop it's unbearably hot in the Summer! What things or activities have you got in your life that can keep you warm?
One thing we decided to buy when we lived in our last house was a little gas camping stove. If there were any power outages we knew we could make hot drinks, have a hot meal and fill our hot water bottles.
A Quick Plan for Winter
- Check the loft and see if it needs insulating.
- Get enough hot water bottles for everyone.
- Obtain draft excluders for all doors leading to the outside.
- Make quilted curtains to go over doorways.
- Cover windows with film, quilted curtains etc.
- Check everyone has enough sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, coats, layers etc
- Brush up on knitting skills and make hats, mittens, scarves, blankets, sweaters.
- Dig out Winter bedding and bed clothes.
- Find any blankets that can be used on the couch.
- Decide where to make your "base" in the house for cold winter evenings.
- Check heating and fuel. Does anything need to be ordered?
Hot water bottles are essential if you don't want to get in between freezing cold sheets at bedtime. Once you're in bed you also have a foot warmer ready to go.