You must’ve seen this one coming.
Not winter, but this post that’s going to include crap about Denmark again. Apologies in advance, but I’m playing out the string on them fancy Danes once more to help us learn how to survive Minnesota winters.
Winter is cold. That means it’s uncomfortable. You have to put on several layers to avoid shivering, at least until your car warms up.
Winter is dangerous. Icy roads and sidewalks injure people, wreck cars, and keep us indoors.
Winter is dark. For many of us, the darkness brings on Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Winter makes us sick. Got kids? Then you’ve got germs and viruses aplenty. You name it, you’ll get it. Bring on Vick’s Vapo-Rub and humidifiers. You must endure movies like Frozen.
Then, there are Minnesota winters. Imagine a six month winter from November through April. Spring is not a thing here.
Hygge: The Danish Tonic You Need to Survive Winter
We’re going to dig a bit deeper into “hygge”. I touched on hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”) briefly in a post from March 2017, as a possible antidote to the many, increasing societal woes here in the States. From Wikipedia:
Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. As a cultural category with its sets of associated practices hygge has more or less the same meanings in Danish and Norwegian, but the notion is more central in Denmark than Norway.
15 Tips on How to Survive Minnesota Winters
1.) A TON of candles. That’s right. Burn that wax, baby. You’ll need 13 lbs. of candles per person this winter season. Yankee Candle affiliates are scratching their chins right about now…
2.) A fireplace. Score! I had that one figured out already. Granted, I use our fireplace to curl up in a ball and study warmer places to move to on the iPad. So I still have my work cut out.
3.) Enjoy the company of friends and family.
4.) Enjoy some home-baked treats. (It’s just 5 or 6 months of winter sugar, so what can it hurt??)
5.) Follow a sane work-life balance. Leave work by 5:30, and don’t log in again until 8:30 the next day. And not on weekends.
6.) Take naps! Nothing beats a nice siesta when you can swing it. All you need is maybe 30 to 45 minutes at most, in the early afternoon.
7.) Have an early afternoon coffee. Just be careful not to overdo it or the caffeine will mess up your sleep!
8.) Get your sleep! Hit the sack before 10 and avoid eating anything after 7.
9.) Share household duties with the family. Make it fun! Prepare meals together. Create a cozy nook in your modest living space, somewhere you can read in comfort with your cup of coffee or spiked hot chocolate.
Creating a home that’s hygge isn’t all that challenging. It boils down to comfort and creating spaces that aren’t dominated by electronics and clutter. Buy a bean bag if that’s comfortable for you. If you don’t have a fireplace, create a cluster of candles.
You can still claim to be a minimalist and collect throw pillows, blankets, candles, books, magazines, coffee mugs, fondue pots, board games, etc. Okay, maybe “semi-minimalist”?
10.) Get outside for a run or intense walk. Running in winter works just as well as running any other time of year. You just need to dress for it and remember to hydrate when you’re done. Even a two-miler can reset your day.
11.) Strategically deploy cold misting humidifiers and try to circulate fresh air in the house. Consider installing an air exchanger or HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation system).
What a difference this thing made in our house this past winter. Imagine breathing fresh, outdoor air while in the cozy warmth of indoors. An HRV install can run over $2,000 but it will prevent too much moisture build up inside your home during winter, while helping to improve air quality for the family.
12.) Install a gas burning or electric fireplace. One of the criteria I set for buying our house was that it must come with a hearth. One of the best upgrades we made to our house was to put in a gas fireplace insert. This solved a couple of things: it sealed up the old leaky flu, preventing cold air drafts in winter. It also obviated any risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. (or Santa home invasions.)
Finally, there is the convenience factor of hitting a button and having an instant fire. You can just turn it off when you leave the room. Having a nice, warm fire during the winter months simply warms the soul. In a pinch, it can warm your house too, if your furnace fails.
If you don’t have a fireplace and space is limited, consider one of the newer, heat-generating electric fireplaces. Just be sure to do your diligence to find one that won’t blow up your electric bill.
13.) Invite friends over for a dinner party and game night. A great way to pass a cold winter’s night is to have friends over to enjoy that fireplace with you. Whether it’s a Wii tournament or card games, engaging with and spending time with your friends is just plain fun. Plus, it’s a great way to get the house cleaned in short order.
14.) Leave the house! We travel every February to escape our winter reality. We’re fortunate that our parents are snowbirds, so we can enjoy spending time with them, and limit our expenses principally to airfare. This year, our family of four will fly round-trip using credit card bonus miles.
The main benefit of warm weather travel in the middle of winter is that it gives you something to look forward to. When it’s 10 below in January and the car won’t start, or it’s too inhospitable to even go for a run, you start thinking about that trip in February, and mentally begin packing your bags.
15.) If all else fails, get the heck out of Dodge for good (or, become a snowbird.) I admit I’ve thought a lot about this option in recent years, especially since the polar vortex struck a few years back.
SAD Survival Action Plan
Since winter started with a sudden, unexpected blizzard this year, I don’t have much time to plot and scheme. I must crack this nut FAST before the wolves start howling and the ice tracks form on the sidewalks.
