Holiday decorations fill us with childlike wonder and joy—but there’s nothing particularly festive about wrestling with a tangled clump of lights while fighting back tears at the start of the season. Indeed, a fresh hell awaits those who pack up their Christmas lights too carelessly, which is why we’re gifting you a guide on how to store Christmas lights the right way. Read on for five simple methods that will save you a huge hassle when you’re ready to string up the decor again next year.
How to Store Christmas Lights the Right Way (and Save Your Sanity)
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1. Original Packaging
If you didn’t already discard the box those Christmas lights came in, you can use it to store them for next season. This solution isn’t quite as obvious as it sounds, though—so don’t start packing them up just yet. In fact, don’t put them back in the box at all. Instead, use the exterior of the box (plus a little packing tape) to store the lights as described below.
1. Tape one end of the light strand to the edge of the box.
2. Begin tightly and neatly wrapping the strand of lights around the long side of the box (or any side, if the box is a square).
3. Secure the other end of the light strand with a second piece of packing tape when you’re finished.
4. Your final wrapping job of the holiday season: Bundle said box up in bubble wrap or tissue paper so the lights enjoy a safe and comfortable stay in your chosen storage location.
It’s no big deal if you threw out the original box, because a nearly identical storage method will work with any old piece of cardboard. All you need to do is raid the recycling and follow these steps.
1. To begin, use a boxcutter to cut the cardboard into a rectangular piece that’s just slightly larger than the size of a sheet of paper.
2. Next, make a slit in one of the ends of the cardboard.
3. Wedge the light strand into the slit and begin wrapping the strand around the long side of the rectangle.
4. To prevent the lights from unraveling when stored, make a second slit for the other end of the light strand. (Just be careful not to nick the lights.) Alternatively, you can keep things tidy by simply plugging the strand into itself.
3. Clothes Hangers
If you’ve got some extra hanging space in your closet, then you’ve got a fine way to prevent Christmas lights from getting tangled—or worse, crushed—in the off-season. Best of all, the only thing you need for this method is a clothes hanger. Here’s what to do.
1. Start by tucking one end of the light strand into one of the strap holders of the hanger so that it’s nice and secure.
2. Begin vertically wrapping the light strand around the bottom and top of the hanger.
3. When you reach the other end of the strand, you know what to do. (Hint: There’s another strap holder for that.)
4. Hook your festive hanger on the hanging bar and call it a day.
4. Plastic Wrap
Icicle lights are just as likely to get tangled as your standard light strands, but trickier to store. When it comes to these guys, your best bet is to buy a 12-inch roll of plastic sheeting and wrap them up as follows.
1. Snip off enough plastic sheeting from the roll to accommodate the entire length of the icicle lights you wish to store.
2. Spread the strand of lights out on top of the plastic sheeting.
3. Starting at one end, gradually roll the lights and plastic wrap up together, jelly roll style.
4. Secure the bundle with a piece of tape or rubber band and stow it away.
5. Light Reel
The DIY methods described above are exceedingly easy and cost-effective. That said, if you purchase a plastic light reel, you’ll be able to pack up all your Christmas lights in one fell swoop (or spin, as it were). The process here is fairly straightforward, but here’s the breakdown.
1. Keep all the strands of Christmas lights connected and lay them out, untangled, on the floor.
2. Attach one end of the light strand to the reel.
3. Use the handle to slowly spin the reel and carefully wind the lights around it.
4. Tuck the whole kit and kaboodle away ‘til next Christmas, when you can reverse the process for a tidy chain of lights that’s ready to be hung.
Psst: If you don't want to purchase a plastic light reel, you can achieve a similar effect with an empty Pringles can—simply make a slit in the top of the tube, then wrap the lights around the outside of the tube. Once you've reached the end, pop the last light through the slit so you can easily unravel your lights for next year.