Ideas for Staying Cozy at Home in Winter | Almanac.com

Ideas for Staying Cozy at Home in Winter


How Do You Get Cozy?

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

How do you get cozy? As the nights grow colder, find ideas for creating comfort—from making a cozier room to warming up yourself!

How to Cozy Up Your Living Space

Like me, maybe you love the cold, snowy, and spare aesthetic of the outdoors in winter but dread the short days and the low arc of the winter sun. 

  • The number one trick to beating back the darkness is light! Full-spectrum bulbs and lamps mimic natural daylight (but without dangerous ultraviolet rays). Some people use special photo-therapy lamps (“light boxes”) to help fight seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) by basking directly in their light for a few minutes each day. In my experience, people not only feel better and see better in areas lit by full-spectrum lighting but also look better.
  • Outline one or more windows or door frames with strings of small Christmas tree lights to create a soft, intimate lighting effect that helps a room feel cozy. 
  • Mirrors placed to reflect lamplight can help brighten the evening. (Please don’t rely on live flames—candles and kerosene lanterns for brightening. You don’t need a house fire to complicate your life further.)
  • Cozy up your space by adding brightly colored accents: pillows, throws, and area rugs. Professional designers suggest adding depth and texture for extra coziness: a plush, fluffy throw, two or three layers of pillows, and a shaggy area rug.
  • Consider an indoor tent! When my daughter was young, I remember making all manner of tented play spaces by draping sheets over furniture and large-appliance boxes begged from the hardware store. You can still fashion them yourself, but nowadays, online merchants offer hundreds of styles of indoor tents and “privacy canopies,” some designed as floorless models to enclose, provide privacy, and even insulate their occupants from drafts. 
  • Suffuse your living space with comforting fragrances. Any kind of baked good in the oven—banana bread, apple/pumpkin pie, chocolate-chip cookies—will do the trick. But you don’t need to cook to fill your home with a warm, inviting scent. Boil water containing cinnamon sticks with other favorite spices, or a few drops of an essential oil, and set the container on a counter or shelf. Light a stick of balsam or pine incense.


How to Green Up the Indoors

Well-maintained house plants brighten a space, soften harsh angles, promote a sense of calm, and help purify the air. (Check out these tips on houseplants for low light and this guide on winter care for your houseplant. 

Check out these tropical houseplants to clean your indoor air for a healthier living space.

If you already have one or two plants that do well, you can try expanding your collection by propagating some new ones from cuttings.

Don’t have the money or patience for houseplants? Buy or forage in the wild for some evergreen boughs. Trim them to size and place them as table settings or on mantelpieces, bookcases, and dressers. Keep the water fresh, and they’ll stay green for weeks. Bonus: Balsam or pine cuttings will send evergreen scents wafting through the air.


Warm Yourself

Feeling cozy means feeling a comforting sense of warmth. Before the advent of central heating, our ancestors used ways of heating themselves and the space immediately around them rather than the air throughout the entire room. They invented hooded chairs to capture and retain radiant heat sitting in front of a stove or fireplace, folding screens to reduce drafts, and insulating canopies and curtains around beds. 

My mother recalled her days growing up in a big Vermont farmhouse; her mother heated stones in the kitchen woodstove and used tongs to place them in a long-handled brass bedwarmer that she slid back and forth between layers of goose-down comforters before tucking her nine children in for the night, two or three to a bed.

Maybe you’re turning down the thermostat to save money on winter heating costs. Here are some ways to stay cozy:

  • Hot baths. Nothing beats a hot bath on a winter evening. Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the bathwater may deepen your relaxation.
  • Seed- or bead-filled “beanbags” to heat in the microwave. Over the years, I’ve acquired a big collection of them, mostly as gifts. I have bean bags that drape around my neck, over my shoulders, and down the back. I have some long, narrow ones I can spread across the top of or along the sides of my thighs. I have beanbag mittens that soothe sore fingers and wrists and beanbag booties to take care of cold feet. 
  • Slide a couple of heated beanbags under the covers for a few minutes before you turn in for the night to create an intense coziness that helps you slip quickly into a restful sleep.
  • My go-to plan for evening coziness: I heat a couple of my beanbags, apply them to a stressed area, and sit in my recliner under a thick plush blanket sipping a cup of ginger tea, to read a book or the newspaper, do a word puzzle, watch tv, or chat online—pure joy, especially after that hot bath.
Mulled cider. Credit: E. Kondratova

Warm Up With Food and Drink

Nothing creates a deeper sense of comfort and joy than the right food and drink. Winter coziness depends on having a good supply of them on hand. Of course, the favorites and the recipes vary from culture to culture and household to household. 

My winter comfort foods include any kind of homemade soup, stew, and chowder—and chili! The possibilities are endless, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. It’s easy to cook up a huge stockpot of dry beans, then make a big soup that lasts for three or four days, then turn the rest into a chili with onions, garlic, and roasted peppers from my freezer. A big part of these comfort foods for me involves the versatility and ease of preparation. Add a cheese sandwich to the soup and a green salad to the chili, and you’re set.

For cozy winter drinks, I think of strong, dark-roast coffee, cocoa, herb teas (especially peppermint and ginger), mulled cider, and the various recipes that come under the general heading of wassail. You can make a non-alcoholic wassail by simmering any kind of fruit juice with a handful of spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Some people (raising my hand) even take comfort in a cup of boiling water spiked with plenty of lemon juice, with or without sweetener.

Buoyed by the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine and better therapeutic drugs, experts warn we still have a long, dark winter ahead, during which we’ll need to wear our masks and other protective equipment outside our homes, maintain a generous physical distance from others, stay out of indoor spaces other than our own homes as much as possible, and wash our hands often. 

This is all the more reason to adopt a few new ideas for staying cozy. What are your favorites?

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

No content available.