My hygge strategy must be put into action NOW. Opening up our house to friends? Easy. Plus, it prompts us to keep the house a little cleaner. Win-win.
Candles and candle-lit meals? I can dig that. We had put most of our candles away after the twins were born. At 5, they’re ready to learn about candle safety. And how not to pour hot wax on the iPad.
Oh, and I think I can be convinced to leave my work at the office, especially with hygge filled Sunday evening family game nights.
And, extending hygge to the outdoors can only serve to bolster my odds of winter survival. A few weekends of ice skating or hitting the slopes would be good for us. We may try snowshoeing or even winter biking. Heck, building a snowman can be rewarding. Right, Elsa?
Winter Keeps Us Invigorated and Mindful of Our Fragility
There seems to be a consensus among many of my friends and acquaintances that the older you get, the more winter starts to drag on you. Being in my mid-40s, I’m already analyzing snowbird options further down the road.
The key is to make the best of the situation and embrace winter for as much of it as you can. If these ideas aren’t doing it for you, then it’s certainly worth considering whether you’d be happier and healthier moving somewhere warmer.
If all we did was run around and play all the time, frolicking in fields of daisies, sh*t wouldn’t get done. The cold weather gets us to buckle down on our studies, our day jobs, and maybe some projects around the house too.
I’m not about to give up my dream of spending three months of core winter in sunny AZ or NV when the kids take off to college. Hell no. Sunshine and warmth cannot be denied.
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Barb Thompson says
We live in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border and winter is truly the best season there is! Except maybe when the pipes freeze, or the garage doors don’t open in the cold, or plastic pieces on your car breaks when you touch it, or when the vehicles don’t start, or the furnace goes out in the middle of the night.
The town I live in truly embraces and loves every aspect of winter; there is a huge community of people who ski, snowmobile, ice fish, fat bike, play hockey, backcountry lake ski, ice skate on the lakes when conditions are just right, etc.
There is NOTHING better in this world than breathing fresh, clean cold air while out for a run or ski. One of my absolute favorite activities to do during the winter is to take the dogs for their evening walk out on the lake during the full moon, when its cold… like truly cold, not a measly 0 or -10, but in the negative 20’s and 30’s.
Hi Barb! Greetings from the tropics of the Twin Cities! Haha.
Embracing winter is key. I think honestly it can be easier to stomach winter if it’s confined to Nov through early March. When it creeps into April, I get ornery.
C’mon Cubert, it’s not all that bad …
I played an hour of outdoor soccer from 9 to 10 pm, and then had beer in the parking lot with the team for another hour last Monday, when the temperature was 42 🙂
Being a transplanted Minnesotan myself, I love it here! The 4 distinct seasons are wonderful. I wouldn’t want summer, and over 90 degrees days, all throughout the year. If I had to pick between one, I would actually prefer winter to summer. And shoveling a foot of snow from the driveway when it’s below 20, well, that just builds character 😀
Tips to survive the winter: wear appropriate clothing (duh), especially keep extremities covered; don’t be afraid to venture out; keep the inside of the house to 70 or below (to minimize the disparity between outside and inside); have an open mind; enjoy while it lasts (global warming!)
Wow – that is impressive! But 42 pales in comparison to what’s coming — subtract 40 degrees! 🙂
I’ll look you up after the next dumping to see if you want more character building at our place. HA!!
Matt in Michigan says
Nothing wrong with taking a few pages from the Scandinavian playbook, they seem to have winter figured out. I enjoy these post’s and could use some positive words regarding the long winters we have here in the Great Lake region.
We have a fireplace similar to what you had, the old time fill your house with smoke and hear the glass doors rattle on those blustery winter nights. I’ve been meaning to price out some inserts for it but something else always seem to come up…furnace, auto repairs etc. Did you look at installing one yourself? Looks a bit involved with retro fitting the chimney, adding gas line and such. I’m all about DIY but not sure that’s one I want to tackle.
Keep up the good work!
Hey Matt … Those Scandinavians also hand out anti-depressants like candies, so there’s that to consider… :-/
Inserts are awesome! I think in retrospect I could’ve done DIY, but I appreciate the peace of mind with combustion appliances that require specific gas connections and venting. The best upgrade we’ve ever made to the house, bar none.
Barb Thompson says
True but think of the positives-you can get a tan while fishing crappies in that warm March sunshine. Lake skiing on the crust in early morning is fantastic. There are no mosquitoes, no sand flies, horse flies or deer flies! What could be better?! Honestly, if you could just escape the cities, you would learn that there are endless ways to enjoy winter. I enjoy your blog, thanks for all the great articles and information!
Hi Barb! You are absolutely right. Finding worthwhile “middling season” activities really help. As someone who used to enjoy running more, the late winter / early spring was a downer for all the puddles and slush that soaked right through my tennies. Biking is okay if you have good traction – sometimes the ice lurks beneath the puddles.
One thing we might do is invest in a propane fire pit for our deck so we can host grill parties or whatnot. Time to get creative!