All Tied Up

By Kristen Castillo

April 8, 2016 4 min read

Hate untangling Christmas lights? You're not the only one.

It's such a frustrating problem for consumers that last Christmas, British retailer Tesco posted a job looking to hire a "Christmas Light Untangler." According to the job description, applicants needed to be "enthusiastic" and "successfully untangle customers' Christmas lights neatly, quickly and efficiently and in an orderly fashion." (They hired someone; more on that later.)

Whether your lights are clear, colored or of the flashing variety, they have one thing in common: Once they're out of their original packaging, they never look as neat and orderly as they did when they were new.

But take heart. While untangling can seem like such a challenge that you want to throw them away and buy new ones, fight the urge! You can reuse your lights if you learn how to keep them tangle-free.

*The Problem

The tangle problem starts way before you want to reuse last season's lights. That's because improper light storage from holidays past is typically to blame for jumbled lights.

"While a lot of time and care goes into hanging lights and decorating for the holidays, most people un-decorate as quickly as possible, sometimes not even bothering to remove roof clips, or disconnect multiple strands of lights, before balling everything up and dumping it in a tote," says organizing and storing expert Emma Gordon of Clutter Blog, who is ready to help ease your light untangling stress.

*Light Life Span

Don't assume your lights will last forever, even if they're LEDs.

"While the bulbs themselves are energy efficient, the wiring is susceptible to damage if the light strands are not stored properly, and if one or two bulbs are broken due to poor handling, the strand itself won't work," explains Gordon, emphasizing that proper storage is the way to make your lighting investment last.

*Get Untangled

Gordon's first tip is to place the tangled lights on a carpeted area, which should be soft enough to prevent damage to bulbs. Next plug in the lights to see whether they still work. "If they don't (work), you may not want to bother with untangling," she advises.

Once you know if the lights work or not, start with one of the plug ends and "carefully feed the plug backwards through the loops and knots, being very careful to not damage the bulbs by tugging too hard," Gordon says, instructing light untanglers to remove any clips or hooks found attached to the lights. Set them aside for hanging the lights later.

*Untangling Tips

Remember that Tesco Christmas Light Untangler job posting? Anya Mugridge, the woman hired for the position, offers these tips on the retailer's YouTube channel:

--Don't be stressed when tackling the job. She suggested playing music or drinking tea while tackling the task.

--Find an endpoint and work backward.

--Spread out lights on a wide surface to prevent more tangles from occurring.

--Use a pen or pencil to undo knots.

*Storage Solutions

Hang your lights and your decorations after enjoying your untangling work. After the holiday fun, follow Gordon's next tips about proper packing for next season.

"The best way to store lights are on the spools they came with, or wound around a piece of cardboard with the ends secured," says Gordon, noting lights can be wrapped around 12-by-12-inch notched pieces of cardboard, using masking tape to secure both ends to the cardboard.

After that, Gordon recommends storing the many strands of untangled lights together in a clear plastic tote. Follow her storage tips and your lighting experience won't be so stressful next year.

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