It’s time for holiday decorations to come down and you want to know how to store Christmas lights without getting them tangled.
To avoid the hassle of separating strands of lights next season, especially since there’s a variety of bulb sizes and styles that can make them even more difficult to handle, you want to make sure to store them correctly.
We’ve talked to organizing experts who know a thing or two about storage.
“I’m really about making your life easier and setting yourself up for success for the future, so the future self is thanking you,” says Elizabeth Regalado, owner of Elizabeth Loves to Organize.
Read on to learn how Regalado and our other pro organizer store Christmas lights, so next season you don’t end up like Clark Griswold trying to untangle a basketball-sized wad of holiday lights.
1. How to Wrap Christmas Lights to Store
You want to create your storage system before you start putting your holiday lights up, advised Lisa Sims, owner of Bee and Peacock Organizing.
“If you don’t have a system, then create it and tweak it as you’re putting away. That way next year you’re completely good to go,” she said.
What’s the best way to wrap Christmas lights for storage?
Both Sims and Regalado like using spool to wrap the strand around—either cardboard (see image above) or wire will work. Regalado likened this method to the way you store a garden hose.
“You can put one end and reel the lights onto the spool,” she explained. “If you have a lot of lights, then get multiple ones and put those spools in a bag when you’re done.”
Pro-tip: When you’ve finished wrapping it around, take the ends of the cord and plug them together so they don’t dangle and create yet another opportunity to get tangled.
2. How to Store Icicle Christmas Lights
In the last couple of years options have expanded, and the newest decorating trend is LED lights that mimic a falling icicle. They might look fantastic up on your roofline, but now that they’re down how do you safely put them away?
Flatten the box they came in and wrap the string around the cardboard.
“That way you can have them lay flat,” said Regalado.
If you already tossed out the cardboard box, just find a piece that matches the length of the icicles. Once they are wrapped, you can take a rubber band or string and secure the lights. From there, Regalado suggests you store them in a plastic storage bin.
3. How to Store Net Christmas Lights
Those net lights that go on shrubs aren’t too difficult to store. Just use a long and narrow storage tote. Regalado says she likes to fold the netting back and forth, like a piece of fabric, before they go into a plastic bin.
On the upside, these lights are not as prone to tangle because of the netting. But forget about using the original cardboard boxes for storage because they’re just a headache, she adds.
“I had a client who was trying to get them back in those small cardboard boxes,” Regalado explained. “You don’t need to do that, it’s just going to be more time-consuming versus folding it up and putting it inside a tote.”
4. How to Wrap Christmas Lights in a Ball
If you don’t have too many Christmas string lights then Regalado suggests tucking them away in a ball.
“Picture it like you’re rolling it up into a yarn ball—it’s a great way to save space,” she said.Typically LED lights are pretty sturdy and can easily be wrapped up in a ball. This storage option wouldn’t work on strings of large glass bulbs, which can easily break.
Whatever you do, Sims says, don’t just bunch up your strings of lights before putting them in storage.“There’s a psychological fatigue at the end and you just want to pull it down and be done,” Sims warned. “The most important thing I have found, is that wrapping lights is really helpful so they don’t get tangled.”
5. How to Store Christmas Light Accessories
Storing your lights is just one part of the process. Sims reminds you not to forget about other components such as batteries and extension cords.
If your string of lights is battery-operated, she advises taking out the batteries before packing them into storage.
“If you’ve had them on all season, you’re probably going to want new batteries next year,” she said.
Keep the batteries in a bin at home so they can get used.
Avoid the frustration of looking for extension cords or extra power strips next season by packing those with the corresponding light strands now.
“If you had your setup exactly right, it makes sense to store that particular extension cord with the lights it was attached to and not have to re-create that again,” she said.
Sims also suggests you get a small bin, like a pencil case, to hold extra light bulbs. This will help you easily replace lights when needed.
That’s a Wrap
No matter what type of lights you need to store, both Sims and Regalado recommend you put them in airtight, waterproof storage bins.
Sims recommends you disperse your lights into many compact storage bins, rather than one big one.
“I’ve found that lights are heavy and people tend to have these big-size plastic totes and it’s crazy heavy,” she said.
Categorize them by color or by the area the lights were placed at your home, she adds.
“That’s huge because some years you might not have the energy to put all the lights up or you just want to put out the indoor lights,” Sims said.
And always label the bins with their exact contents.
“Sometimes we pull out everything and we decorate and when we go back we forget where it went,” she said.
Don’t forget to follow these handy tips for storing your Christmas heirloom ornaments. Next year, you’ll be thanking yourself.
Keep reading for expert artificial Christmas tree storage tips.