One of my favorite things about the holiday season (apart from the cookies of course) are all the Christmas lights. I love seeing the houses in my neighborhood all lit up and festive. Lights of all colors line the rooflines, porches and driveways and cover trees and bushes. Some lights flash, some twinkle, some change colors and some just shine brightly.
There’s only one problem. Before the lights look pretty, you have to hang them up. And that experience is far from magical. I even read somewhere that emergency rooms treat well over 10,000 people every year for injuries stemming from holiday decorations. We’ve all seen the movie Christmas Vacation, right?
No matter how you cut it, hanging up Christmas lights is never going to be fun and there’s always going to be some risk involved, but we can minimize the suffering as well as the risk. Here are my tips for making this task as pain-free as possible.
Measure every area where you will hang lights. Go around the outside of the house and measure around any turns and corners. Make sure to separately measure every doorway and window frame where you plan on putting up lights. If you’re hanging lights on columns, gazebos, etc, make sure to measure them all.
Find the available power sources
Most houses have outdoor outlets, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll have to plug your lights in inside the house and run the cord through a window or doorway. You need to know how many feet of power cord you will need to reach the beginning of your lights from the outlet.
Use outdoor lights for the outdoors
This should go without saying, but only use lights meant for outdoor use when decorating outdoors. This will be clearly marked on the package. If it is not, assume the light are not safe for outdoor use and do not use them outdoors. If they are not weatherproof, they can short out and become a fire hazard.
Untangle your lights before you begin
Trust me here: I’ve tried untangling the light strings as I was putting them up, but that did not work. At all. Not only is it much more difficult, it can actually be dangerous if you try untangling the lights while standing on a ladder or on your rooftop.
Use clips to hang the lights
I’ve used nails, staples, screws, duct tape and anything else you can think of. Those things all work, but they’re far from ideal. Clips are so much simpler, not only to hang up, but also to remove after the season is over. They’re inexpensive and available anywhere you can buy lights. Get them. You’ll be thankful.
Make sure you have a good ladder
You do not want to be hanging up lights on a flimsy or wobbly ladder. This is probably the number one cause of injury. Test the stability of your ladder before you start hanging and if it isn’t stable, get a new one or borrow one. And do use a ladder. Don’t try to manage with furniture or something else. Also, it’s always a good idea to have a partner to hold the ladder.
Go the right direction on trees
For evergreen trees, start at the top and zigzag the lights back and forth through the center of the tree so that they get wider toward the bottom of the tree with its shape. With deciduous trees, you want to go the opposite direction. Start at the bottom and wrap the lights around the trunk in a spiral.
Take Your Time
Hanging your lights up will take a lot of time. In fact, however long you think it will take, it will actually take at least twice as long. Whatever you do, do not try to speed up the process. This is how injuries happen.
If you’re ever had to go outside in the cold or dark to plug in or unplug your lights, you’ll know how valuable timers are. You can get timers for around $15 and they are so worth it. And they pay for themselves to boot! Set them to go on after dark and turn off early in the morning. That way they won’t stay on until you get up and remember to go out and unplug them. You’ll save power.
Don’t be afraid to get help
If you’re at all unsure about hanging up your Christmas lights yourself, consider hiring someone to do it. Yes, it will cost you some money, but it will save you time and hassle. More importantly, it could save you from a serious injury, too. This is especially true if you plan on putting lights on your actual roof.
Turn them on and enjoy the magic
The final step and the only really enjoyable one. Turn on the power and admire your handiwork!