Updated 11/2/2016 from an article originally published on 10/30/2014.
With its shorter days and frigid temperatures, winter is arguably the least favorite season of the year. Winter’s run of holidays adds additional challenges. How will you keep your home clean and organized with guests popping in and out for hours (or days) at a time? Even more worrisome – do you know how to prepare your home for winter emergencies? What if snow and ice keep you trapped inside your home or – much worse – in your car?
Winter’s not all bad, of course. Skiing, sledding, hot cocoa and the football playoffs really take the edge off. Spending some extra time getting ready for winter means you can focus on what matters most during the colder months.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your winter home.
1. Stock up on salt or another ice removing solution.
Most people turn to salt to remove snow and ice from their driveway. While this is an effective soultion, salt can wreak havoc on gardens, asphalt driveways, and the floors in your home. Before you buy your next bag of salt, consider a less expensive and more eco-friendly alternative. This solution will minimize the mess before it even enters the house.
Mix one tablespoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid, one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and ½ gallon of warm water. Pour this on your front walkway to keep steps safer and your boots drier. The rubbing alcohol works to melt the ice and will prevent the solution from refreezing.
2. Switch out door mats with more durable snow-proof mats.
Once winter arrives, it’s not long before family members come tromping through the door with wet jackets, muddy boots and cold toes. But don’t let winter gear take over.
Switch out thin, ineffective doormats for durable, bristled mats. These are easy to clean, less prone to stains and won’t get waterlogged from shoes or boots. If you want to be creative, try a DIY pebble boot tray. Find a tray, fill it with stones, and any water will drain through the rocks so your boots don’t sit in a puddle.
3. Eliminate drafts in your home.
Drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Over the course of a winter, that adds up. Thick, heavy drapes will minimize cold air and door socks can help fight those drafts. Bubble wrap can also be used in a pinch to insulate windows and let in sunlight.
You can make your own door sock or draft guard by cutting an old pool noodle in half, then wrapping each end in a folded pillowcase. Old socks can be stuffed with filler as well and placed under the door or at the bottom of drafty windows.
4. Generate your own heat.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 90% of U.S. homes are expected to have higher heating bills this year. Find ways to keep your house warm without seeing your heating bill skyrocket. Use energy efficient space heaters for small rooms, open the oven after you’re done baking, and reverse a ceiling fan to circulate heat.
5. Prepare your pantry for winter storms.
You never know when you might be snowed in or caught in an emergency road closure. Stock up your pantry as well as your vehicle to make sure you’re prepared in any situation.
According to the American Red Cross, you should always maintain a two-week supply of food. In case of emergency, you should first use perishable foods, then foods from the freezer, then non-perishable items.
Stock up on these staples with lengthy expiration dates:
- Carbohydrates: Potatoes, pasta, rice
- Canned items: Canned meat, canned vegetables, soups, peanut butter and nuts
- Packaged goods: Cereals, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit and bottled water
6. Stock your vehicle for winter weather.
Just because you’re confident in your ability to drive in the snow, does not mean the person next to you is. When it comes to winter driving conditions, it’s best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Not only should you prepare your home for winter, also make sure your vehicle is fully equipped in case of emergency. Here is what you need in your car all winter season:
- Warm clothes: Jacket, glove, heavy boots, hat.
- Fuel: Bottled water and granola bars.
- Shovel and ice scraper: Did you know vinegar and water can prevent freezing windshields? It’s still a good idea to carry a shovel and scraper in your trunk.
- Mats: These can save your floors, but can also help if you’re stuck in snow – just place them under your tires.
- First-aid kit: You never know when you’ll need it.
- Charger: Not only so you can get a hold of emergency personnel or family members, but to receive alerts. 40 percent of Americans seek out the news through their mobile phones, so make sure you have a charged phone when you need it.
Pro Tip: What about extra gasoline?
According to the National Ag Safety Database, one cup of gasoline can produce enough explosive vapors to match the power of five pounds of dynamite. Carrying gasoline can be dangerous if not stored or transferred properly.
Magic Tank is a semi-expensive, but convenient way to safely carry a half-gallon of fuel. It is non-flammable and derived from gasoline, but with its most volatile components like butane removed.
7. Make room for seasonal items in your home.
If you’re decorating a small home (or just want to save some space in your already-packed family room) consider any of these tricks for making a small space festive and welcoming.
Hack with hooks. Scarves, mittens and hats are things you’ll need on a daily basis. Instead of trying to create more space, hang a DIY rack and install hooks on your wall for easy access to your warm accessories. Read more ways to get winter accessories organized in time for winter.
Holiday card display. Cards are festive, but can sure add up the clutter pile fast. Instead of stashing them in piles, create a stylish place for display. Try using picture frames, bulletin boards or plain wall space. Follow these clutter-free ideas for displaying holiday cards.
Wall Christmas trees. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, are you struggling trying to figure out how to make room for your tree? A new trend for small homes and apartments is tabletop or wall Christmas trees. We suggest using string-light wall trees. Simply hang lights in the shape of a tree using adhesive hooks.
After implementing these tips, you’ll be more prepared to take on winter and survive the holiday season. If you have any more tips and tricks you live by during the cold months, we’d love to hear them.