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Christmas Light Storage

The one aspect of Christmas decorating that my family used to dread the most was getting out, and putting away, the Christmas lights! Every year the strings got tangled, the light bulbs didn't work and we couldn't find the spares; one year we even had a problem working out which were outside lights and which belonged inside!

Finally I spent a little time thinking about what I wanted to achieve and how to achieve it without any expense and too much effort, and this is what I came up with. We now know that Christmas light storage doesn't have to be a nightmare, and I think you will agree that getting the lights out again next year won't be such a chore if you follow our simple tips.

1. Wrap them

Put your Christmas packaging to good use by cutting up some of your strong cardboard boxes - the kind made of corrugated cardboard - into rectangles. Make a slot in one corner and feed the non-plug end of your string of lights into it, taping the wire down with a piece of sticky tape to make sure it stays secure. Then wind the lights around the cardboard rectangle, taping here and there if you think it necessary. When you get to the end of the lights, cut another slot in the cardboard and feed the plug end through. You might have to experiment a little to get the right size of cardboard, but it will last for years so it is worth the effort first time round.

2. Attach the spares

Find a small ziploc bag for the appropriate replacement bulbs and staple or sticky tape it to one edge of the cardboard alongside the lights.

3. Record them

Using a permanent marker pen, write details of the lights on one edge of the cardboard rectangle (eg "White star string, indoor, Christmas tree, non-flashing" or "multi-colored outdoor lights; used in tree Christmas 2006"). If you have the time and inclination, a photograph taken at this point with your digital camera will be a very useful reminder to keep in your Christmas Planner file.

4. Protect them

Wrap a "collar" of bubble wrap around your bundle and sticky tape it together. Do this so that your writing can still be seen, or repeat the writing on the bubble wrap (the permanent marker should work fine).

5. Store them

Each "package" of lights can now be packed carefully into a storage box or trunk. If you need more than one box, try to keep all outdoor lights in one and indoor lights in another, just to make your task a little easier when it comes to unpacking! It helps to label the boxes "1 of 3", "2 of 3" and so on.

6. File it

However much you convince yourself that you will remember how and where you stored your lights, the chances are that you won't! Print out those photos, along with another taken of the packed and labelled boxes, and put them in your Christmas Planner file along with details of where you have put the boxes.

Next year, when you come to unpack your lights, you may even get away with handing your teenager or husband the page of photos and asking him/her to locate the boxes, unpack the bundles and put them out ready for you to hang! You can then unwrap the first few feet of each string, plug the lights in to check that they are working and to make sure that they are the right distance from the power source, and then gradually unwrap the rest as you place them in position. Put the bubble wrap and cardboard into the storage boxes until the end of the holidays, when it is time to pack the lights away again.

One final tip. If you don't like a particular set of lights, or if they are not working properly, be ruthless and throw them away! Then make a note in your Planner that you need to replace them next year, and do so early before the stocks in the stores become limited.

Christmas light storage