How To Keep Warm In Your Freezing Cold House

It's difficult to determine what's most awful about winter— the constant cold feet and hands, the unpleasant dread of stepping out of the shower, or the horror of opening a heating bill after a month of leaving the thermostat turned up overnight. Since hibernating for three months isn't an option, the best way to cope is to make sure your living space stays as warm and toasty as possible without spending an arm and a leg or burning the joint down. You need to winterize that thing.

First, fix your windows. It should go without saying that being warm during the winter and leaving your window unit air conditioner installed year-round are mutually exclusive things. It should also go without saying that before cold weather hits, you should make sure that your windows are closed completely. Just because these things should go without saying doesn't mean that everyone is some kind of astronaut genius who remembers things like the fact that their windows can open from the top and won't spend an entire winter huddled under four comforters like the garbage dump hoarder from Labyrinth.

Next, cover your windows with some plastic. I can't recommend 3M Window Insulator kits enough for cold weatherproofing; my mom always used them when I was a kid and they look a lot less junky than other windowcovering methods.

But you don't need to stop there. Invest in some heavy curtains to further keep heat locked into your space, and leave the curtains open during the day, but closed at night, especially if the windows face East or South. This will not only give your neighbors the impression that you're secretly Soviet spies having nighttime meetings, but it will allow heat from the sun to get in, and keep heat from escaping when it's dark out.

If your place uses forced air heat (so if your heat comes out of the wall via vent), make sure the vents are clean. Pet hair and air flotsam can get trapped in there, and trapped junk in your vent will reduce the amount of hot air that actually gets to your chilly limbs.

Rickety old buildings are usually insulated about as much as Barbie's Dream House, which means that keeping heat in can be a nightmare. Try rearranging so heavy furniture like bookshelves and couches are against exterior walls. Hanging or tacking a tapestry or thick blanket to an exterior wall can also help. You'll look a little crazy if you have people over, but at least you'll be warm. Close doors to chilly, less frequently used rooms. Make or buy a draft stopper to place at the bases of leaky doors and windows. Put a thick rug on the floor. Transform your space into a padded room ready to receive all that your Cabin Fever will bring!

Once you've insulated your living space, try heating yourself rather than the entire environment. My landlords keep the radiator heat fizzing at about SURFACE OF THE SUN degrees as soon as the temperature dips below 30 or so, which has coddled me to the point where if I'm in an environment with a temperature that's much below "orchid hothouse," (like my parents' place in Wisconsin) I start shivering. Thick socks are a must. Hot water bottles look stupid but they work like a charm. Once, I came home to my apartment to find that the heat wasn't working and put a foil wrapped baked potato at the foot of my bed, which may have been a fire hazard, but it worked. Electric blankets are also great for the couchbound and the chilly. And there's no shame in wearing mittens inside. They're like hand blankets.

If you're still too cold after weather proofing your house and weatherproofing yourself, consider taking up cooking as a wintertime hobby. There's nothing retro about knowing how to feed yourself delicious food and there's nothing stupid about getting heat by standing in front of a toasty oven like some sort of Dickensian urchin. Plus, baking gives you something to do when you're inside that isn't spending 3 hours going through the offerings on Netflix Instant and swearing at the crappiness of the selection. Exercise also can warm you up. Or, you know, have some sex. That increases the temperature of a small room pretty quickly.

Image via Nestor Bandrivskyy/Shutterstock.