How To Keep Holiday Lights from Becoming a Tangled Mess, According To One Expert

published Nov 10, 2022
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With the holidays right around the corner, it’s officially time to start digging your decorations and lights out of storage. Even if you love making your space merry and bright, anyone can admit that detangling holiday lights can be downright frustrating even for the jolliest of folks. Thankfully, a pro at Festive Lights has some expert tips for staying sane as you prepare to string ‘em, sharing with Apartment Therapy the simple, easy ways to keep your decorating sessions stress-free.

Paula Boston, a visual merchandiser at the company, recommends setting the mood before you even open a single box or bin. “Untangling your Christmas lights can be frustrating but setting the atmosphere before you start your task can get you in the right frame of mind,” says Boston. “Put some Christmas music on, play your favorite Christmas film in the background or grab a cup of tea or glass of wine to help set the mood and surrounding atmosphere. Wherever possible, you also want to move to a large space that isn’t filled with clutter so you can properly lay your lights out.”

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After you’ve got your preferred cup of cheer, Boston suggests working in a straight line, starting from the lights’ base or plug. “As you start untangling your set of lights, it’s important to keep them organized so you don’t run the risk of them getting tangled again,” she says. “To stop your lights from moving and getting more tangled, lay them in a straight line over some cardboard. Keeping your lights organized by folding over the cardboard, work your way slowly through the tangles, starting at the plug,” noting that “the plug is the best place to start as it’s harder to lose amid the wires.”

At this point, you may want to enlist the support of someone else in your household — preferably someone who is patient and eager to help out. “Sometimes holiday decorating is more than a one-person job. Ideally, you should ask someone to hold the untangled lights while you remove the other knots to keep things organized,” notes Boston. “This will help make it a much smoother experience.”

Whether you’re on your own or working as a team, Boston recommends using a pencil and/or small screwdriver to break up stubborn knots. “Another way you can help yourself break those knots is by using tools,” she adds. “Stubborn knots can create a stressful environment, but these are often no match for the right tool. Choose a pencil or small screwdriver to loosen the knots and break out the entanglements quickly.”

Once your lights are in order, you’ll want to check for any broken or burnt-out bulbs that could present a safety hazard. “Once you reach the end, check your lights before hanging them around your tree, wreath, or as part of a room. Make sure to look for any bulbs that aren’t glowing brightly — these ones can be replaced.

Of course, when it’s time to store your stash until next year, thinking ahead can help minimize any mess for future you. To avoid “going through the stress of untangling them next year,” Boston says, “There are plenty of methods you can follow, such as wrapping the lights around a piece of cardboard or a hanger, or even keeping them on your artificial tree if you’re keeping it in storage. Simply cover the tree with a canvas bag or zip-up Christmas storage tree bag so you don’t have to assemble it next year.”