A Handy Household Staple Will Keep Your Christmas Lights Tangle-Free

Don't let what happened to your mother and your mother's mother happen to you next holiday season. When it comes time to take down those Christmas lights, you need to have a plan, or else you will end up with a giant web of LED lights that are hopelessly tangled, forcing you to either A: spend hours trying to decipher the dozens of knots in anguish or B: buy new Christmas lights to spare yourself the frustration. But you don't need to hold onto those clunky, space-stealing boxes the lights came in. No, all you need to keep them organized is something you'd normally discard without a second thought: a cardboard tube from a finished roll of toilet paper, paper towels, or wrapping paper. 

Cardboard rolls are perfect for this task — they allow you to simply wrap the string of lights around the tube, which means there's no slack to allow for tangles. Plus, they don't take up much space — they can be wedged between boxes, hung from workbenches, or even stacked vertically. You can also label them directly on the tube with a marker so you know which lights go where when it's time to decorate for the holidays. 

How to use cardboard rolls for string light storage

Throughout the holiday season, create a stash of used-up paper rolls; don't worry if you don't end up using them all for this hack — there are many ways to reuse toilet paper cardboard tubes in your house. When the sad day comes, after the holidays have passed, gather the rolls, scissors, rubberbands and/or zip ties, and a marker (optional). If you have a lot of lights for various decorations, or you just want to differentiate between indoor and outdoor lights, label the tube with its type before you begin wrapping. 

Take one end of the string lights and secure it to the tube either by puncturing a hole and attaching a zip tie, or cutting a notch into the top of the tube and sliding the beginning of the string into it; this measure will prevent unraveling. Then, wrap your lights around the tube. As you wrap, we recommend using a zip tie or rubber band to section off portions at regular intervals to prevent tangling and unraveling — making it easier to unpack next holiday season. If your lights exceed the length of the tube, you can double the rows up pretty easily — think of it as a spool. When you've reached the length of the lights, secure the end into one side of the cardboard tube, or use a zip tie on the final section, attaching it to the rest of the lights. 

Tips and tricks for the cardboard tube method

This trick is pretty straightforward, but there are a few things to remember while using this hack. For one, those smaller rolls, like those from toilet paper, can only hold so many lights. If you have a large roll, like what you use on a tree or the exterior of your house, use a longer, sturdier roll, like one from a finished wrapping paper roll. Toilet paper rolls are great for lightweight fairy lights or shorter strings. 

During the wrapping process, do not wrap the lights too tightly or pull the zip ties too tight because this can damage the wiring in the light cord. And, since you're not going to put the lights in their original boxes, keep in mind that the bulbs are exposed during storage, so don't pack them too tightly or at the bottom of storage bins, which may cause a few bulbs to shatter. Beyond these tips, this is a no-cost, space-saving, and headache-sparing hack. Also, you can use it for more than just Christmas lights; you can also wrap garland and tinsel around these to make next year's holiday setup a breeze.