Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Putting Up Christmas Lights: 3 Tips to Save Time

It's been over 4 years now since I've moved into my current home and really started to try and do a great job on the Christmas lights out in our yard. We went from a condo where it didn't take long at all to having a bunch of huge trees and roofline that I've only got a ladder tall enough to get up to the top of the garage roofline. In other words, putting up Christmas lights and taking them back down took forever the first year we were here. Now I can get them up and down well enough to think I should share some advice.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I am constantly thinking of strategies to make everything easier. These tips make it easier to get your lights up and down without the headaches and frustration.

So here are the tips.

1. Start from the power

As you put the lights up, or even prior to, plan out how the power is going to make it to all of the various parts of the yard that you're going to have lights in.  The easiest way to make this job take forever is if you have to redo things or run to the store for more extension cords.  As much as I love Christmas vacation, I do everything I can to avoid a moment like Clark's problem with the power!


    • Save a few strands of old broken lights to make running the power easier short distances between things like bushes or trees.

    • Put the lights up with the power on so there are no surprise outages.

    • Get the timers that turn on automatically at dusk.

    • Measure beforehand to make sure the extension cords and sets of lights you have will get the job done.

2. Get the right tools

Here's all the things I use to make getting the lights up easier.

  • Get an extension pole with a hook on the end. I make my own out of an old coat hanger and a 16ft extension pole from the hardware store. I also made one for my dad and he reminds me every year that it's one of the best gifts he's ever been given. I have more info about this pole over in my post on hanging Christmas lights in trees.

  • Use shingle/gutter plastic hooks to hang on roofline or gutters. When I was a kid, we used to use nails and a staple gun to get the lights on the roofline. Not anymore, using the right hooks on the roofline makes the lights go up and come down a whole lot easier. Ditto for getting them on the gutters. Here's the ones I use:

  • Have plenty of replacement bulbs on hand. While I am putting up Christmas lights or taking them down, I replace broken bulbs. Being diligent about this has kept me from having a strand out the last three years. Last year, I even had my kids take all the good bulbs remaining off a strand of lights that had been heavily damaged by the wind.

  • Get the Swiss-Army knife for Christmas Lights Tool. This tool is a lifesaver. Whenever a strand of lights looks like it's going bad, I can use this tool and replace a few bulbs to bring it back to life. I've even been able to bring an old nativity set back to life where most of the pieces in the set didn't have a single working light on the first time I plugged them in.

3. Keep the lights tidy

Finally, keeping things organized and untangled is key to making this job easy. To streamline this piece of the job, I find the following to be very useful:

  • Get the right storage bin(s). Think it through for your house. Having the right storage can save a ton of time. I bought one really large storage bin on wheels for all the strands of lights. I keep it in the garage under my workbench and wheel it out when it's time for them to go up or down.  I also throw a couple pieces of cardboard in just to make sure too much moisture doesn't get in the lights.

  • Use zip ties to keep the lights from getting tangled. I read all kinds of tricks for how to keep the lights from getting tangled. I even used plastic grocery bags one year. Those weren't bad; but for my money and time, zip ties are worth the few cents for how much easier they are to secure to the lights and snip off when it's time to put them back up.  I've got more on using zip ties to avoid tangles.

Summary: Putting Up Christmas Lights Gets Easier

There you go. If you follow these tips, getting lights up and down each year will just keep getting easier.
Please do me a favor and if you have any tips for me that make putting up Christmas lights or taking them down even easier, be sure to comment below.


  1. One thing you missed on here was the need to measure and make sure you have enough lights....

  2. Good catch. I added a little bit more about that since for me that's part of the whole idea around starting from the power.