I Found an Ingenious (and Free!) Way to Store Holiday Lights

published Dec 3, 2023
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Festive Christmas rich interior in a luxurious modern style with a fireplace and decorated with Christmas balls and garlands of Christmas trees in a large bright living room in the apartment on New Year's Eve in winter.
Credit: Elizaveta Starkova / Getty Images

I love decorating for the holidays. It brings me great joy on a cold evening to see the lights in my yard, welcoming me home to the house I love so much and feel so lucky to live in. I keep the Christmas tree in the front window and adorn it with rainbow twinkle lights, ornaments from my childhood, and crafts made by my children. I vacuum up the copious amounts of pine needles every day and deal with the weird arrangement of the furniture to accommodate the tree. 

Once the holiday is over, though, I’m excited to go back to the normal, cleaner arrangement. Last year, after shoving the rainbow lights from the trees back into their tiny boxes, I worried I was damaging them. And when it came time to put away the outdoor lights, I got nervous. The giant box I usually kept them in often made it into a huge tangled mess that greeted me every Dec. 1, waiting for me to do the huge chore of separating the strands and then carefully hanging them along the roofline as the pile dangled below like a rat’s nest of hair. 

Standing in the garage, I saw two wrapping paper tubes lying next to the bin, having been used by my kids as swords and then abandoned for their new toys. I remembered the big green spool that came with my old Christmas lights, that I’d gotten rid of along with the broken, burned-out strands. In lieu of the spool, I thought I would try the inner wrapping paper tube. 

Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill

It wasn’t a quick chore (certainly not as quick as dumping a pile of dirty lights into a big box), but I carefully wound the lights up and down the tube and tucked the end in at the top. That makes it obvious which way to undo it when the time comes. Instead of stowing a huge box, I now have a long, half-foot-thick cylinder of lights. The whole thing fits on top of my garage cabinet shelves. It was out of sight and did not take up room where there were things I needed to reach during the year. 

Now that I’m about to climb the ladder and embark on the decorating journey again, all I have to do is take down the tube and plug it in at the end. From there, I can carry the tube with me up the ladder. It’ll easily balance on the paint shelf as I secure the lights to the gutter or wind them around our arching tree in the front. Then I can keep the tube for later or use one that’ll get freed up after present wrapping should the kids want to pretend this one is a lightsaber and go galavanting away with it.