7 Tactics for Staying Warm in a Cool House

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person wearing wool socks next to fireplace sips hot tea

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Do the green thing and resist reaching for the thermostat.

A yellow Post-It note covers the thermostat at my parents' house. It says, "Don't touch! Put log on fire!" Indeed, their house in the Canadian forest is unusual. It is heated predominantly by a wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen, and the furnace is used only at night to "take the edge off" if the outdoor temperature is supposed to drop below -20C (-4F). This means that the kitchen is always toasty warm, sometimes oppressively so, while the rest of the house can be uncomfortably cool.

As a result, my siblings and I learned from early on to use old-fashioned tactics to stay warm and cozy all winter long. I was delighted to see many of these 'tricks' listed in an article on The Simple Dollar by Donna Freedman, titled "11 Essential (and Mostly Cheap) Tactics for Weathering Winter's Worst." These tricks are useful not only for saving money and allowing one to keep the thermostat lower, but also, I'd argue, for making the cold winter months more enjoyable; they add an element of coziness.

Below are my daily cold-busting tactics, many of which are shared in common with Freedman's article and some that aren't. The more you do these things, the more normal they become. Now I keep my own home cool (17C/63F during the day, 12C/54F at night) because these ingrained practices eliminate the need to turn up the heat.

#1: Wool socks and slippers

If you live in an uncarpeted house with hardwood floors, as I do, then wool socks and slippers are an absolute must. Each on its own is helpful, but put the two together and you'll have the most divinely warm feet all day long.

#2: Hot drinks

Working from home means that I'm fairly still for prolonged periods of time, sitting or standing in front of my computer. Having a steady supply of hot tea gets me through the day without overdoing the caffeine. Drink anything hot – lemon water with honey, broth in a mug, spiced apple cider, coffee, steamed flavored milk. It will raise your body temperature and boost your mood.

#3: A 'frugal heating pad' and/or hot water bottle

Donna Freedman describes how to make a frugal heating pad: "Fill a sock or small cloth bag with uncooked rice, and heat in the microwave for a warmth that keeps on giving." It can keep your hands warm in your pockets or your toes warm in bed. Other grains work, too; my mother once stitched me a barley- and lavender-filled pad. An old-fashioned hot water bottle is a simple yet glorious addition, too.

#4: Flannel sheets and a duvet

When you have flannel sheets on a bed, you don't have to wait for them to warm up; they feel cozy the second you crawl in. My family are also big fans of down-filled duvets; once the bedwetting stage is past, each kid gets their own duvet that they keep for their whole childhood. It adds incredible warmth without the weight and mess of blankets.

#5: Undershirts and sweaters

It's rare that you'll find me or my kids without an undershirt on a winter day. Having that extra thin layer against the skin makes a big difference and eliminates cool drafts. Sweaters are also a necessity and I'm always poking around thrift store racks in search of second-hand wool and cashmere.

#6: Rugs and throws in strategic places

Putting rugs on cold tile and hardwood floors helps to keep heat in your body, especially if it's in a place where you stand still. As Freedman wrote, this could be where you brush your teeth, comb your hair, apply makeup, or do meal prep. Blankets are important, too. I keep a blanket basket in the living room, handy for whenever I feel myself cooling off.

#7: Fireplace

Last but not least, I've found that living in a house with a gas fireplace makes a wonderful difference. It allows me to increase the temperature in one room, while keeping the rest of the house cool. Not to be underestimated is the aesthetic appeal of a fireplace – a guaranteed mood-booster on dark winter days.